10,000-developer survey: 2% of coders split staggering 54% of all app revenue

It’s a Darwinian world out there. And not many are winning.

A new 10,000-developer survey by Developer Economics says that 50 percent of iOS developers and 47 percent of Android developers are “below the app poverty line” and making less than $500 per app per month. That means “the majority of app businesses are not sustainable at current revenue levels,” Developer Economics says.

app developers poverty line

In addition, while games dominate the app stores, game developers are struggling. A third of developers are making games, which is low, considering that games are by far the most popular type of apps, and about half of all apps downloaded are games.

230 app developers with 9,000 apps and 397 million MAU
told us what works best in mobile user acquisition

App stores are a classic winner-takes-all game, Developer Economics says.

88 percent of developers split just 11 percent of all app revenue and make under $10,000/month. Another nine percent split 35 percent of total app revenue, making between $10,000 and $100,000 per month. And the big winners with massive games, who make up just two percent of all developers, split a staggering 54 percent of all app revenue, making over $100,000 per month.

app revenue split

Most games — 57 percent of them — make less than $500/month.

To solve that revenue problem, many game developers release more than one app. In fact, the majority of those making over $100,000/month have published a minimum of 11 games in an effort to give themselves more chances at the app store lottery.

Building and marketing multiple apps helps developers learn from their mistakes, though, and that learning is critical, as developers who use third-party tools for development, for analysis, and for monetization are much more likely to make good money, according to the Developer Economics study.

In addition, developers who target enterprise, not consumers, are twice as likely to be earning over $5,000 per app and three times as likely to be earning over $25,000 per app per month.

One other interesting thing about iOS and Android developers: Big chunks of them are not using native languages to build their apps. In fact, 47 percent of iOS developers are not building in Objective-C, and 42 percent of Android developers are not building in Java, meaning that they’re likely using third-party development tools that allow them to create apps in simpler languages such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Those tools, of course, also enable cross-platform development without re-coding.

The entire report is available for download.

More information:

Apple designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company's best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Apple software includes t... read more »

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

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Ilya Denisov
Ilya Denisov

One of the key conclusions made is "1.6% of developers have an app earning >$500k per month". So it's only matters what technologies are used by these guys. I bet the distribution would be very different compared to distribution we have for whole 10.000 sample. I wonder if author(s) could provide refined version of the report with just 1.6%-guys taken into consideration.

Martin Miller
Martin Miller

tell obama...he can have wealth distribution...

Mark Wilcox
Mark Wilcox

I'm the lead author of the report. Just clarifying a couple of those stats. 64% of Android developers are below the "app poverty line", as shown in the chart.

The 2% of developers earning 54% of revenues is after you take the top 1.6% off. We don't have accurate enough data to give an exact figure for them (we just know they earn over $500k per app per month) but we know it's multiples of everyone else combined.

Nadav Ben-Haim
Nadav Ben-Haim

so what should we do? Should we "spread the wealth around a little bit" ?

Kelly Nevins
Kelly Nevins

Some people are just better at what they do than others.  So even among what is likely a fairly homogenous group of college educated folk the income distribution winds up looking quite a bit like that of broader society.  

Maybe the rabble who staged sit ins across america two years ago should take a lesson from this.  Make yourself a quality product or be relegated to living small.