Is developing for the Mac really that profitable?

I’m a long time Windows and Linux developer who’s recently dipped his toes into Android development. I can’t tell you how disappointed I’ve been with the platform. From my own experience, and the experience of numerous devs I’ve read, it’s becoming nearly impossible to make money on the Android platform.

So I’m looking at Mac and iOS.

I know some ‘big name’ developers and they say that Mac and iOS is the only way they make money these days. They tell me Android is a money-suck because so many people are buying the lowest end devices they can and don’t want to spend any money. The high-end market isn’t large enough to support developers. So iOS/Mac is it.

What’s your story on Mac and iOS? Is it true, in your experience. that it’s still a money-making platform (I mean for devs, not Apple) or is it becoming a money suck too? Is it worth jumping in and starting to write software for the platforms, especially if you’re not a ‘name’ in the iOS world? I’d assume that since Apple sells premium hardware, customers aren’t averse to spending money but I’m seeing conflicting sales figures that tell me otherwise.

I’d love to hear your opinions!

The Mac App Store is certainly profitable. I have my doubts about the iOS one, but I cannot judge from just one app.

I kind of have the same view of the iOS store. Even with premium hardware, it seems mobile users aren’t really willing to pay for a lot of software. I blame both Google and Apple for that. The race to the bottom on price have made many users think that mobile software isn’t as ‘valuable’ as desktop software. It’s going to be very hard to change that perception. It’s going to take a concerted effort by the developer community.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback. So it looks like desktop software still has its advantages.

[quote=268927:@jean-paul devulder]I know one developer with one app gain (500$ par day), another have dozens of app and gain (60$ by month)

publish a app is not hard, the challenge is make to app a big visibility (on app store and apple website news)

on general, developpers doesn’t gain many many dollars :)[/quote]

As I understand it, developers that see great profits are usually the ones featured by Apple in the store, correct? Everyone else seems to get buried? At least, that’s my understanding of the iOS store; the MAS might be different.

you need $49 per month to see the graphic ! :wink:

Let us not forget either the Windows Store. Until Windows 10, my six apps in there did about 20 times less than the same titles in the MAS. But now, it is closer to 7 times less and growing.

Mind you, I am not making $500 a day. But certainly way more than $60 a month.

Of course for the moment the only way is to use VS, but it will in the future be possible using the Centennial Desktop Converter to put Win32 apps in there.

About Mobile, would that be Android or iOS, fact it is probably already too late : most users consider software should cost no more than $1.99, or even be free. But there are hundred millions iOS users. Now the million dollars question is : what kind of apps these people use most. And how many apps do they buy. Add to that the need to reach these users by other means than the feeble search on Google Play and iOS App Store. On Android you can have demo apps, not on iOS. So the bulk is moving toward free apps with in-app purchase.

To me the mobile apps market is very much like the music industry : a whole bunch of people, and very few winners.

Lol… I have 3 apps in the iOS Store… and in the last year… made a TOTAL of $35! didn’t even pay for the developer fee… That being said… I have 3 more apps in the works, so we shall see… The first 3 are games, these next 3 are more “useful”…

  • personal information manager (check out my desktop “LockBox” program, this will be the mobile version)
  • Maintenance/Gas Mileage tracker for Motorcycles and Cars
  • iTunes Player designed specifically for mounting on motorcycle handlebars (simple big buttons etc)

I have a few apps in the IOS store, I make about $300-500 per month.

If you want to make any money your apps have to be good, 90% are garbage on the iOS store and Android store.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is not without lots of hard work. Developing apps has gotten easier, but being noticed has gotten harder.

My wife and I have been running our own business selling Photography apps on the Mac since 2008. It’s very interesting to see how the market has shifted in that time.

We spent 18 months developing our first application as at that time one of the most important things was making the software as Mac like as possible, any hint of Windows and your app sales would tank. Now with the app store and the flurry of quick cheaply ported software, the bar for acceptance has been dropped. There are those that still try, but on the whole I’d say 70% of our competitors don’t even bother.

The difficulty now is standing out in that crowd, it doesn’t matter if you have the best app in your category, getting noticed is hard. The App Store is almost impossible to get noticed, currently you need someone at Apple to choose to want to promote your app. That process is unknown, but I’m pretty certain it boils down to either money or knowing someone. Even then, people who’ve been promoted by Apple had a rush of sales, then all but fell off.

What you can do is to make a plan based upon your target audience; who is your primary audience, how can you reach them? Think web sites. Once you know where they are, then create a relationship with the owner of the site and request reviews, promotions and such.

You also need to think really hard about the application name, and icon. The name needs to portray what it does in the shortest possible space. Again once you know your audience, you can decide to be clever with the name or keep it simple. A indirect name will appeal more to a professional audience than a simple one. i.e. Our product ‘Shine’ was designed for prosumers, whereas a competitors apps “Light Rays” was designed for… to make a quick buck.

Which sales channel do you promote? If you promote the App Store, your ranking will be up, but that comes at the expense of not knowing who your customers are. If you promote your own sales channel, you can easily make customers aware of your other products and have a record of the sale.

There’s probably a lot that I’ve forgotten.

Will apps be more noticeable or otherwise sell better in the MAS if there is also an iOS version or companion of the desktop app?

I used to sell Mac apps back in the '90 and till about 2005.
In can say it was MUCH easier to sell and be profitable. While the Mac App Store might be see as cool from users, it really destroyed the indie market.

Just my 2 cents.

its 99 cents at the moment… but will be 2 cents very soon at the rate things are going

Used to be that getting shelf space at stores (CompUSA, Fry’s etc) was THE big impediment for mac software developers.
The MAS changed that and made it easier for Mac users to find Mac software.
MAS is only “distribution” though.

The problem now is “rising above the noise” - but that’s always been the issue.
Getting noticed by your intended audience is still required.
Whether thats by emails, reviews in appropriate web sites/journals, etc is still up to you.

As usual, absolutes don’t really apply to a more complex reality.

I have been selling my littles apps and fonts on my own sites since the nineties (actually, way before on Compuserve and mail order). I started with Mac apps back in 2002, and it took a while to find the proper venues and tactics to sell. When the Mac App Store appeared, I simply recompiled and prepped my apps for it back in 2013 and with the help of Sam Rowland’s Ap Wrapper, was in business in no time. My experience has been that direct sales did not tank while MAS sales picked up.

In the last year or so, the MAS kind of plateaued, so did the direct sales, but yet again, proportions remained stable.

To me, indie as can be, the MAS was extra business, and it did not destroy my direct sales. Sure, I had to learn, since the logics sometimes differ. But lately, I have been working on making it more synergetic. My next app will offer a 30 days full functionality trial period, but at the end, instead of just promoting direct sales, I will give the choice to the user between direct activation and App Store. I feel there is a lot to be gained by not shunting the MAS, and on the contrary, cross promote. I do intend, for instance, to mention the trial app is available on my site, so MAS shoppers can try before they buy.

I would tend to say : don’t put all your eggs in the same basket.

LOL … Made my day. Thank you for that Dave. :slight_smile:

@Michel [quote]I do intend, for instance, to mention the trial app is available on my site, so MAS shoppers can try before they buy.[/quote]

MAS blocked an app of mine until I removed the mention that a trial app was available on my website. The reason given by the reviewer was “Apple is interested in selling”. I hope I’m the only one to have gotten such response.

Over the years I got more consulting jobs for Mac apps. Partly because more people use Mac now. Apple sells more in a quarter now than they sold in a full year long ago.

And more people need apps for Mac and Windows so Xojo can be used. For Mac only or Windows only apps they would probably not ask me.

And for the Mac App Store I enjoy a monthly payment from Apple. My apps sell better outside Mac App Store but I enjoy the extra. Even as in website people can try before buy and the App Store version has less features.

[quote=269020:@Carlo Rubini]@Michel

MAS blocked an app of mine until I removed the mention that a trial app was available on my website. The reason given by the reviewer was “Apple is interested in selling”. I hope I’m the only one to have gotten such response.[/quote]

I know it is shaky.