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Which mobile OS’s apps make most money? Surprise! It’s BlackBerry

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BlackBerry(s rimm) development may be on steep decline, but the platform still remains a profitable one for the developers that have stuck with it. According to a new study from mobile analytics firm VisionMobile, the average monthly revenue from a BlackBerry app is $3,853, compared to $3,693 for iOS(s aapl) and $2,735 for Android(s goog).

Those figures are for the lower 95 percent of apps available in the market that have some kind of revenue model. In order to paint a more accurate picture of what a typical developer makes, VisionMobile lopped off the top 5 percent since those blockbuster apps would greatly skew the results.

But even among the ranks of uncelebrated developers, there’s still a lot of variation in revenues. VisionMobile estimates that more than half of all BlackBerry developers make less than $500 a month on their individual apps, compared to 34.7 percent of iOS developers — you make less money by developing for the iPhone but there’s a better chance you’ll at least make some.

Another point in BlackBerry’s favor is the relatively low cost of developing for the platform. The typical BlackBerry app costs $15,181 to bring to market, compared to an average of $27,463 in iOS and $22,637 in Android development costs, the study found.

None of those advantages, though, seem to matter that much to developers, who all seem to be jumping from what they view as a sinking ship. Of cross-platform developers currently support BlackBerry, 41 percent plan to give RIM the heave ho, according to Vision’s surveys. What’s worse, 14% of devs that code primarily for BlackBerry are now looking for an alternative platform.

RIM may be bad off, but at least it can point to others that are faring far worse. The biggest exodus of developers, 60 percent, is coming from Qualcomm’s(s qcom) BREW platform, reflecting the large-scale shift away from feature phones to smartphones. Symbian, which Nokia(s nok) is retiring, and WebOS, which HP(s hpq) has basically tossed back into the market, are witnessing more than half of their developers depart. Samsung’s Bada, Flash(s orcl) and MeeGo are all in steep decline, as well.

Where are all these developers going? According to Vision, they’re heading straight to Microsoft(s msft). Windows Phone was the top new destination for developers with 57 percent saying they would adopt the platform this year.

26 Responses to “Which mobile OS’s apps make most money? Surprise! It’s BlackBerry”

  1. independantdeveloper

    These $$$ stats are completely bs. I’ve developed numerous apps for ios, android and bb and getting an app to make that amount per month is noway an easy chore. Absolutely no way an avg bb app is bringing in $128 ($3853/30 days) a day. Do they mean per year?

    I’d love to know which apps actually factored into their stats and actually how they managed to get financial stats on them.

  2. This is a great article for anyone who think that iOS and Android are the only platforms that developers are making money with right now. Hopefully information like this will bring more developers to Blackberry. Thanks for the information!

  3. David Pat

    Average money per app is like saying that Bestbuy makes more money than Walmart because their average customer spends more in 1 trip…

  4. cumiastowski

    How can you start this article with such a completely effed up understanding. RIM is gaining developers. Not rocket science to see this. Look at the latest app world stats for Pete’s sake. Stop publishing completely wrong info.

    • Kevin Fitchard

      You’re saying we should look at RIM’s own stats for insight on its developer trends? And three out of four dentists who chew gum recommend you pick…

  5. Michael Essany

    The platform wars and the debates they inspire among mobile OS developers sometimes gets away from a core point that should be made more frequently: any platform can be profitable for a developer who develops a great app! I have pretty wealthy developer friends who all have their preferential operating systems. Where I think there is a more definitive – and most profitable – power player among the platforms is in the area of mobile advertising, where Android is really growing by leaps and bounds. Talk with anyone who has worked with, for example, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

    • Kevin Fitchard

      The problem is if you do develop a great app, you would muck it up by using Airpush, turning your app into what is essentially a spambot.

  6. Hey Kevin and VisionMobile,

    First thanks – love the detail. And makes sense for developers looking to the future to look at MSFT and leave their RIM apps in maintenance mode,
    and collect their annuity.

    But what we really want to know is the data if you add the top 5% back in. This is a big deal for 2 reasons: 1) That is the real measure – it is NOT a skewed number. 2) Surely a lot of developers are looking to hit the jackpot, the home run, the 10 bagger.

    Let me take a wild guess. The giant app revenue is on a platform that is the largest, least fragmented, has the higher income users, has the users who upgrade more frequently, and has the users that access the internet more that the others. Just a wild guess that lopping off the blockbuster successes changes the results dramatically.

    Also would love to know. Is the metric based on average revenue of paid apps?

    • Kevin Fitchard

      Hi Fred, I think your guess is probably right considering iTunes huge revenues. :)

      As for Vision’s numbers, yep, you’re right those numbers would be good to see. Hopefully we’ll see them in future reports. This is the first time I’ve worked with them tho. I believe the chose this methodology though to show what the average app developer can expect. So few apps actually make it to blockbuster level, the huge revenues from say an Angry Birds would greatly skew the numbers.

      I can answer the last question, though. Vision only included apps that were making money or trying to make money — ones that had either a pay-to-download, freemium or had an ad driven model. The apps that were just straight up free with no viable revenue stream weren’t included.

      You should check out the report (link in the lede). It’s a free download and there is some really interesting data there.

  7. VisionMobile

    Thanks for the comments all. We’d like to provide some clarifications on our report and methodology:
    – The question we asked developers was: “Which mobile platforms are you using to develop apps (or planning to)? (Select as many as appropriate)”

    – This question had 3 parts: 1.Platforms planning to continue using 2. Platforms planning to adopt 3. Platforms planning to abandon

    Why does WP have such a high IntentShare?
    – Android and iOS are currently used by 76% and 66% of developers so growth potential is limited compared to WP which currently has a much lower share.

    – Note that developers use multiple platforms (2.7 on average) so adopting a new one does not necessarily imply that they will abandon another – for example, 72% of developers using iOS are also using Android.

    – Also note that intention does not directly translate to adoption: Last year, 32% of developers said they intend to adopt WP but the share of WP among developers only rose by 1% this year.

    – The report also shows that, presently, WP have a tougher time breaking even compared to BB, iOS and Android.

    Reading the full report will answer a lot of your questions (

  8. Vlad Weber

    Apps are what is needed to make your smartphone smart and unique.Im fond of app creating and find it really helpful to use site like Snappii where i can build apps in minutes.

  9. Mansion House

    Blackberry needs to restore confidence after last years RIM blackout. They also need to step up their game to compete with Google and Apple, perhaps Apps is the way to do this. Log onto Google are making plans to seperate the app reviews from comments in efforts to allow users to have a direct line to developers. Apple should follow suit considering Apps are becoming big money spinners. Log onto: to see background to this. to see why this is becoming an important business.

  10. obscurre

    Just incase anyone is thinking why are you here posting if you don’t follow this site? I don’t I came via link from another site, frankly surprised the GigaOM had anything nice to say. I, ofcourse should have known better. :)

  11. So, of all the developers who develop primarily for Blackberry, only 14% are abandoning ship. Another way of looking at this is to say that 86% remain loyal (or proud, happy, eager?). For cross-platform developers, the number that plan to abandon Blackberry looks bad — 41% — but somehow it seems to me as if this might represent an uptick when compared to a study done just 3 months ago by Appcelerator and IDC, where 16% of all developers surveyed expressing any kind of interest in Blackberry, down from 20% at the end of 2011. Yeah, I know, the studies compare/contrast different categories, but it still seems to me that the work RIM has been doing to attract developers recently has been bearing a lot of fruit.

    • Kevin Fitchard

      Hi Yasch,

      Thanks for commenting.

      I definitely see your point. I wouldn’t be surprised if a good deal of that 41% are iPhone or Android devs that just retreaded their apps for BlackBerry rather than really committing to the platform. Those that develop primarily for BB are probably the ones that are raking in those $3000 monthly paychecks. But that’s the problem. If those devs are leaving they’re signaling their looking for a new home platform. 14% is smaller than 41%, but no matter what way you look at it’s not good. Well, at least that’s how I look at it.

      • John Molloy

        Not sure why extracting the top 5% of apps which would “skew the results” works. Looks like someone is trying to find an excuse to promote Blackberry to me.

        “Hey we can make it look good if we ignore the top 5% of apps.”

      • Kevin Fitchard

        Hi John,

        If I recall my statistics classes correctly, this is pretty standard analysis when you’re trying to come up with a better picture of average performance. You lop off the top and bottom. They didn’t appear to lop off the bottom in this case (which would have been $0), but the principle seems sound.

        If I’m a dev and wanted to support myself by making apps that I know have little chance of reaching the top of the download charts, data includes blockbuster apps like Angry Birds, wouldn’t do me much good. You may be right that the top apps on iOS do better than BB, but that’s not what Vision Mobile is trying to look at here.

  12. Nick Valentino

    This article is my new default answer for the idiots who ask “Why would anyone want to develop for BlackBerry?!”. Thanks for posting.

    • Nick Valentino

      And I hope more developers “leave the BlackBerry platform” because if they’re so hard pressed to leave, they probably don’t have any apps worth while anyway. More business for me and the rest of the serious devs.

      • obscurre

        Smacks of yet another article from the NA media to figure out a way to spin this as a glass half empty. “Yeah, you make more money, but don’t worry they are all leaving so its a dead platform, so don’t bother and go to the other 3. Also looks like a microsoft paid study to me. Any developer with an iota of a business sense wouldn’t jump to win8 when no one knows if it is going to be a success! And if they are doing decent with RIM like the above dev seems to be, why would you stop and jump to an unknow platform? I almost never post and I have deleted the RSS feeds from this site and others that have essentially been blatantly baised in their reporting and propping up windows as the best 3rd alternative. The media and the wall street seem to want to play God and decide winners and losers. May be they will be right and may be they won’t. Reminds me of India winning the cricket worldcup in 1983. My advice to you all! Stop being so arrogant, for RIM may have winner in their next generation handsets. And if they don’t that’s ok, let them lose on their own without the media and the wall streeters announcing they are dead with bias reporting every day. Final thought: if they are dead why is NA obssessed about reporting on RIM almost on a daily basis? Pretty morbid and frankly pathetic.

      • Kevin Fitchard

        Hi Obscurre,

        I thought it was a pretty balanced portrayal considering the knocks RIM is taking lately. In any case, I’m reporting VisionMobile’s data.

        I think you’re right to question where any given report comes from and who paid for it. I queried Vision on just that, and they checked out clean. They have a sponsorship model, and in this case the sponsors are the carriers not any handest or platform provider. Here’s how they described it:

        “Our business model for reports is sponsorship – i.e. one or more sponsors pay VisionMobile a fee in exchange for logo placement on the report and/or the report landing page on our website. It’s our strict policy to never provide any of our sponsors with any kind of editorial control – our conclusions are our own and what we publish is our own decision.

        “For this specific report, the main sponsor is Telefonica. They have paid VisionMobile a sum of money for their name and logo to appear alongside VisionMobile’s in this report. There are also numerous marketing partners, all of whom were offered simple logo placement on one of the inside pages of the report in exchange for promoting the report via their channels.

        “We don’t touch any aspect of the operator business in this report and we even show that operator portals have been marginalised as a distribution channel, so there is nothing that could be used by BlueVia as an advertisement or an endorsement by our company. In fact, in previous Developer Economics reports, we even published quotes from developers who were giving negative comments about operators.”