The mobile app economy is growing fast, but is it growing fast enough? In the first half of 2010, sales of smartphone apps worldwide generated US$2.2 billion in revenue compared with US$1.7 billion in the whole of 2009, according to a new study by analysts at research2guidance.
If we assume there are 100,000 active app developers worldwide, that amounts to just US$22,000 revenue per developer in the first half of 2010. If you take out the 30 percent levied by the typical app store, developers will have made an average of just US$15,400 apiece. Take out their development costs and that doesn't leave much in profit.
Of course, developers may have other sources of revenue beyond straightforward apps sales. Some will have been commissioned to create free apps as adverts or promotional services for big companies, while others will be pursuing the "freemium" model, creating free mobile apps to promote their own paid-for software or content on other media. And there will also be some in-app advertising revenue to add into the mix.
Indeed, Juniper Research forecast recently that total mobile apps-related revenues (encompassing pay-per-download sales, value-added services and advertising) will reach US$32 billion by 2015. If the global active developer community is still 100,000 strong by 2015, that would mean the average developer would be generating US$320,000 in annual revenues before paying commission to app stores, ad-brokers and other elements of the ecosystem. That would appear to put the mobile app community on a more commercially-sustainable footing.