Inside the App-Economy Making Big Money Is Far From a Sure Thing

Inside the App-Economy Making Big Money Is Far From a Sure Thing

VisionMobile offers a glimpse into the app economy and what it takes for developers to succeed

On average, iOS is the most expensive mobile platform for developers. It’s the second most profitable mobile platform overall behind RIM’s BlackBerry. One in three mobile developers can’t earn enough money to living from the apps that they produce.

Those are some of the details contained in a new report from mobile analyst and strategy company VisionMobile. The report delves into the heart of the so-called app economy and provides a range of information and statistics about app development, its costs, and the income potential that comes from being an iOS, Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone developer. If you’re considering a career as a mobile developer, this is must-read report. For the rest of us, it’s a fascinating sneak peek into the experience of app developers around the world.

The report, known as Developer Economics 2012 is available for free and includes a large amount of detail. Here are the key points of interest for potential developers, IT professionals, and mobile tech users.

  • Currently North America, Europe, and Asia are the top-three regions for app demand with  41%, 31%, and 25% of developers listing them as such respectively.
  • VisionMobile sees that changing and expects top app demand to move to the emerging BRIC countries, which boast some of the largest and fastest growing markets for mobile technologies.
Inside the App-Economy Making Big Money Is Far From a Sure Thing

The biggest growth in app economics will shift to emerging markets in the coming years

  • Developers now consider the iPad and other tablets mainstream technologies and more than half of all developers are targeting tablets as a whole. iOS still leads in tablet interest among developers with 74% of iOS developers working on iPad-specific apps.
  • Despite not gaining significant marketshare thus far, 57% of mobile developers plan to adopt and potentially develop for Windows Phone, but sustained interest will require Microsoft to grab more of the mobile phone market.
  • Developers are abandoning platforms where they don’t see growth prospects. RIM has lost 41% of mobile developers for its BlackBerry platform (14% of whom considered it to be their primary platform).
  • App markets like the iOS App Store and Google Play are the primary vehicle for developers to market and sell apps and content. They account for 54% of app distribution followed by developer websites (18%) and commissioned app projects (12%). Carrier app and content portals account for just 3% of distribution.
  • About one-third of developers (35%) live below what VisionMobile calls the “app poverty line” in which a developer cannot make a living solely by creating and selling mobile apps. The firm notes that the overall income for a developer ranges between $1,200 and $3,900 per month depending on platforms. On average, an app has a 35% of generating monthly income for a developer somewhere in the $1 – $500 range, 14% of apps tend to deliver income in the $500 – $1,000 range, and 13% are likely to generate income in the $1,000 – $5000 range.
  • BlackBerry apps are likely to deliver more app income per month than other platforms (with an average revenue of $3853) followed by iOS (average revenue of $3693) and Android ($2735).
Inside the App-Economy Making Big Money Is Far From a Sure Thing

BlackBerry apps currently offer the best monthly revenue on average, followed by iOS apps

  • Android developers are the most likely to be disappointed with attempts to generate revenue while iOS developers are the most satisfied with their earning potential.
  • iOS is considered by developers to be the platform with the greatest learning curve and most development-related costs. It is also seen as the greatest platform to reach customers.
Inside the App-Economy Making Big Money Is Far From a Sure Thing

Developers note different pros and cons to each mobile platform

  • On average, developers spend three-man months of labor and overall costs of $27,000 to generate an iPhone or iPad app – 21% more than for Android apps and 81% more than Blackberry apps
Inside the App-Economy Making Big Money Is Far From a Sure Thing

iOS development incurs more overall costs than other platforms

  • 36% of developers expressed confusion about identifying the best revenue model for their apps but identified in-app purchases as the best monetization option for monthly income, bringing in an average of 24% more money than pay-per-download apps, 63% more than freemium models, and 78% more than mobile ads.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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