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Developer Economics 2012: The new mobile app economy

Matos Kapetanakis · April 03, 2012

[As we kick off our new Developer Economics 2012 survey, Marketing Manager Matos takes a look at the current trends of mobile development and how this survey plans to address them. If you want to join Developer Economics 2012, take our online survey – there are three great prizes up for grabs!]

VisionMobile - Developer Economics 2012

Now in its third year, Developer Economics is back for a new research on some of the hottest trends of the developer ecosystem. Once again sponsored by BlueVia, our seminal report series is about to launch, investigating key themes, such as developer mindshare, app monetization and marketing, as well as regional app economics.

So – take 10 minutes to complete our online survey – and win great prizes (we have a $1,000 Amazon voucher, a new iPad, and a Kindle Fire up for grabs). The results of this survey will be published as a free report in Q2, courtesy of the sponsorship by BlueVia.

Developer Economics 2012 – Key themes

This research revolves around five main themes:

–       Developer Mindshare

–       App Store Fragmentation

–       Making money from apps

–       App Marketing

–       Apps supply vs. demand per region

 Why are these themes important? Let’s take them, one at a time:

Developer Mindshare – which are the top platforms for developers?

Our previous two Developer Economics reports have shown clear trends in terms of the migration of developer MindShare (i.e. the average % of developers using each platform) away from traditional platforms, such as Java, Flash Lite and BlackBerry and onto newer platforms – mainly Android and iOS. One of the biggest surprises in last year’s report was the emergence of mobile web as the third most widely used platform in mobile – as the app economy is shifting the balance of power among key players of the mobile industry, software developers flock to mobile, claiming their own piece of the pie. The increasing usage of cross-platform tools (see our full report on Cross-Platform Tools here) reduces the barriers to entry and allows developers of all inklings to create apps that have the potential to be downloaded thousands, if not millions, of times.

App Store Fragmentation – how many app stores do developers use concurrently?

At the same time, all and sundry are attempting to tap into the app economy, creating new app stores left and right. There are currently over 70 app stores – and that’s just for Android! Traditional players, like Telcos and handset manufacturers, have also created app stores and are allowing access behind their proverbial walled gardens, leaving developers lost in a sea of app stores. Since the choice of app stores is largely dependent on the platform used to create their apps, developers need to carefully target the stores they will use. The majority of these app stores have a limited range and scope – join our survey and let us know which ones you think are the most important.

Revenues vs. costs – which developers are making money?

As the number of apps available in the big stores has reached immense heights, discoverability has become a thorny issue for developers. An app that has taken time and money to be developed might be lost amidst the crowd of similar apps, providing very low revenues to the developer who created it. Despite an abundance of opportunities and the fact that many companies, both from within and outside the mobile industry, view developers as an asset, there’s a long tail of developers who don’t manage to break even.

There are many parameters that govern monetization. Choosing a revenue model is extremely important, as the trend is moving away from the traditional pay-per-download model and into in-app purchases and premium features. Moreover, choice of platform seems to be equally important, since not all platforms are created equal, at least in terms of monetization. For example, several reports indicate that iOS users are the most avid app fans, downloading more than Android or Windows Phone users.

Monetizing a great app is more than actually creating it – it’s a mixture of several parameters, such as selecting the right audience, the right platform and the right distribution channel. Which brings us to our next theme; marketing.

App marketing – what’s the best way of marketing your apps?

It’s not enough just to create a great app; most of the time, you have to spend money in order to make money, which means developers need to invest in marketing. There are numerous of ways of marketing an app – through the usual suspects (social media, own website/blog etc.) to paying for Google AdWords, Facebook ads or even premium placement in app stores.  As with everything marketing-related it not just a matter of throwing money at your problem, but of tailoring your message to the right audience and selecting the best channel to reach them. Which means that marketing goes even further back in the app supply chain – i.e. the design board. It’s imperative that developers know whom they’re making their apps for, how large their audience is and what is the best way to reach them.

Have more ideas on app marketing? Take our survey and give us your views.

Regional vs. global demand – what is the balance between developer supply vs. app demand across regions?

Gone are the days when the entire mobile industry revolved around North America, Europe and East Asia. The app economy has allowed players from all around the globe to join in and make a killing. Countries like China, India or Brazil have huge developer communities, of increasing importance. In previous Developer Economics reports we found that platform use varies with region – for example, there’s a large concentration of iOS developers in North America, while Asia holds a higher-than-average percentage of Java developers.

At the same time, users are looking for more localized content – local apps in their own language. As Flurry reported a while back, China is now the second largest market in terms of app downloads – and is expected to grow even more, as China has now overtaken the US in Android and iOS activations.  As app markets are growing all around the globe, the importance of localized content becomes paramount – which is the next app heaven?

Developer Economics 2012 survey is now live

So – if you’re interested as much as we are to know the answer to all these questions and the themes presented here – Take the online survey and let us know what you think.

If you’re not a developer you can always help us spread the word!


Feedback welcome, as always.

– Matos