All Android app developers have made a profit

Merit of the app developer : Too little to live with

In the past few years they have been around again and again: the software developers who single-handedly became millionaires with just one app. Jared Sinclair really went out of his way to make his iOS app a hit. For seven months he worked non-stop on his project and on his RSS feed reading app. 70 to 80 hours of work per week were the norm. In February 2014 it was finally ready: Version 1.0 of “Unread”. Sinclair invested what he could in marketing, a number of well-respected blogs recommended his app, and sales got off to a promising start. After just one day, he had earned around $ 10,000. But the demand was short-lived. Six months, an iPhone update and an iPad app later, Sinclair draws a sober balance sheet: After deducting taxes and health insurance, he only had 21,000 dollars for a year of work. A fraction of the amount he could have made as an employed programmer. “A staggering number,” as Sinclair notes on his blog.

According to a study by the market researchers at Vision Mobile, Sinclair is now one of the most successful third of the estimated 2.9 million app makers worldwide. Almost half of all for-profit developers earn nothing from an app, or at most up to 100 dollars per month.

Quality and dedication alone are not enough

Why is it that a few app developers are celebrating great success and many others are starving against it? In Sinclair's case, it was at least not the quality of the app: “Unread” received the highest rating from its users almost consistently. Quality and dedication alone are obviously not enough to be successful in the App Store. It is precisely the quality and dedication to the product that have brought Apple to where it is today and that has given the company a downright fanatical following. The latest proof of this is a few weeks old: Apple sold ten million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus on the first weekend of sales. Good news for Apple and its shareholders, but also good news for the countless app developers. Most of the new iPhone 6 owners will be the first to visit the App Store to quickly plaster the still uncluttered display area of ​​their smartphone with colorful app icons.

If at least one or two new apps find their way onto expensive smartphones, that's a reason to be happy, because that happens less and less: According to market researcher comScore, two out of three smartphone users in Germany do not download a single new app per month from the stores and In the USA too, over two-thirds of smartphone users visit the App Store accidentally at most. In plain language this means: Apps have been going on for months, maybe years, on millions of smartphones and tablets. Anyone who believes that simply the best and most sustainable apps have prevailed that no longer need to be replaced with new ones, only has to browse their own device once.

The prominent app developer Marco Arment recently got to the point in a blog entry and attested Apple an "app rot". He did not find a pulsating market with exciting new apps in the App Store, nor was the majority of the programs installed on his iPad supplied with updates and improvements in the long term. The companies do not disclose how many of the more than one million apps in Apple's and Google's app stores are actually already out of date and cannot be used or can only be used to a limited extent. One can assume, however, that the number of corpses in the card is considerable. Arment sees a systemic problem in this: “Quality, sustainability and updates are almost irrelevant to success in the App Store,” he says and also names the cause: “This is mainly the fault of Apple's lazily putting on top lists instead of more editorial selection and a better search. ”Jens Dreßler is chief developer at the Berlin start-up Vamos, programmed the associated iOS app himself and knows the problem. "There are now around 1.3 million apps in the App Store, so it is extremely difficult to get noticed." That is why the top lists are a sure way to profitability, says Dreßler. "Anyone who makes it into the top 100 in the top charts automatically gets a lot of organic traffic." That means, whoever is on the list can be sure that their app will also be downloaded. The higher up it is, the better.

No success without being in the top charts

App developers therefore try by all means to get into these charts. Game app developers do this, for example, by simply buying the installations from a corresponding service provider. Providers such as the Berlin-based company AppLift have specialized advertising and marketing channels that they can use to advertise users directly for the app in question. But that's not cheap, says Dreßler. “You pay one euro or more for each installation. In order to get into the top ten on the top charts list in Germany, you have to spend a medium five-digit euro amount. In the USA even more. "

Small developers can hardly afford that, a large game studio invests millions to push its games, says Dreßler. In the meantime, a lot of energy and money is also being invested in the ASO, the "App Store Optimization". Here, too, there are now service providers who analyze and optimize app names and keywords. A huge financial outlay that neither benefits the quality nor the sustainability of an app.

So what is the solution, or rather: who is it up to to solve the problem? Marco Arment suspects that many freelance developers will simply look for other jobs; for the rest, “do-more-with-less” applies: “In the current tense economic situation, it will be much more difficult for developers to continue to give the apps generous treatment such as full-time employees, offices, loving designs for each screen or free updates. “Instead, you have to do more yourself and rely more on standard building blocks when building apps, which Apple is increasingly offering.

Developers hope for in-app sales

Others, including Jared Sinclair, no longer want to rely on one-time payment apps and instead believe in in-app purchases or subscription models. In Sinclair's view, however, developers would have to team up in order for this to be implemented successfully. So it's a mixed future that app developers have to face today. “The prospects are bleak,” writes Stijn Schuermans from Vision Mobile. It won't deter the developers: “App development is like playing the lottery. As long as there is a chance of big wins, people will play too - and lose.

Apple, Google and Co will not fundamentally change the framework conditions of their app stores in terms of quality and sustainability in the near future. Why should they? They make a lot of money with the stores as they are. Therefore, in the future, too, they will probably be filled with countless apps that are quietly rotting away because their developers have long been broke.


The many small apps in particular have contributed to the success of the iPhone and all other smartphones. In the number of programs offered in the App Store, Google has now overtaken Apple. According to, in September Google Play Store 1.36 million apps. The Apple App Store came to 1.2 million apps as of June 2nd. Amazon maintains its own store for its Kindle platform, although these models also run on Android. In September, customers were able to choose from 262,000 apps there. in the Windows Store there were 300,000 apps for the Windows and Windows Phone platforms at the beginning of August. The smallest app store was that Blackberry World. In June, 130,000 apps were available for download there. say

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