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Jul 29, 2014

Stop the Rot: Some thoughts on Mobile App Development

iPhone iPad picture

There are a number of stories (linked at the end of this post) this week lamenting the constantly shrinking revenue from developing mobile apps. It was just a few years ago when the Apple App store opened to great fanfare and a mass rush for “easy” money. In those days, there were seemingly abundent stories about developers creating a great app and pocketing big money.

Oh how things have changed. Jared Sinclair posted a story on how his excellcent new app “Unread” only pulled in about $32k in revenue to date. Not really enough money to justify the time and money he put into the app. There seems to be a very very small percentage of apps that make decent money (6% Android and 11% iOS). According to the TechCrunch story the majority of developers make less than $6000 a year. Hardly enough to pay the rent in the US and Europe.

So why should we care? Why is this a problem for Apple and Google? Because if developers can’t make money at it, there won’t be any apps for these wonderful smart phone and tablet devices. When a new version of iOS or Android comes out, most of the apps on the store will no longer be updated or maintained by their developers. This will further exacerbate the problem of all the crapware, cheaps copies, and general cruft that is making the app store itself less usable.

So what should be done? I have a few possible ideas that might help.

  • Encourage apps to be sold with a recurring fee Instead of paying $1 one time only. What about $10 or $20 a year recurring. Allow consumers to buy in to an application to support its future development. It seems to work for a lot of small web sites out there.
  • Make paid upgrades possible This goes along with my last bullet. Right now, upgrading an app on the app store is a pain. You have to create a new app with a new name and number to create an “upgrade”. This creates a lot of confusion when potential customers search for your application. Paid upgrades were how the software business made their money in the 1980s and 1990s. It only seems reasonable since we only pay $1 to $5 for an app anyway. I would hardly begrudge a developer $5 every year or two.
  • Remove Rip-off Apps and Junk For example, let’s say I create an app called Baconator. It rates different kinds of bacon on flavor. If I post this app to the Apple app store in a few months there will be a “Baconator Pro” and “Supreme Baconator” rip off copy of the application. This sort of nonsense should not be allowed. But you can see it all the time on the iOS app store. Plus there are also a lot of dead apps just sitting out there. Some of this stuff needs to be pruned.
  • Reduce App Store Cut. I’m sorry, but 30% is WAY too much money for providing such a service. Certainly Apple and Google need to be able to cover their costs and make some money. However, I doubt that a 30% cut is required to do so.
  • Improve the App Store UI and Search The Apple App store has to have the WORST search features available for any modern store. Plus, you still have to go through some custom app to get to it. Why are we still using iTunes on the desktop to shop for anything??? Apple, update your software and make your store available on the web. Please. iTunes should be a music and media player period.

Well that is my $0.02 for today. Here are the articles with a lot more facts and details on the subject.

Stories Referenced for this Post

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