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View Full Version : Is It Financially Worth It To Become An iOS Developer?




BobCochran
Oct 8, 2012, 10:00 AM
I am thinking of trying my hand at iOS development. I don't have any previous iOS experience. I am an experienced programmer, but not in Objective-C or Java. I am also new to the Apple culture. All my professional work has been for my employer as part of a team. I am getting closer to retirement. My interest is supplementing my income through app development. With these sketchy givens, my question is whether a newbie to iOS development, working alone rather than on a team, can reasonably expect a return on investment for new application development? Or am I just lining Apple's pockets with easy money to pay for a membership in the iOS developer program, and an developer ID, with little chance of succeeding financially?



Greencardman
Oct 8, 2012, 03:25 PM
I'm pretty sure you can make the most money doing iOS coding for others. Especially if you're an experienced programmer who knows how to get things done on time. Making your own iOS would be a side project, the real money is in straight up development.

firewood
Oct 9, 2012, 12:51 PM
Currently, a reasonable financial expectation for developing your own new iOS apps is to potentially make some spare coffee money... unless you are in the few percentile that get lucky, or are extensively featured by Apple, or are really good at innovative PR and marketing techniques (the winners divide a billion dollar+ pie). However, even coffee money for a year can be more than the developer enrollment fee, especially if creating apps is something you like doing. But the bigger expense item is getting a suitable Mac and some iOS devices for development if you don't have them already.

If you want to try iOS development consulting, having a quality app already in the App store is almost an absolute pre-requisite.

Experienced programmers usually report only between 2 weeks and 2 months to get up to reasonable speed in Objective C and Cocoa Touch. You will want to become an avid iOS device and app user to have any good understanding of your potential app customer base.

samdev
Oct 12, 2012, 05:28 PM
I am thinking of trying my hand at iOS development. I don't have any previous iOS experience. I am an experienced programmer, but not in Objective-C or Java. I am also new to the Apple culture. All my professional work has been for my employer as part of a team. I am getting closer to retirement. My interest is supplementing my income through app development. With these sketchy givens, my question is whether a newbie to iOS development, working alone rather than on a team, can reasonably expect a return on investment for new application development? Or am I just lining Apple's pockets with easy money to pay for a membership in the iOS developer program, and an developer ID, with little chance of succeeding financially?

Is It Financially Worth It To Become An iOS Developer? No.

By the time you get an app ready, next year, there will probably be a million apps in the App Store.
It's only going to get worse, not better. Big-time companies get the red carpet treatment whenever
they release a new app, but you, as a small developer, will get swept under the rug.

If you release an app right now, then you will probably make more money in ads than in sales.
I see it as that bad.

firewood
Oct 13, 2012, 01:13 PM
Is It Financially Worth It To Become An iOS Developer? No

But the odds of success can still quite a bit better than playing the state lotto.

If you release an app right now, then you will probably make more money in ads than in sales.
I see it as that bad.

Ads are bad as well, unless your apps get downloaded and used many many millions of times. IAP items in free apps with moderate exposure appears to be where there's a bit more traction these days.

And then there can money in development consulting, with some free apps merely being advertising for your skill level.

AlanShutko
Oct 13, 2012, 10:03 PM
Here's my take on it.

Making a living off your apps in the app store is a very risky thing. Like any startup, your odds of failure are very high.

But you might succeed, and learning how to write iOS apps ensures you will be in demand in the job market. Companies really want people who can write apps. Whether you work for them as an employee, or contract out as a freelancer, you've got a very good chance of doing well.

fpmr96a
Oct 25, 2012, 07:59 AM
I agree with all of the other posters. While it may be very difficult to make money developing apps for the App Store, it does look great on your resume.

I have 2 apps in the App Store and 1 in Google Play, and they're earning chicken feed. But, I'm a Contractor that develops high-volumne eCommerce websites and all of my customers are quite interested in using me for mobile development work at some point.

I say go for it.

jonaske
Nov 1, 2012, 10:24 AM
If you really like making apps. You will spend a lot of time and you will gain experience. In that way you will be able to build great apps. But it takes years, so in the beginning it's certainly not financially worth it. But as you will make better apps, you will gain more profit. Developing a project for another person is also profitable. In that case you need also a lot of experience and a portfolio in which you demonstrate your apps.

davidmagmedia
Dec 12, 2012, 09:43 AM
Hey Bob. That’s a really good question. I think, in general if you look at the statistics it is not worth it to become an independent IOS app developer. I think App Promo, if I’m not mistaken, recently released a survey with dismal statistics. I think, 60% don’t break even on their apps after 12 months. It was basically really bad. Check the actual statistics on the link below.

http://app-promo.com/wake-up-call-infographic/

I also agree with Greencardman that the real money is in straight up development. There’s a lot of demand for IOS applications and if you develop for other people, you’re much likely to make a decent steady income. However, it is possible to make money. There, I said it. It’s a bad word at the App Store but you need to be smart about it. You don’t necessarily need to be a genius at PR or marketing for your own apps. In fact, I’ve spoken to quite a few people such as Chad Mureta and Carter Thomas of bluecloudsolutions.com (http://bluecloudsolutions.com) who are very successful app developers. They are making a lot of money from it but they don’t invest a second in marketing their app outside the App Store. They use App Store Optimization and also putting out bulk apps (putting out a lot of apps.)

There is something to be said for a game of numbers. I’ve only released one app myself so far. The cost to create it was around $1000 and so far, it seems like it will be generating around about $200-$300 a month. While this is not astounding, it looks like we’re probably recouping our investment within a few months and this is honestly with a very crappy app. It was a very bad idea. So if we put out apps which are better and are targeting concepts which are popular on the App Store and putting out lots of them quickly, that is one good and pretty much proven way to make a nice dime through the App Store.

David

ilmman
Dec 17, 2012, 06:27 AM
I dunno about you guys but for me I think its a "Low risk". Simply because I the only investment for start up was a macbook and developer license which came to under $2500 and could go down even more if you want to get a lower end macbook. Though I do admit it is tough to get out there and it took me a year from absolutely no programming experience/marketing/graphic design experience to someone who can create apps and make some reasonable money out of it (being in the 6 figures range).

I'd say the best way to go is to make apps and learn from them and continue to develop with improvement. But with every update/new app is a new accomplishment and is only adding to the value of your business and perhaps not to rely on one app to make meets end because if one day it just suddenly drops then your whole income drops too.

Also it would be wise to have backups even if you give up. For me I had my partners income + welfare for a bit until I was able to stand up on my own.

Try it out and test as many buisness models as you can because all of them works.

firewood
Dec 18, 2012, 11:29 AM
I dunno about you guys but for me I think its a "Low risk". Simply because I the only investment for start up was a macbook and developer license ... and it took me a year from absolutely no programming experience/marketing/graphic design experience to someone who can create apps...

Thus, the risk was mostly the value of your year's worth of time.

If you have no job or other valuable use of that time, then the investment is low. If you could have been earning an hourly paycheck or consulting fee, then the risk was the lost income because you were spending time coding/designing your apps instead. That lost time/income could make the investment extremely expensive and risky... unless either the apps or skills turn out to be financially valuable. In your case, your gamble turned out well.

ilmman
Jan 2, 2013, 07:08 PM
Thus, the risk was mostly the value of your year's worth of time.

If you have no job or other valuable use of that time, then the investment is low. If you could have been earning an hourly paycheck or consulting fee, then the risk was the lost income because you were spending time coding/designing your apps instead. That lost time/income could make the investment extremely expensive and risky... unless either the apps or skills turn out to be financially valuable. In your case, your gamble turned out well.

I did quit my job to do it anyways.

I still think its a low risk. I have multiple accounts partnered with different people and all of them are making decent profit.. I could be just lucky 10 times in a row but I think knowing what to do is what makes it a success. I personally think its low risk because I know what I am doing.

Then again I am only 1 man that only touched a small part of an elephant, so there could be others that have a totally different outcome to mine.

ArtOfWarfare
Jan 2, 2013, 07:46 PM
Here's a secret that it seems like no one else has figured out on these forums (no matter how many times I say it):

Mac App Development

It has a lower start up cost (no need to buy an iOS device + you can do full blown testing without paying any fee to Apple... All the $99/year fee is for is to distribute on the Mac App Store), the customer base is a lot more willing to pay for apps (these are people who paid at least $1K for a computer - they can afford to spend $2 on an app that may or may not be any good - they're not penniless preteens looking for free games and photo filters), and it's much easier to have your app in the rankings because nobody is doing it.

I can't figure out for the life of me why so many people on these forums are wasting their time making iOS apps when they have all the resources and know-how to make an OS X app.

thewitt
Jan 2, 2013, 08:54 PM
iOS development can be profitable.

You need to create a useful app and market it well.

There are really no secrets.

Create another junk game app that no one wants and expect nothing in sales....

dejo
Jan 3, 2013, 09:50 AM
I can't figure out for the life of me why so many people on these forums are wasting their time making iOS apps when they have all the resources and know-how to make an OS X app.

OS X apps tend to be more complicated to design and build. That's probably a significant factor.

ArtOfWarfare
Jan 3, 2013, 10:31 AM
OS X apps tend to be more complicated to design and build. That's probably a significant factor.

I would say it's possible for them to be more complicated than iOS apps, but there's no reason for them to be.

I do like it that on iOS, there are factors that make it easy to say "I can't fit this feature in, therefore I have to find a way to make my app work without it." - but it seems like with proper planning, you can make OS X apps that are just as simple.

dejo
Jan 3, 2013, 10:39 AM
I would say it's possible for them to be more complicated than iOS apps, but there's no reason for them to be.

Seems to me, there's an expectation from the end users that the app take advantage of the capabilities of the platform. There's a similar expectation for iPad apps.

ArtOfWarfare
Jan 3, 2013, 11:45 AM
Seems to me, there's an expectation from the end users that the app take advantage of the capabilities of the platform. There's a similar expectation for iPad apps.

As an iPhone (and not iPad) user, I certainly hope developers aren't skimping on the iPhone experience. True, the iPad has more screen space, but that just means what might be spread across multiple screens on an iPhone app can be put on a single screen on an iPad.

As far as OS X goes, just because the computers can handle more doesn't mean the apps should do more by themselves. On OS X, apps run in windows meaning you have a full multi-app environment. I very much prefer small apps that do one task perfectly and can be integrated into workflows with any other apps.

xStep
Jan 3, 2013, 12:13 PM
I can't figure out for the life of me why so many people on these forums are wasting their time making iOS apps when they have all the resources and know-how to make an OS X app.

iOS is the hot skill set to have. Even if your personal app doesn't sell, you can sell your skills for good money to a much larger market.

firewood
Jan 3, 2013, 07:10 PM
Here's a secret that it seems like no one else has figured out on these forums (no matter how many times I say it):

Mac App Development.

Depends. Maybe or maybe not. I have an app in the Mac App Store and it barely sells at all compared to my very similar iOS app.

The trick that apparently works and might be profitable is if you have a hobby, skill or profession (etc.) that very few iOS developers know about, and where you can develop a specialty app that caters to that niche. There's still money in niche apps that don't bring up dozens of competing apps when you search in the App Store. And buying ads on small hobbiest forums and blogs may not be that expensive.

tutiplain
Jan 4, 2013, 01:27 PM
I don't get it. And I don't mean to be controversial or anything, but if iOS programming profitability is so low, how come is it the "hot skill set to have"? How come Obj-C is poised to become language of the year for second year in a row in the Tiobe Index (though I know that index has it flaws, of course). How can one earn money programming for others, when there seems to be so little room for profits? I mean, if I were the owner of a large company and came across this thread in researching the possibility of hiring an iOS programmer to develop an app for my company, I would honestly consider not hiring anyone and forgetting about the whole thing. If the prospects of success are so low, then why is there more profit in working for others?

Again, I don't intend to troll or anything. I'm genuinely curious about this.

firewood
Jan 4, 2013, 02:06 PM
I don't get it. And I don't mean to be controversial or anything, but if iOS programming profitability is so low, how come is it the "hot skill set to have"?

Median profitability is low (nearly nothing), as 85% of all iOS apps don't sell worth beans.

But Apple has paid out over $6.5 Billion to somebody.

That says that most developers doing a few apps will make nearly nothing.

But, "most" is not the same as "all".

The top few percent of companies doing iOS apps are minting money (getting a big portion of that $6.5B), and thus in aggregate can afford to hire many thousands of iOS developers. And there are also people with money who aren't in, but want to or think they can get into that top few percent, and thus are also spending big money hiring iOS developers to get in on the action.

There are also companies that want to have a "presence" in the iOS App store, even if their app brings in zero direct app purchase revenue (free apps for cats by a cat food companies, etc.) They also pay money for iOS developers and consultants.

Thus, iOS development is both (currently) the hot job, and one that rarely pays off for an individual developer.

But when it does pay off...

KarlJay
Jan 4, 2013, 02:08 PM
I don't get it. And I don't mean to be controversial or anything, but if iOS programming profitability is so low, how come is it the "hot skill set to have"? How come Obj-C is poised to become language of the year for second year in a row in the Tiobe Index (though I know that index has it flaws, of course). How can one earn money programming for others, when there seems to be so little room for profits? I mean, if I were the owner of a large company and came across this thread in researching the possibility of hiring an iOS programmer to develop an app for my company, I would honestly consider not hiring anyone and forgetting about the whole thing. If the prospects of success are so low, then why is there more profit in working for others?

Again, I don't intend to troll or anything. I'm genuinely curious about this.
Mobile is the hot thing now and is likely to be mainstream from now on. This means that the skills are in high demand and later the skill requirements will rise, just like it has with all other languages.

It's really a supply/demand issue.

The profitability is low for most iOS devs because of several factors, quality of the apps they produce, marketing into a flooded market, not knowing how to market or marketing an app not worth marketing, following a leader and expecting to ride on someones tail.

What we have is a flood of people with ideas that either learn to program or hire out for their idea. The money is mostly in two areas: apps that actually sell well, businesses that are making apps that they need/want.

Note that not all the well funded app projects pay off, but the programmers usually still get paid (depending on the contract/project).

The supply/demand doesn't have to match the success/failure, over time they'll probably get closer, but they don't have to match.

AlanShutko
Jan 4, 2013, 08:51 PM
It is hard to make money freelance iOS developer. It is also hard to make money starting any company.

But there are lots of companies that want mobile support to enhance their business in general. The company I work at doesn't sell to individuals, so we don't charge to our app, but our clients do want their members to have mobile access, so it helps our overall business to offer the option.

thewitt
Jan 5, 2013, 12:59 AM
If you want to know why most iOS developers don't make any money, look at the crap that gets introduced in the App Store every day.

I'm telling you it's very possible to make good money in iOS app development if you do the work, real work, and create an interesting and useful app.

Nothing you can create in three weeks is going to do anything..... Our typical development projects are 6-9 months with 4-5 full time staff members. All of them are profitable to date.

firewood
Jan 5, 2013, 12:57 PM
I'm telling you it's very possible to make good money in iOS app development if you do the work, real work, and create an interesting and useful app.

You make the interesting assumption that interesting and useful apps involving real work always make more money than those that aren't and don't.

I do a fair amount of competitive analysis in my particular product niche. I buy and test a lot of my competitor's apps. I can tell you from this analysis that useful and difficult to develop apps are often in the bottom half of the store, and free or quickie cruft can be in or near the top of the category (including a few apps that don't even work correctly!). Marketing and luck play a very large part in making good money from apps.

thewitt
Jan 5, 2013, 08:46 PM
My statement comes from success as an iOS developer.

You are correct that marketing is important. Just like selling any other product. You cannot just build it and expect they will buy it.

I stand by my initial statement however that the majority of the apps in the App Store are poorly thought out, poorly executed junk and would not sell in interesting quantities under any circumstances.

CalWizrd
Jan 7, 2013, 01:42 PM
As one who spent about a year of evenings and weekends developing a reasonably solid (and productive, in my opinion) iPad app, I can give you some insight into my experience.

Was it worthwhile? Well, it has paid me back for an iMac and a couple of iPads and iPhones. But, if I calculate the hourly return, it's a whole lot less than the minimum wage.

I will admit... I have not done any marketing. I suspect I could sell a couple thousand more copies (@ $3.99) if I did. Since it is more of a gratifying hobby than an income producer, I'm not sure if I want to devote any more hours.

Of course, one never knows what the future holds.

thewitt
Jan 7, 2013, 05:11 PM
If you want to sell any product, you have to market that product.

iOS apps are no different.

Our add campaign for the last app we did included $25k in print ads placed in magazines catering to our customers. Sales paid for the ad costs in less than a week from publication.

You cannot simply build it and expect people to find you, you need to go out and sell...

Unless you are writing apps for beer money, you need to have a business plan and treat it like a business, or you will reap very few benefits from your efforts.

A Hebrew
Jan 12, 2013, 09:57 PM
As one who spent about a year of evenings and weekends developing a reasonably solid (and productive, in my opinion) iPad app, I can give you some insight into my experience.

Was it worthwhile? Well, it has paid me back for an iMac and a couple of iPads and iPhones. But, if I calculate the hourly return, it's a whole lot less than the minimum wage.

I will admit... I have not done any marketing. I suspect I could sell a couple thousand more copies (@ $3.99) if I did. Since it is more of a gratifying hobby than an income producer, I'm not sure if I want to devote any more hours.

Of course, one never knows what the future holds.

If I may ask, what app is it?

thewitt
Jan 12, 2013, 10:11 PM
As one who spent about a year of evenings and weekends developing a reasonably solid (and productive, in my opinion) iPad app, I can give you some insight into my experience.

Was it worthwhile? Well, it has paid me back for an iMac and a couple of iPads and iPhones. But, if I calculate the hourly return, it's a whole lot less than the minimum wage.

I will admit... I have not done any marketing. I suspect I could sell a couple thousand more copies (@ $3.99) if I did. Since it is more of a gratifying hobby than an income producer, I'm not sure if I want to devote any more hours.

Of course, one never knows what the future holds.

How much effort did you put into marketing? If you spent a year in development, how many man hours promoting?

xStep
Jan 13, 2013, 12:23 AM
How much effort did you put into marketing? If you spent a year in development, how many man hours promoting?

CalWizrd stated; "I will admit... I have not done any marketing".

CalWizrd
Jan 13, 2013, 03:46 PM
If I may ask, what app is it?

You might guess from my handle... it's called CalWizrd. It does a lot of pretty neat (in my opinion) date related stuff in addition to various calendar views. E.g. when is the next time your birthday will fall on a Thursday, or how many business days until next Christmas, etc. All sorts of stuff like that.

ArtOfWarfare
Jan 14, 2013, 08:18 AM
You might guess from my handle... it's called CalWizrd. It does a lot of pretty neat (in my opinion) date related stuff in addition to various calendar views. E.g. when is the next time your birthday will fall on a Thursday, or how many business days until next Christmas, etc. All sorts of stuff like that.

I think Wolfram Alpha also does all of that... which Siri utilizes so you might be able to just ask Siri. (If she doesn't there's always the Wolfram Alpha app.)

CalWizrd
Jan 14, 2013, 08:28 AM
I think Wolfram Alpha also does all of that... which Siri utilizes so you might be able to just ask Siri. (If she doesn't there's always the Wolfram Alpha app.)

I only touched on some of the capabilities. There's a lot of stuff that it does that you can't get through Wolfram.

firewood
Jan 14, 2013, 01:37 PM
My statement comes from success as an iOS developer.

No.

Your success comes from running a mobile app business. Not from just being an iOS developer. And running a business involves a lot more knowledge, skill (and luck) than just being an iOS app developer.

One can become an iOS developer without doing any business planning, competitive analysis, marketing, PR, advertising, and etc.. Once upon a time (circa 3 years back), an independent iOS developer could do that, possibly get lucky and potentially earn a lot more than just a monthly salary. Currently, due to more than a magnitude more apps competing for visibility, success today requires significantly more business savvy. So, a competent developer might still be able to get a financial return from an iOS development related job or contracting opportunity, but as an independent, the odds are really tiny unless they can also run a competitive business, and all that that involves above and beyond app coding and mobile UX design skills.

Of course business knowledge alone won't do it either. I've heard more than my share of MBAs with their really bad ideas for mobile apps. Some taking their investors to the cleaners.