It’s Still Hard to Make a Living in the App Store

More statistics backing up lots of anecdotal evidence that the it’s a tough road for indie developers trying to make a living building mobile apps:

The report’s authors detail the specifics around the trend where a tiny fraction of developers – actually, it’s 1.6% to be exact – generate most of the app store revenue. Slyly referencing the “disappearing middle class of app developers,” the report’s analysis groups the estimated 2.9 million mobile app developers worldwide into a handful of different categories for easy reference: the “have-nothings,” the “poverty-stricken,” the “strugglers,” and the “haves.”

This is an interesting report, but shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s been paying attention. The App Store is so full of bad and mediocre apps anyway that it’s hardly surprising that so many do so poorly financially. Even if discoverability was a perfectly solved problem for them, they would never gain any real traction.

However, over the years as I’ve met enough developers of various successful apps – apps that have been featured in mainstream press, that have won Apple Design Awards, that have gotten promoted on the App Store – I’ve learned that even for extremely well executed apps, the number that have managed to actually build a sustainable business on that model is small.

The App Store more closely resembles other hit-driven media like music or movies: there are only so many Lady Gagas in this world. The huge majority are struggling garage bands lucky to book gigs at the local bar.