How Much Money Are App Developers Really Making?

Can you actually make any money as an app developer? As an app developer with over 5 million downloads, I can only speak to my numbers, which have been good but decreasing over the past couple of years, as competition has intensified. Freelance work has helped, but revenue from the App Store is the Holy Grail for app developers. Now there's a report from Pollen that details how many developers are making a living (or not) in the App Economy. Some of the significant numbers are:

  • A whopping 1,887 app developers have generated more than $1 million in revenues in the last 12 months, dispelling the popular myth that there is no money in apps.
  • Games continue to dominate as the app category responsible for the lion's share of revenues across both the iTunes and Google Play app stores.
  • The Millionaires Index marks the first phase of an ambitious and on-going research program to track and map the revenues of the rising middle class of app developers, and identify key trends around the wider App Economy.
  • Games continue to be the leading app category, with 78 percent of app developer millionaires achieving their revenues from creating and marketing gaming apps.
  • Nearly half (45 percent) of app store revenues — or $2.3 billion — will have been generated by apps and games outside the Top 100 ranked apps in 2015. 
  • A healthy long tail of app developers exists with a total of 75,129 developers making more than $10,000 per year from their apps.
  • Over 20,000 app developers and companies will have made over $100,000 in revenues — or $8,333 per month — from their apps in 2015.
  • Overall, some 120,000 app developers will be earning well above the poverty line of $6,000 revenues per year.
The reality is that when a new market achieves success and critical mass, large companies will enter the market and competition will get fierce. With the ability to make multimillion dollar ad buys during the Super Bowl, app makers with big pockets can do a better job of promotion. Still it's reassuring that smaller developers can make a reasonable amount of money, if not the killing they first made when the App Store was new. Also, this report's "App Economy does not include the work-for-hire that corporations are paying for enterprise and even free consumer apps. There is a lot more money on the table than just the App Store's revenues.
Pollen
Top image credit: Alexey Boldin / Shutterstock.com
 
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Todd Bernhard's picture

Author Details

Todd Bernhard

Todd Bernhard is a bestselling (6+ million downloads) award-winning (AARP, About.com, BestAppEver.com, Digital Hollywood, and Verizon) developer and founder of NoTie.NET, an app developer specializing in Talking Ringtone apps including AutoRingtone. And his profile photo is of the last known sighting of Mr. Bernhard wearing a tie, circa 2007!

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip or in his pocket, but over the years, Mr. Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62. In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.