Small developers on the App Store grew revenue by 64 percent
May 11, 2023
Small developers on the App Store grew revenue by 64 percent over the past two years
An independent study found resilience in small developers, whose growth outpaces large developers
An independent study conducted by economists at Analysis Group found that small developers on the App Store grew their businesses and reached more customers around the world, even outpacing larger developers. With the support of a wide range of App Store tools and initiatives, small developers globally — defined as those earning up to $1 million a year and with fewer than 1 million annual downloads — grew their revenue 71 percent between 2020 and 2022. In Europe, these developers saw an increase of 64 percent in earnings, with significant revenue growth in countries including France (122 percent), the United Kingdom (58 percent), and Germany (37 percent).
Entrepreneurs Find New Possibilities and Global Growth
In a new study titled “Small Business Developers and App Creators on the App Store in 2022,” Analysis Group economists found that revenue growth for small developers active on the storefront since 2020 exceeded that of large developers as these entrepreneurs identified new ways to tap into the needs of their users. Small developers — who comprise more than 90 percent of all developers on the App Store — saw earnings increase across all app categories; health and fitness, sports, and lifestyle apps from small developers in particular more than doubled their earnings in the last two years.
Developers of all sizes have built successful businesses while benefitting from the App Store’s global reach in 175 countries and over 40 languages, and Apple’s installed base of over 2 billion active devices around the world. In 2022, nearly 80 percent of small developers were active on multiple storefronts and about 40 percent of total app downloads from all small developers came from users outside of each developer’s home country. Additionally, the economists found that developers who monetize their apps by selling digital goods and services on multiple storefronts have earnings from users on more than 40 storefronts on average.
The research also found the App Store has helped developers grow beyond small teams to scale their businesses to establish a worldwide reach. Many developers who sold digital goods and services on the App Store and earned more than $1 million in 2022 were previously small developers. Of these global developers, 40 percent were either not on the App Store or had less than $10,000 in earnings just five years ago.
Analysis Group economists also found that thousands of new developers and entrepreneurs joined the App Store in 2022 from all over the world. Of this set of new developers, approximately 25 percent came from Europe, 23 percent from China, 14 percent from the U.S., 4 percent from Japan, and 35 percent from other regions including South Korea, India, and Brazil.
Entrepreneurs Shine on the App Store
Live flight-tracking app Plane Finder enables users to easily see air traffic patterns with real-time tracking of planes around the world. Cocreated by the husband-and-wife team of Jodie and Lee Armstrong, the app was first introduced more than a decade ago.
“When we first created the app in 2009, being able to track planes in real time was not a big thing and was not very accessible for the everyday person, let alone from a mobile device,” says Jodie Armstrong, Plane Finder’s cofounder and CEO. “With the introduction of the iPhone and the App Store shortly after, we saw an opportunity to use both of our backgrounds in IT and data analysis to create something we had never seen before.”
Over the years, Plane Finder has remained a small team with a purpose — introducing new innovations that make live tracking easy and accessible with incredible accuracy. This includes popular features like 3D mode in the app that leverages Metal graphics to visualize thousands of planes across the globe for users. In the last two years, Plane Finder’s subscription-based business grew 60 percent year over year as a loyal community of users continues to rely on the app for real-time tracking.
As it keeps its focus on staying a small team, Plane Finder has relied on resources like Apple’s Small Business Program to bring more to its community. “The program made a big difference and allowed us to hire more staff to help build the exciting experiences our users want to see in the app,” says Lee Armstrong, Plane Finder’s cofounder and chief technology officer. “Running any business isn’t cheap, and we take great pride in the accuracy and innovation we’re able to deliver to our users. The app will always remain core to what we do, no matter how big our business grows.”
Independent gaming studio Madbox launched in 2018 with a passion to create games that simply make people smile. It has had more than 15 successful titles launches in the last four years, but it’s the studio’s multiplayer mobile racing game, Pocket Champs, that has been its breakout success in the casual game category, with a fast-growing fan base of 2 million active users.
As Madbox worked to better understand the game’s market, the studio turned to the App Store Foundations Program to build a gaming experience it hoped would resonate with players.
“Being part of the program made us believe in what was possible for our game,” explains Maxime Demeure, Madbox’s cofounder and CEO. “Working alongside the App Store team not only gave us access to product and technical experts; it also helped us understand the framework of best-in-class apps. We’re always striving to build experiences that will keep people smiling, and working with Apple has helped us expand this reality.”
Since Pocket Champs launched last August, the game remains free to play, while offering players opportunities to unlock unique content and access to special in-app events throughout the game. Quality gameplay and the constant introduction of new features has resulted in the studio experiencing 100 percent year-over-year growth.
“At Madbox, we are always going to be a bunch of dreamers. It took our studio some time to not only build games, but also to create experiences that would resonate most with our users. Pocket Champs is the perfect illustration of what our team is capable of creating — it’s a fun, fresh, and accessible game with a touch of madness for both individuals and families,” Demeure says.
Launched in 2020, language learning app LENGO is making education accessible to everyone, with more than 2,800 lessons and 29 languages available for users to learn. Founder and CEO Nils Bernschneider created the app after facing challenges in school and being diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. Using his passion for coding, Bernschneider created a platform that would help him overcome his own barriers to learning, providing users with the content and technology they need to improve their ability to communicate.
“As soon as I got into the Apple Developer Program, I found my passion,” Bernschneider says. “My perspective has completely changed as a developer, and I love being able to create value for other people through the apps I develop.”
With nearly 2 million downloads on iOS, LENGO is helping people build on their vocabulary, add their own words, improve their grammar, and track their progress over time. What started as a passion project has now resulted in a platform that helps beginners and more advanced language enthusiasts. LENGO has experienced 120 percent year-over-year growth in the last year alone. As an alumni of the App Store Foundations Program, tailored curriculum and one-on-one guidance from Apple experts helped inspire one of the newest features of the app — content sharing and detailed user accounts that allow consumers to easily share with others and build community.
“For me, there’s always that one kid in class that doesn’t pick things up in the same way that everyone else does — and I was that one kid,” Bernschneider says. “Learning how to code in Swift and having the support of friends and family were critical for me. I hope that what I’ve created with LENGO helps enhance people’s ability to not only learn, but also enrich how they communicate.”
Developer Resources Are Growing
Developers of all sizes have built successful businesses while benefitting from the App Store’s global reach. Apple provides a number of initiatives to support small developers on the App Store, including the App Store Small Business Program, Apple Entrepreneur Camp, App Accelerators, the App Store Foundations Program, and Apple Developer Academies. Additionally, ongoing informational series like App Store Sessions, Ask Apple, and Tech Talks offer developers even more opportunities to connect directly with Apple experts year-round for insight, support, and feedback on the latest features and technologies available.
An extensive suite of free tools and frameworks — including software development kits (SDKs) and developer services with more than 250,000 APIs — support developers building apps for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. These tools enable developers to add new functionalities to their apps easily and quickly, and harness powerful capabilities like machine learning, augmented reality, and many more. The Swift Student Challenge, as well as open access tools like Everyone Can Code and Swift Playgrounds, ensure the power of coding technology is accessible and inclusive.
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