Many developers have no idea how their apps are performing—which could be one reason so few of them are making any money. At least, that seems to be one key takeaway from a recent VisionMobile survey of 10,000 app makers.
The VisionMobile State of the Developer Nations Q3 2014 report asks a key question: “How can developers know where to improve their apps if they don’t have user analytics or crash and performance monitoring?”
The numbers are clear, mobile developers are not getting rich on the status quo. According to VisionMobile’s survey, “50% of iOS developers and 64% of Android developers are below the ‘app poverty line’ of $500 per app per month.” Even worse, 23% of mobile developers bring in less than $100 per app per month. As a business model, this level of revenue doesn’t make much sense given the amount of time and expertise needed to create a modern mobile app.
Of course, a mobile app developer’s audience makes a difference, too. Some 16% of developers concentrating on enterprise apps report earning more than $5,000 per app, and enterprise devs are nearly three times as likely to bring in more than $25,000 per app each month.
Why don’t developers use more tools?
The report notes that successful developers use more tools, and cites the widespread availability of free tool options to help devs get started—though many mobile developers are still not taking full advantage of the tools available to them.
According to the VisionMobile survey, 26% of mobile developers trying to make money don’t use any of the estimated 1,000 third-party tools now available. (Not surprisingly, of that group, almost 4 out of 5—79%—make less than $500 per app per month.)
Overall, the average developer uses just two third-party tools. (User analytics tools are being used by only 21 percent of mobile developers, crash and performance monitoring tools by only 16 percent and automated app testing by just 9%.)
That could be a big mistake. According to the report: “There is a very strong correlation between using more tools and earning more revenue. A positive feedback loop exists here. More successful apps need more tools—automated testing, crash and performance monitoring, in-app help and feedback—and more tools enable further improvement of the app.” Automating functions like testing and crash reporting, and increasing the understanding of just how the developer’s apps are being used makes for smarter developers, better apps, and more revenue.
So what’s going on? Why aren’t tools being used more?
“Lack of awareness about what tools are available, particularly as growing numbers of developers switch to mobile platforms, is part of the reason but it cannot be the whole story,” the report states.
Developer experience matters
Experience seems to count as well. According to the report, the more experienced the app developer the more likely they are to use tools, and the mobile app gold rush has brought in large numbers of newbies, who may have other priorities than making money. “It makes sense that hobbyists with no intention of making money from their apps would avoid tools that might incur costs,” the report states.
On the other hand, even developers with more than 10 years experience building mobile apps (how many of them can there be?) still use tools from just three of the top 10 categories identified by VisionMobile.
Put it all together, and there actually seems to be an opportunity here. Competent and motivated mobile developers who are able to leverage analytics tools should be able to use the data they get to enjoy a competitive advantage by measuring the effects of their decisions to create, maintain, and improve their apps faster and more effectively than developers operating blind.
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