Mobile App Development Trends Worldwide: What You Need to Know

App economies are flourishing across the world, as mobile developers of every nation create new apps every day. Just in the past year, worldwide sales of smartphones have outpaced worldwide sales of non-smartphone devices. App economies will only continue to grow. Let’s take a look at some of the trends driving app economies around the world.

App developers—where are they?

According to a recent report from Vision Mobile in London (Developer Economics Q1 2014: State of the Developer Nation), there are an estimated 2.3 million individuals working as mobile app developers worldwide. Of this population, Asia is the continent with the largest number of working app developers, estimated to be around 760,000 people, or 32.9 percent of the total.
Europe comes in second, with approximately 680,000 individual app developers (an estimated 330,000 app developers are working in the EU specifically) for 29.7 percent of the total. North America comes in a close third, also with some 680,000 developers, but just 29.4% of the global developer population.


Source: Developer Economics Q1 2014: State of the Developer Nation, from Vision Mobile

What platforms are app developers using where?

The iOS domination that we are used to seeing in North America holds true only in North America, and even that looks like it could be changing soon. In every other part of the world, Android is by far the more popular platform, according to the same Vision Mobile study.

Some 71 percent of global mobile developers target Android, while iOS holds a 55 percent Developer Mindshare and HTML5 (the mobile web) is in third place with 37 percent of mobile developers using HTML5 as a platform and an additional 15 percent of app developers using HTML5 via hybrid apps or HTML5-to-native tools. Developers use an average of 2.5 platforms, down from 2.9 in Vision Mobile’s Q3 2013 study.

In terms of what platforms developers prioritize for, however, the picture looks significantly different. iOS developers remain the most loyal: 59 percent of developers who target iOS prioritize it over other platforms – one reason so many apps are still developed for “iOS first.”


Source: Developer Economics Q1 2014: State of the Developer Nation, from Vision Mobile

There are a number of reasons why Android and HTML5 are increasingly beating iOS in popularity with developers. HTML5 apps can be easily ported to multiple platforms, and less-expensive Android smartphones have given the platform a large and increasing lead in overall installed base. iOS apps still generate far more cash per app, however.

Where’s the money?

According to a January 2014 Distimo report (Asia: The Leading App Market in the World), Asia has passed North America as the top app market for generating app revenues, with 41 percent of global revenues compared to 31 percent. Europe also boasts a very strong app economy, with 23 percent of global app revenue.

  • North America: Country by country, the US dominated app revenue generation in 2013, generating almost 50 percent more than second-place Japan, and about four times as much as South Korea and the UK, the countries in third and fourth place in Distimo’s 2013 Year in Review report.
  • Europe: In a separate report (The European App Economy: Creating Jobs and Driving Growth) Vision Mobile estimates that “22 percent of the global production of app-related products and services” come from the EU. Apps generate around €10 billion per year in revenue for the EU economy. The European app economy has more than 1 million apps available, and EU app downloads topped 100 billion in 2013.
  • Asia: The Distimo Year in Review report indicates that app revenue increased 162 percent in Asia between December 2012 and December 2013, while app revenue increased only 46 percent in North America in the same time frame. The three countries worldwide that showed the highest app market growth in 2013 were South Korea (759 percent!), Japan, and China. The apps in Asia typically make their money from in-app purchases from free-to-download apps, a business model increasingly in vogue around the world.

An “export” opportunity

In other regions of the world, many developers are finding it easy and lucrative to export their apps to other markets, and generate revenue that way. In Africa and the Middle East, for example, 31 percent of app developers export all their apps, according to Vision Mobile. In Australia/Oceania, 15 percent of mobile developers export their apps exclusively.

With app markets growing rapidly, mobile developers have opportunities worldwide to expose their apps to fast-growing international audiences, especially in Asia. An app that hasn’t done well in North America, for example, might do better when localized in Asia or South America or Africa, while hit apps could significantly increase their market penetration and revenue. Distimo’s 2013 Year in Review notes that, “more and more Western developers are gaining ground in Asian markets, proving to be successful with cross-cultural strategies, such as localization.”

While the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are international, developers should also look at uploading their apps to regional app stores, such as Wandoujia in China, which has half a million new users signing up to download its apps every day. Those opportunities are only expected to grow in the next few years.

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