Study Investigates Millionaire Mobile App Developers

How many millionaire mobile app developers are out there? New research seeking to answer that question reportedly dispels some "myths" about the profitability of mobile app development, contradicting other studies that paint a bleak picture of developer income levels.

The bottom-line takeaway from recent research conducted by Pollen VC and Priori Data reads: "The popular assumption that total revenues are unsustainable for the vast majority of app developers is questionable."

Pollen VC is a company that reportedly "gives app and game developers faster access to revenues they've already earned from the app stores." It teamed up with Priori Data, a market intelligence company that services developers and others, to research Pollen VC's observations of an emerging app developer "middle class" that's actually doing pretty well financially. The result is an ongoing research program, from which the companies have published a "snapshot" of the app industry titled "The Millionaires Index," using app store data and "ranked" (top grossing) app reviews.

So how many millionaire mobile app developers are out there? "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," the companies said in a statement last week. Among those, 1,260 earned their money from iOS apps on Apple's iTunes App Store while the remaining 759 targeted Android development on Google Play (with 132 qualifying from both stores separately).

 Making Money
[Click on image for larger view.] Making Money (source: Pollen VC and Priori Data)

Pollen VC and Priori Data also claimed to dispel several popular myths about app developer income.

"Significantly, the research program findings run counter to popular app developer surveys from market analysis and strategy firm VisionMobile that suggest over 60 percent of developers ... live under the so-called 'app poverty line,' or make less than $500 per app per month," the companies said. "According to the Pollen VC/Priori Data 'snapshot,' however, 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 companies were referring to VisionMobile's Developer Megatrends H1 2015 survey. As reported here in July, VisionMobile exec Stijn Schuermans at the time said: "The truth is that the app store alone cannot sustain the mobile developer population. [More than] 60 percent of developers are under the app poverty line and only one in nine is in the safe zone."

Another "myth" that Pollen VC/Priori Data have claimed to debunk is the notion that "all the revenues are made by the guys at the top." In fact, the companies said, "While it's undeniable that just over half (55 percent) of revenues (from iTunes App Store and Google Play combined) are generated by top 100 ranked publishers, 45 percent of revenue is made by apps ranked outside the top 100, which totaled $2.3 billion from paid and [in-app purchases] alone in the quarter ended June 30, 2015."

The new research indicated games were the most lucrative category, as 78 percent of the mobile developers identified as millionaires produced gaming apps.

The two companies also said upcoming data reportedly on tap from market research/analysis firm MiDIA Research will forecast a significant increase in revenue for app developers, further reinforcing their findings.

"No one can deny that the app economy is growing exponentially year on year, predicted to be worth $143 billion by 2016," Pollen VC said in The Millionaire Index. "But the common assumption amongst industry commentators is that outside of the top 50 studios, the majority of indie app developers make practically nothing, hardly surviving below the 'app poverty line,' is not as simple as first glance. Our findings with Priori Data indicate that beyond the top rankings, there is a long tail of successful app developers who are thriving."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.