Although it might come as a surprise to indie developers living on noodles while struggling to build an audience for their mobile app, CNNMoney recently named mobile app developer as the “Best Job in America.”
The news outlet leveraged data from PayScale that suggested jobs for mobile app developers could increase by 19 percent over the next decade. It also stated that the median pay for mobile app developers is $97,100 annually, and can top out at $133,000. If that wasn’t enough, such jobs are apparently “low stress” and offer lots of “personal satisfaction.”
(Other tech positions that made the CNNMoney list of the best jobs included database analyst, IT director, and Webmaster. Just for the record, it also thinks that a Webmaster position is “low stress.”)
To be fair, mobile app developers can earn quite a bit of money. A Dice analysis of salary data, for example, revealed that iOS developers could land a median salary of $90,000, and potentially max out at $250,000 (if not more, in some cases).
But the life of a typical mobile app developer isn’t easy or low-stress by any stretch. Whether they work for themselves, as part of a startup, or within an enormous enterprise, app developers regularly confront all sorts of ecosystem issues that keep even the stoutest-hearted awake long into the night. For starters, most users stop using an app within two or three months, according to recent data from Appboy. Other researchers are equally pessimistic; a mid-2015 report from Adobe, for example, suggested that the average lifespan for an app is six months.
If short life-cycles weren’t bad enough, there’s also the matter of pricing and profit margins. At this point, app consumers are used to paying low prices for their apps—or even nothing at all. In a world where hundreds of thousands of apps are priced at 99 cents, and lots adhere to the “freemium” model, how are most developers expected to pull down a significant profit?
The big question facing the mobile-development community is whether emerging models (such as subscriptions) can slow user declines while pushing up margins. Certainly Apple and Google, which run the world’s largest app stores, are encouraging developers to embrace subscriptions; in mid-2016, Apple announced that it would allow apps in any category to adopt a paid subscription model, and give developers a bigger cut of revenues if users subscribed for more than a year.
Despite those headwinds, mobile developers can certainly earn a lot of money. But it’s questionable how many of them would refer to their profession as “low stress,” especially if they’re trying to keep a startup or a small app-design firm alive.