Survey: One-Third of Developers Below 'App Poverty Line'

About a third of all mobile developers live below the "app poverty line," where they can't make enough money on applications to serve as their sole source of income, according to a new survey of the mobile developer landscape.

That comes from the report "Developer Economics 2012", by market analysis firm VisionMobile. The study found that about 35 percent of all mobile apps generate only between $1-$500 per month. Fourteen percent of developers make between $500-$1,000 per month, and 13 percent make between $1,000-$5,000 per month on apps. The average app earns developers between $1,200-$3,900 per month.

The survey is based on responses from an online survey of 1,500-plus developers, and 20 qualitative interviews, VisionMobile stated.

Interestingly, the highest-grossing platform among all developers was Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry, with about $3,900 per month. That figure is somewhat misleading, as BlackBerry continues to lose ground in sales. In fact, the report says that "BlackBerry is very close to becoming an endangered species," pointing to the fact that 41 percent of its developers are abandoning the platform.

iOS comes in second in terms of revenue, with but just barely: BlackBerry generates 4 percent more developer income than iOS, while iOS in turn makes a healthy 35 percent more for its developers than Android.

On the other hand, the report found that iOS apps are also the most expensive to develop. The average cost for making an iOS app was $27,000, and three man-months of time. That's 21 percent more than Android and 81 percent more than it costs to develop a BlackBerry app.

There's good news in the report for Microsoft, as the study says "Windows Phone is the new cool." The survey found that 57 percent of developers plan to write apps for Windows Phone, "a platform generating increasing developer buzz and anticipation," the report claims. There's a warning, however, in that although a majority of developers say they'll build apps for Windows Phone, not many are actually doing it right now.

One significant change in developer attitudes is the emphasis on tablets. The study found, for the first time in its three year history, that a majority of developers are creating apps for tablets, with iOS not surprisingly getting the lion's share, at 74 percent of developers. That's a large jump over last year, when 34 percent targeted the larger platform.

VisionMobile's full report can be found here. Registration is required.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.