Thanks to Martin Fish for the photo!
Over the weekend, Forbes posted a revealing article by Tristan Louis detailing how much app developers make on the Google, Apple, and Microsoft platforms.
For anyone looking to develop or buy an app, and there are more than a few on offer right now, this article is essential reading.
It paints an interesting—if not unexpected—picture. Google Play has the largest number of users (by a cool 300 million), and the highest average number of downloads per app. iOS app developers earn the most overall, and the most per app, on average. But Microsoft apps earn the most, on average, per download.
Audiences and their propensity to spend
Anyone who owns a monetized website knows the importance of finding an audience that has a demonstrated willingness to spend money on their type of offering.
For a website trying to build loyalty in a crowded niche, that propensity can be hard to determine, and even harder to tap. It can be very challenging to carve out a unique position in that space, and to grow a strong brand with a reputation that automatically, inherently attracts more of those paying audience members over time.
Not surprisingly, the app marketplaces aren’t doing it quite so tough. Each of the platforms considered in Louis’s article already has a strong brand, and a clear position in the smartphone marketplace. Everything from the price points of the devices they sell, to the costs of adding an app to their store, reflects something about the audience each brand is targeting.
So if you’re developing or buying a native app, those audiences, and their unique characteristics, are clearly worth considering as you develop your business plans.
Audiences and their propensity to download
Again, as with monetized websites, each of these app marketplaces entices new-to-market users with free apps, then works over time to convert them to paying customers.
In that case, it’s not necessarily each audience’s current propensity to buy that’s the only consideration. Their propensity to download may also say something about the future for apps on that platform.
For example, “Microsoft officials claimed that the average user downloaded 54 apps” says Louis. Even if, on average, a quarter of downloaded apps are used only once, a higher download rate may indicate a stronger perception of need among a certain platform’s users—and, possibly, stronger levels of comfort with technology and willingness to experiment, across the board.
The app owner or developer needs to look to the future in assessing the audiences of each platform.
As with all research, these stats aren’t comprehensive.
For example, a cut of the data that looked exclusively at paid apps would have provided some good insights into the broad-brush picture painted in Louis’s post.
He makes the point that “Android’s substantial lead in offering free apps cuts deeply into the average revenue paid out to developers while the smaller availability of free apps on the Windows platform may work to its advantage.”
These aggregate figures may be too general for you to make clear-cut decisions with. We don’t know what proportion of the apps offered on each platform are paid and free, nor does the article report on download rates for paid and free apps on each one—information that would give us a good insight into the currently-paying audiences on each option.
The other issues app owners and developers need to consider when they’re forecasting app revenues is competition within the marketplaces they choose.
The makeup of audiences on the different platforms is likely to vary on characteristics that may well affect you app’s uptake—and may or may not have already enticed other players to release apps in your space.
So we can’t look at these figures and simply say “Apple users are more likely to spend money on apps” because the developers of iOS apps earn more, on average, overall.
The platform that will bring you the greatest revenue—and room for growth into the future—will likely depend on a range of factors that start with your current audience, your target audience, and your offering, and also take into account things like development and maintenance costs for apps on different platforms.
These are essential considerations in valuing an app, or a business from which you’re thinking of launching one.
Which platform will you buy or develop for?
There’s more to successfully monetizing an app than its platform.
While these figures provide good food for thought—for app investors and developers alike—forecasting revenues and even estimating the market potential of native apps can still be very difficult, especially if you have little or no experience in that market.
So if you’ve built or bought a native app, we’d love to hear why you chose the platform you chose—and whether it’s paid off for you. Share your story with us in the comments.