Flip of fortunes: making devices compatible with apps

There used to be a time when developers worked hard to make their apps compatible with devices. [tweetable]Nowadays, device makers are working hard to make handsets and tablets compatible with apps.[/tweetable]


  • Amazon built the Kindle Fire on the Android Open Source Platform in order to leverage Android’s developer ecosystem and adding value only in the missing parts of Android.

  • BlackBerry built a “runtime for Android” into its BB10 platform in an attempt to close the app gap with its main mobile OS competitors. Jolla used a similar tactic in its Sailfish OS.

  • And now Nokia has produced an Android phone, the Nokia X, against all expectations considering their focus on Windows Phone over the last years and the acquisition by Microsoft. The Nokia X is positioned as a low-end “stepping stone” device relative to the Windows Phone based Lumia range.

How did this flip of fortunes come about?

Why supporting Android apps is becoming a must

Apps used to be bite-sized additions to the functionality of the mobile device; individually unimportant except for a very small number of key apps. [tweetable]The bargaining power of app makers is clear from the financial results of developers – that’s to say: near zero.[/tweetable] Six years into modern smartphone platforms, a full 60% of developers are still below the “app poverty line”, i.e. earn less than $500 per app per month, according to our latest Developer Economics survey (download the full Q1 2014 edition for free).

However, apps in aggregate have now become a must-have and a big driver of competitive positions. It’s no longer enough to build your own app ecosystem, or even feasible for that matter. iOS and Android form a de-facto duopoly that is impossible to compete against. [tweetable]To survive as a mobile device maker you need to tap into Android’s app base[/tweetable] (as iOS is closed for other device makers).

To convince consumers to buy your device, you need apps. Not just any apps, mind you. The hot apps of the moment (they usually are found on iOS first, Android second), as well as a long tail of apps catering to every imaginable use case. They need to look good and be fully featured too – lowest common denominator apps won’t do if you want to put a device in the market.

To convince developers, you need to deliver many users at low development effort. The best way to do that is to produce an Android-compatible device. The second best way is to bet on HTML5 with many good cross-platform tools and advanced APIs – something that both Blackberry and Windows Phone have struggled with as well.

A good long-term strategy?

Both on the user and on the developer side of the ecosystem, device makers will fight a serious uphill battle if they don’t support Android. But is supporting Android a good strategy for Amazon, BlackBerry or Nokia in the long term?

For players like Amazon and possibly Nokia who add value on top of Android, the move is in principle sustainable. As we explained in an earlier article: you don’t need to make an OS to win in mobile. Amazon and Nokia are basically replacing Google’s cloud services with their own (and in Nokia’s case: Microsoft’s), and use the Android OS for all the rest. This enables them to add value where it really matters, i.e. where Android and Google are weak. In Amazon’s case it’s crystal clear: the e-commerce giant leverages its promotion prowess and credit cards on file to help app developers monetize better.

Device makers who try the Android compatibility approach can still lose out to fragmentation however. We argued in the Naked Android article that only a few companies in the world have the clout with developers to convince them to spend the effort on replacing cloud service APIs. GlassBoard developer Justin Williams illustrated that perfectly in his recent post, where he muses on whether or not to adapt his app to the Nokia X. (Short answer: he won’t.)

[tweetable]For Blackberry and Nokia-X-as-a-stepping-stone-to-Windows-Phone, there is little hope that supporting Android will get them out of the slump.[/tweetable] They might attract opportunistic developers looking for a few extra users, but those developers are not likely to add to the momentum of the Blackberry and Windows Phone ecosystems. “Moving up” to the native ecosystem on those devices means that developers need to rewrite their apps. This idea clashes with the opportunistic motivation that attracted them in the first place.

That’s my take. I’d love to hear your opinion. What do you think that device makers should do?

— Stijn

Learning From Blackberry's Decline

After Blackberry announced disastrous Q2 results, news broke that Fairfax’s offer to take the company private had hit funding snags as pension funds were uninterested. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising, but it means that a break-up is now the most likely outcome for the embattled smartphone manufacturer. Let’s use Blackberry as a lens to see what we can learn about declining businesses.

This article, by Sameer Singh, was first published at Tech-Thoughts.


1. Companies cannot attack established ecosystems from behind

The easiest takeaway from Blackberry’s decline is that no single company can compete against an established ecosystem. Blackberry’s decline began once iOS and Android were firmly entrenched as leading mobile ecosystems. Blackberry failed to understand that creating a viable ecosystem around the BB10 operating system was extremely unlikely given the timelines. By the time BB10 was productized, iOS and Android already held dominating positions in the market and developers had no reason to look back. Continue reading Learning From Blackberry's Decline

Infographic – Developer Economics Q3 2013 – State of the Developer Nation

As we’re about to launch the latest Developer Economics survey [UPDATE: we’ve launched the new survey – you can take it here!], we’d like to present you with an infographic with some key stats and figures from the latest, Q3 project, to whet your appetite. This infographic holds just a sample of the dozens of insights from the Developer Economics Q3 2013 report ([vm_form_download link_text=’full report available for free download’ product_id=’4062′]), tracking the state of mobile ecosystems, developer mindshare, monetisation trends, revenue models and developer tools.

Insights from this infographic:
– Android and iOS lead in terms of mindshare, HTML5 comes third: 71% of mobile developers use Android, 57% use iOS, 52% use HTML5
– Most developers go straight to the browser: The largest share (38%) of HTML5 developers develop mobile websites with another 23% developing mobile apps
– There are more iOS developers also using Android than vice-versa: 69% of iOS developers use Android, but just 40% of Android developers use iOS as their second choice, just ahead of HTML5 mobile (29%)
– iOS leads in average monthly revenues – but Android is closing the gap: At $5,200 per developer per month on average, iOS continues to be the most revenue-generating platform for developers, ahead of Android by a margin of 10%
– The global app economy was worth $ 53Bn in 2012, and expected to rise to $ 68Bn in 2013: The mobile segment corresponds to 12.6% of the global developer population. In other words, 1 in 8 software developers is involved in mobile development in 2013
– Creativity (53%) and the fun of building an app (40%) are the top motivators for developers

Can’t wait for more Developer Economics? Our new survey is just around the bend [UPADTE: new survey is live]- stay tuned and take the survey (if you’re a developer), or help spread the word (if you’re not)! For the moment, enjoy this great, new infographic!


[Report] Developer Economics Q3 2013 – State of the Developer Nation

We’re happy to announce the launch of our new Developer Economics report, based on the largest, most global developer survey (6,000+ respondents from 115+ countries). You can [vm_form_download link_text=’download a free copy’ product_id=’4062′] of this latest report, that tracks the state of mobile ecosystems, developer mindshare, monetisation trends, revenue models and developer tools.

Developer Economics Q3 2013

The full report is available for [vm_form_download link_text=’free download’ product_id=’4062′] – but you can also view the web version, in our newly-launched Developer Economics website and comment on specific sections of the report! In this article we’ll just present some of the key insights – but stay tuned for more Developer Economics articles, based on data from our latest survey!

Developer Mindshare Q3 2013

The Mobile Developer Mindshare Q3 2013 shows Android leading at 71% of developers using the platform, followed by iOS at 56%.

HTML5 has entrenched itself as a mobile development technology of choice, with 52% of the developer population using HTML5 technologies for developing mobile apps.

Developer Mindshare Q3 2013

Once we double click on that 52% of HTML5 mobile mindshare, a kaleidoscope of colour and options appears. The largest share (38%) of HTML5 developers develop mobile websites with another 23% developing mobile apps, i.e. incorporating offline functionality and deeper browser integration. Hybrid apps, such as those produced by PhoneGap account for 27% of HTML5 mobile developers. A minority of 7% of HTML5 mobile developers use platforms exposing native APIs via JavaScript, such as Firefox OS and BlackBerry 10. Last but not least, 5% of HTML5 mobile developers use a Javascript-to-native converter tool like Appcelerator.

Up-and-coming platforms

BlackBerry has been successful in transitioning BB legacy developers over to its new BB10 platform, with the new platform having almost the same mindshare as the legacy BlackBerry 5/6/7 had just before the release of BB10 six months ago.

The strong interest in Windows Phone observed in past surveys is still there (35% of developers planning to adopt WP) but has subsided by 12 percentage points since Q1 2013. Mobile developers now have a wide gamut of options with challenger platforms competing for their attention. Windows 8 is at 40% of Mobile Developer Intentshare, followed by BlackBerry 10 (28%) and Firefox OS (capturing 27% of all developers planning to adopt a platform).

Platform selection and consolidation

There is no one-size fits all in mobile platforms. Our research shows that iOS is selected more frequently than average by developers that value revenue potential (+12%), graphics (+7%), app discovery (+8%) and user reach (+10%). Developers tend to use HTML5 more frequently as their primary platform when they value porting (+9%) and speed & cost of development (+4%). BlackBerry 10 is used more frequently than average as a primary platform by developers valuing developer community programmes (+16%). And Windows Phone is most popular for developers looking for the right development environment (+3%) and documentation (+2%).

Which platform is right for me

Whether hobbyists or IT managers of Fortune-500 companies, developers use 2.9 mobile platforms concurrently, according to our recent survey of 6,000+ mobile developers. This is the first time we are observing a shift towards diversification, with our earlier 2011-2012 research pointing towards continual platform consolidation: on average mobile developers used 3.2 mobile platforms in our 2011 survey, compared to 2.7 in 2012 and 2.6 in our Q1 2013 research.

Platform prioritisation

At 2.9 concurrent platforms on average, today’s developer is multi-platform. In this world, not all platforms are equally important to a developer. Prioritisation has an impact on which platform are new apps and features first rolled out, as well as the focus, app quality, sales and revenue on that platform. Our data shows that 84% of mobile developers are using iOS, Android or HTML5 (mobile) as their primary platform.

Our research shows a strong lead of iOS over Android with 49.4% vs 59% of platform developers preferring it as their main platform. Whereas Android has 4x times more devices shipping and a significant lead in Mobile Developer Mindshare, it lags behind iOS in terms of Android developers using it as their lead platform.

Platform prioritsation

Platform priorities also depend on the level of experience. Developers who are fresh to mobile have a much stronger preference towards Android, with almost twice as many new mobile developers preferring Android (40%) than iOS (21%).

Revenues and revenue models

At $5,200 per developer per month on average, iOS continues to be the most revenue generating platform for developers, and ahead of Android developer monthly revenues by a margin of 10%.

App revenues per platform

Our research of 6,000+ mobile developers shows that there is no single revenue model that is dominant across all platforms. On Windows Phone, developers have a strong preference towards in-app advertising (43%) and pay-per download (40%). BlackBerry 10 developers have a strong preference towards pay-per download (47%). The picture is much more balanced on Android, iOS and HTML5, with no revenue model dominating to the extent observed on Windows Phone or BlackBerry 10.

Developer motivations

Contrary to popular perception, money is not the only motivator for mobile app developers – in fact, far from it. Revenues – in some form or other – are the goal for only 50% of mobile developers.

The hierarchy of developer motivations shows some surprising findings. At the base of the pyramid, the majority (53%) of mobile developers are motivated by creativity or the sense of achievement, making this the most popular among motivators. The fun of making an app, is a motivator for 40% of mobile developers.

Developer tools

Our research shows that developer tools are in the must-have app development arsenal of the most sophisticated developers, and also those making most revenues. Across the tools spectrum, iOS developers are the most active and sophisticated users, with 92.5% reporting that they use at least one tool. iOS developers therefore have a clear advantage as being most advanced in tool use, and therefore having the infrastructure to innovate and differentiate.

Read the [vm_form_download link_text=’full report’ product_id=’4062′] for more insights and data on the latest mobile development trends!

More Developer Economics reports

With the release of State of the Developer Nation, we’d also like to present two more reports, based on Developer Economics data.

Developer Segmentation

Developer Segmentation 2013

The definitive study of developer segments and the hierarchy of developer motivations: Extensive profiling of the 8 principle developer segments, based on desired outcomes, personal motivators and success metrics.

  • How do the eight mobile developer segments contribute to the app economy?
  • Which developer segments should you approach, and at which stage of your developer program?
  • How should you approach each segment?




App Economy Forecasts 2013-2016

Developer population, platforms, revenues, and revenue models sizing and forecasts 2013-2015. Sizing the app economy: developer population by region and platform, distribution of revenues, revenue models and forecasts.

  • What is the size of the developer communities for the three key mobile platforms (Android, iOS, HTML)?
  • Which are the most lucrative revenue models for developers?
  • What are the relative sizes of the app economy?

Developer Mindshare Q2 2013: Is HTML5 the 3rd horse in the race?

[We’ve just completed the largest developer survey to date and the results are starting to come in. Marketing Manager, Matos Kapetanakis, discusses some early insights, focusing on platform mindshare and the role of HTML5]

UPDATE: The full report is now available for [vm_form_download link_text=’free download’ product_id=’4062′]

Developer Economics 5th edition - survey

Biggest developer survey

We’re thrilled to announce that the Q2 Developer Economics survey we conducted throughout April was the most successful to date, zooming past the 6,000 respondents mark, making it the biggest developer survey globally.

We broke through the 6,000 developer mark mainly thanks to the help of our 48 Marketing and Regional partners. Together we reached developers from an unprecedented 115 countries, from mature markets, like the US and Western Europe, to emerging markets, like Brazil, Russia, India and China. To reach developers on a global scale, we translated the survey in 10 languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish), aided by our local partners, who helped us reach the local dev communities. Thanks to a partnership with Mobile Monday, we also promoted through over 20 local MoMo chapters in Asia and Oceania.

And for those of you who took our survey and are eagerly awaiting the results of the prize draw – here are the winners!

1. One new iPhone 5 (won by @Adrianod1993)
2. Two Samsung Galaxy SIII (won by @devitry & @Sourav_Lahoti)
3. Two Nokia Lumia 920 (won by John P and Serge J)
4. Two BlackBerry Z10 (won by Shaun D and @99CentsApps)

Exclusive prizes for respondents who also subscribed to our developer panel:
1. One AR Drone 2.0 (value USD 300 – won by @to_pe)
2. One Nest Learning Thermostat (value USD 250 – won by Frank D)
3. One Nike Fuel Band (value USD 150 – won by Branko N) Continue reading Developer Mindshare Q2 2013: Is HTML5 the 3rd horse in the race?

[Infographic] Developer Economics 2013: Dev tools are the foundation of the app economy

We’d like to present our latest infographic, based on the latest Developer Economics report – themed around developer tools. This infographic presents some of the key findings from the published report (which is available for download here).

  • 72% of developers use Android, 56% use iOS – HTML is the third most popular choice among mobile developers, 50% of whom use the HTML-based set of technologies as a deployment or development platform
  • 67% of developers are below the “app poverty line” of $500 per app per month –  BlackBerry and Windows Phone lagging behind in terms of monetisation, but leading platforms also have issues. 61% of iOS and 68% of Android developers are below the poverty line
  • 74% of developers use two or more platforms concurrently – Multi-platform offers much better monetisation potential, as developers who use more than one platform have higher revenues than those who just use one
  • Advertising is the most popular revenue model, used by 38% of developers – but subscriptions pay more
  •  Ad services are reaching mass adoption for developers – 34% are using at least one ad-service tool – 90% of developers use at least one third-party tool or service, with an average of 1.47 tools used concurrently

Want to be part of the next Developer Economics? Our online survey is still live (closes May 6 2013) – have your say and claim one of our great prizes!

(like our infographic? feel free to embed it – see codes below the post)
Developer Economics 2013 Infographic - Dev Tools: The foundations of the app economy

Which apps make more money?

[How do app developer revenues vary by country, or platform? Does the number of platforms make a difference to app revenues? Which models bring in the most revenues? We revisit our November analysis of app monetisation with more insights from our Developer Economics 2013 survey across 3,400+ developers – while launching our latest survey, which is available here]

New Developer Economics survey

Back in November, we looked at which apps make money based on research on how app revenues vary by platform, app category, country and more. In this article we update our analysis on app monetisation based on the latest research from Developer Economics 2013 across 3,400+ app developers, including analysis that did not make it into the report.

We ‘re also proud to launch our very latest Developer Economics survey, which reaches across thousands of app developers and provides the data for our famous state of the developer nation reports. Thanks to the sponsorship by BlackBerry, Mozilla, Intel and Telefonica it possible to provide these reports and additional insights, for free, to the entire mobile community.

Take part in the survey, spread the word and help us drill deeper into the app economy and what makes it tick. We have prizes aplenty for developers, with 7 devices up for grabs (one iPhone 5, two Samsung Galaxy SIII, two Nokia Lumia 920 devices and two BlackBerry Dev Alpha handsets) – plus an AR Drone 2.0, a Nest Learning Thermostat and a Nike Fuel Band for participants who also subscribe to our developer panel. Last, but definitely not least, our friends at Bugsense are giving away one month of free crash reporting to each and every participant.

[ab_testing prettylink=’blogDS13′] Continue reading Which apps make more money?

Developer Economics 2013 – Key Insights

[We’ve just published Developer Economics 2013: the tools report. This report [vm_form_download link_text='(free download)’ product_id=’3789′]! is based on a large scale survey across 95 countries and 3,460 developers. This is the definitive guide on the app economy packed with facts and figures about the platforms, screens and revenue models that developers are using. In this edition we take a close look into the tools and services that developers use to create, monetise and market their apps, including Ad networks & exchanges, Cross-platform tools and Backend-as-a-Service.]

In this article, you’ll find all key insights from the report – please give us your feedback and leave a comment below. Also – keep an eye out for more Developer Economics articles, and don’t forget to visit our newly launched Developer Economics portal!

Developer Economics 2013

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 share. Continue reading Developer Economics 2013 – Key Insights

Top 10 VisionMobile articles for 2012

[This has been a great year for the VisionMobile blog, with tens of great articles, as well as some amazing infographics and reports. As 2012 draws to a close, we’d like to do a roundup of our blog and present the top 10 articles. Hope you enjoy them!]

Continue reading Top 10 VisionMobile articles for 2012

Sneak preview: Developer Economics 2013

[With only one week left till the end of our Developer Economics 2013 survey, Andreas Pappas offers a sneak preview into some preliminary results.]

Developer Economics 2013 - Developer Nation

With less than a week to go and over 2,000 developers responding so far, this has been one of our most successful developer surveys to date. It is also our largest project so far, involving the whole team at VisionMobile, 6 sponsors and 26 media and regional partners worldwide. But we don’t want to stop here; we want to push the limits even further and with your help we can achieve this. So, if you’re a developer, take the survey – if not, please help us spread the word far and wide!

Continue reading Sneak preview: Developer Economics 2013