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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.


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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.

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