Developer revenue models

Not all developers care about making money – some are experimenting, having fun, learning and others are extending a product’s brand reach. But those who do care about making money, have a bewildering array of revenue model choices to choose from.

An app’s revenue model will depend on many developer considerations. Which is the target market and how much will users spend on the app? How are other successful apps in the same category making money? Should I drop prices to attract traffic and monetise through in-app payments? Will my app generate enough traffic to justify an ad-based revenue model? Can I create premium content that I can monetise via subscriptions? Does my target audience have a credit card on file to pay for app store purchases? Are Android users less likely to pay for downloading an app than Apple users?

Our research of 6,000+ mobile developers shows that there is no single revenue model that is dominant across all platforms. as the next chart shows. Developers will often use different revenue models on each platform. For example Angry Birds and WhatsApp messenger are paid apps in the Apple app store while they are free on Google Play.

On Windows Phone, developers have a strong preference towards in-app advertising (43%) and pay-per download (40%) and relatively low usage of in-app purchases or freemium. BlackBerry 10 developers have a strong preference towards pay-per download (47%). The picture is much more balanced on Android, iOS and HTML5, with no revenue model dominating to the extent observed on Windows Phone or BlackBerry 10.

Contract work is more popular among iOS and HTML5 developers (29% of iOS and HTML5 developers) than on other platforms, reflecting the popularity of these platforms among clients outsourcing app development. Overall, among developers that develop commissioned apps, 40% use iOS as their primary platform, while 30% use Android and 20% use HTML5. As the next chart shows, for developers looking for contract work globally, iOS, Android and HTML are the platforms they should be focusing on, in that order.

Choice of app revenue models depends on platform

Contract developers prioritise iOS

At $5,200 per developer per month on average, iOS continues to be the most revenue-generating platform for developers, and ahead of Android developer monthly revenues by a margin of 10%. The next chart reveals monthly developer revenue, by primary platform, including revenues beyond app store revenues such as contract development, advertising, e-commerce sales and licensing fees. The gap between iOS and Android, when considering app-store only revenues is likely to be larger.

iOS makes most revenues

HTML5 mobile developer revenues are mainly associated with contract-based development and advertising due to the absence of an established app-store. At the same time, as we shall see, just over one of four HTML5 mobile developers will package their apps as hybrid apps (based on PhoneGap / Cordova) which are open to app store revenues. HTML5 mobile developers also show a large disparity between have’s and have-nots. This is because HTML5 as a platform used both by companies extending a brand onto mobile and by Fortune-500 IT managers, looking to mobilise existing web assets, on very sizable development budgets.

Finally, BlackBerry 10, being a new platform, is unsurprisingly lagging behind other platforms in terms of developer revenues, as the platform is first being picked up by Hobbyists and Explorer developer segments, who are looking to learn and improve rather than to build a business. For an analysis of developer motivations and monetisation by segment, see our Developer Segmentation Q3 2013 report.

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