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VisionMobile Developer Economics 2013



Key messages
The following are based on VisionMobile’s recent survey of 3,460 developers across 95
countries, with a balanced sample across North America, Europe and Asia, plus
developer interviews and research insights.
Mobile market duopolies
Mobile handset Industry growing at 23% CAGR. Despite the doom and gloom
circling many mobile handset makers, the industry has been on a steady growth
trajectory achieving a 23% CAGR in revenues since 2009. Underlying this growth are
the increasing smartphone sales that now account for over 40% of all handset sales,
fuelled by low cost Android devices that are rapidly eating away feature phone market
A game of duopolies. The 700 million smartphones shipped in 2012 are
underpinned by the Google / Apple duopoly in mobile platforms which jointly
commands 80% in mobile developer mindshare. This is underscored by the Samsung
and Apple handset maker duopoly, which combines a smartphone market share of 46%,
and accounts for 98% of handset industry profits across the top-8 handset OEMs.
Excluding Apple, total handset industry profits are at 2009 levels, implying that Apple
is reaping all of the added value out of the apps-based mobile computing paradigm
which it introduced. In this same period, Samsung captured the remaining value by
quickly transforming from a feature phone incumbent to a smartphone leader, eating
away the profits of the old guard Nokia who was slow to react to the changing basis of
competition - from the best phones, to the best apps.
Samsung’s profit recipe. As the top-selling handset OEM in 2012, Samsung’s stellar
success with Android smartphones is down to three differentiating elements: firstly inhouse
ownership of the most expensive hardware components, ensuring both earliest
availability and lowest bill of materials. Secondly, fastest time to market in launching a
new smartphone based on the latest Android software release. Thirdly, a strong Galaxy
brand and marketing campaigns that differentiate Samsung from the crowd of tens of
Android handset makers.
Tablets are still outsold 3 to 1 by PCs, but they are expected to reach parity in the
next 1-2 years. This will be a critical inflection point for the PC duopoly of Microsoft
and Intel, who are seeing their once-dominant position in computing being severely
disrupted by mobility, where Android dominates platforms and ARM licensees
Qualcomm and Mediatek dominate chipsets.
Platform haves and have nots
Developers swarm around iOS/Android but keep looking for viable
alternatives. Having established a dominant position in consumer markets, Android
continues to lead mobile developer mindshare, with 72% of developers now developing
for the platform, a 4 percentage point increase compared to our 2012 survey. iOS shows
a 5 percentage point drop in Mindshare, which we attribute mostly to the influx of
Asian developers showing a clear preference towards Android. Developer mindshare
varies widely by region, with Android leading in Asia and Europe, while North America
© VisionMobile 2013 |
shows platform parity. The considerable share of mobile developers intending to adopt
Windows Phone (47%) and BB10 (15%) indicate that there is still developer interest in a
viable third app ecosystem.
HTML is the main technology co-opetitor to the Android-iOS duopoly.
HTML is the third most popular choice among mobile developers, 50% of whom use
the HTML-based set of technologies as a deployment platform (to create mobile web
apps) or as a development platform (to create hybrid apps or HTML code translated
into native apps). Overall, HTML is much more successful as a technology, not a
platform, with Firefox OS (and WebOS before that) being the main web-centric
attempts at creating a complete alternative to iOS and Android, including native
platform APIs, and a means to distribute and monetise apps. HTML should therefore
be seen not as competition, but rather as a complement to native platforms, and one
that reduces externalities by lowering barriers to entry and exit from these platforms.
Windows Phone: buy it and they will come. Windows Phone remains unchanged
in developer mindshare at 21% of developers despite the very high intention to adopt in
our previous 2012 survey. Developers seem to be waiting for the right market signals –
a critical mass of handsets - before investing in the platform. Despite Windows Phone
challenges, Microsoft has positioned Windows 8 as a tablet-too platform, and thanks to
strong Windows license renewals, the company is able to reposition mobile market
share figures to their advantage.
BlackBerry mobile mindshare remains stable at 16%, with developers being on
standby mode in anticipation of BB10 sales. Moreover, Intentshare, i.e. developer plans
to adopt BlackBerry, has not subsided since our 2012 survey, indicating that the major
outreach effort undertaken by RIM during the build-up to BB10 release is having some
positive impact. Symbian mindshare, on the other hand, is rapidly and predictably
disappearing, as is, Samsung’s Bada, despite outperforming Windows Phone sales in
Q3 2012.
74% of developers use 2+ platforms concurrently, but money is
concentrated in iOS/Android. At the same time, developer platform choices are
now narrowing. On average mobile developers use 2.6 mobile platforms in our latest
survey, compared to 2.7 in 2012 and 3.2 in our 2011 survey. 80% of respondents in our
sample develop for Android, iOS or both, making them the baseline in any platform
mix. Developers that do not develop for one of these two platforms generate, on
average, half the revenue of those developers that do, leaving little doubt as to the
concentration of power within these two major ecosystems.
Most developers are iOS-first. iOS is a clear winner in the shoot-out against
Android, with 42% of Apple/Google developers prioritising iOS, against 31% for
Android. Several other factors come into play when making a decision on the “lead
platform”, such as prior experience or local handset sales patterns, but iOS comes out
as a clear winner across all platform competitive points except cost and learning curve.
iOS, Android and BlackBerry are lead platforms. In our survey of 3,460
developers, iOS emerged as the highest priority platform, with 48% of iOS developers
using it as the lead platform among all others. iOS, Android and BlackBerry constitute
lead platforms, which are most often used as a main platform among their developers.
Windows Phone and HTML are extension platforms, as they are typically used by
© VisionMobile 2013 |
developers to extend their app footprint into customer segments or regions not
adequately covered by their lead platform. At the tail end of developer preference are
Symbian, Qt, Flash and JavaME ,the “gap fillers”, now used to address all remaining
market niches.
HTML5 needs better native platform APIs, and development environment.
HTML5 is becoming a viable alternative to native for developers working on app
categories such as Business & Productivity (used by 42% of HTML developers),
Enterprise (32%) and Media apps (28%). To compete with native, HTML5 needs better
native API access (35% of HTML developers), a better development environment
(34%), better debugging support (22%). More importantly, optimised HTML5 devices
were not seen as important as the native API access or dev environment. This leads us
to conclude that HTML proponents such as Facebook, Mozilla and Google should focus
on cross-platform tools and development environments on at least equal measures as
they focus on full platform efforts like Facebook Platform, Firefox OS and Chrome OS.
Tablets reaching developer mindshare parity with smartphones, but TVs
remain niche. The majority (86%) of 3,460 developers in our survey target
smartphones, while a large share of them also develop on tablets, led by iOS developers
(76%) indicating the attractiveness of the iPad as a development and monetisation
platform. TV development remains niche (6% of Android developers), as the hype cycle
around the “Smart TV” experience is yet at a very early stage.
The revenue haves and have nots
The steep learning curve of app entrepreneurship. Developers have a lot to
improve in planning their app business. 49% of developers in our sample build apps
they want to use themselves, but end up generating the least revenue. The most
revenue-generating app planning strategies are those that extend an app either into
verticals or different geographies. To some extent, these strategies rely on an already
established and successful business: apps that have been tried and proven in at least
one market and are generally less risky options or “low hanging fruit” for developers.
Advertising is now the most popular revenue model for apps, used by 38% of
developers in our global sample. At the same time, it is the monetisation model with the
least revenue per app. In-app purchases and Freemium are on the rise, having grown by
50% compared to our 2012 survey and are now used by more than a quarter of the
developers in our survey. In-app purchase is now the second most popular revenue
model on iOS, with 37% of developers using it, falling slightly behind Pay per download.
Lack of customer understanding in lean app development. We find it
remarkable that only 24% of developers in our sample plan their apps based on
discussions with users, a figure which does not change with development experience or
proficiency. This indicates that the bottleneck of the build-measure-learn cycle of lean
development is the “measuring”, or understanding customers. This highlights the need
for a frictionless two-way feedback channel between developers and users, much like
what GetSatisfactio
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VisionMobile Developer Economics 2013
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