There’s a dream in the tech world—and not an uncommon one—that building a mobile app will translate into immense riches. That dream has led developers around the world to pour countless hours into conceiving, programming, and marketing everything from mobile productivity software to games.
But while mobile apps have made a few companies and indie developers immensely rich (Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen reportedly earned more than $50,000 a day from his little game before pulling it from the iOS and Android app stores), a new report suggests that the vast majority of app developers barely make anything at all.
VisionMobile’s Developer Economics report, based on a survey of more than 10,000 app developers, posits that half of all iOS developers and 64 percent of Android developers earn less than $500 per app per month. (Hat tip to TechCrunch for the link.) While a third of mobile developers devote their time to building games, more than 57 percent of those games make less than $500 per month. Things aren’t dour across the board, however: Those developers who choose to target the enterprise are more likely to earn thousands of dollars per app per month.
Given the size of the iOS and Android app stores, it’s hard for your average app developer to carve off a significant audience (and revenue), even as the top 1.6 percent of app-creators earn more than $500,000 per month—collectively, more than the other 98.4 percent combined.
Multiple pundits and bloggers have already complained about this issue. “Quality, sustainability, and updates are almost irrelevant to App Store success and usually aren’t rewarded as much as we think they should be,” programmer Marco Arment wrote in a widely distributed blog posting in July, “and that’s mostly the fault of Apple’s lazy reliance on top lists instead of more editorial selections and better search.” (Hat tip to Daring Fireball for that link.)
Even many apps that receive a fair share of publicity from the all-important blogosphere seem incapable of breaking out as true blockbusters. One possible solution involves paying a lot to promote one’s app… but as with all advertising, there’s always the chance that any campaign could fail to yield quantifiable results. In light of that, a lot of developers are simply releasing their apps and hoping for the best.
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