One in three mobile developers cannot rely on apps as a sole source of income, even if they have created multiple apps. In other words, they are below the app poverty line.
This bleak finding comes from "Developer Economics 2012", the report of a survey of over 1500 developers conducted between April and May 2012 by market analysis firm VisionMobile.
The online survey, primarily in English, was translated to Chinese, Spanish and Russian and respondents represented 83 different countries and seven major platforms: Android, iOS, mobile web, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Qt and Java ME. Each platform was represented by at least 50 developers who reported spending the majority of their time on that platform.
In its analysis of revenue by platform VisionMobile found that monetization varies widely by platform with Blackberry and iOS being the best for revenue generation with Windows Phone by far the worst. For this analysis the top 5% of revenue-making developers were excluded:
BlackBerry developers generate, on average, 4% more revenue per app-month than iOS developers, who in turn generate about 35% more than Android developers.
iOS wins over Android due to superior demographics (Apple users are less price sensitive), superior content (higher ratio of paid apps to free apps), tablet domination (where per app prices are higher) and frictionless payment (400 million accounts on file with one-click payment).
What comes as an eyeopener is that while average monthly per-app revenue is in the range $1,200-$3900 the proportion of apps that earn less than $500 per month ranges from 41.5% (iOS) to 75.7% (Windows Phone).
The chart below shows the percentages of developers in the survey who wanted to make money from apps (n=1,476) but who either made no revenue (purple portion of bar) or $1 to $500 per app-month:
The iOS economy is the one that works best for its developers: it has the lowest percentage of developers below the “app poverty line” (42%) while offering opportunities to sustain a profitable business. iOS has the highest ratio of developers generating more than $5,000 per app-month in revenue.