Is app creation a profitable hobby?

Discussion in 'App Store Business, Legal and Marketing' started by Iphone4sinwhite, Jul 27, 2014.

  1. Iphone4sinwhite macrumors 6502

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    #1
    Can app creation be a profitable side-hobby? I am a engineer (not computer science) with limited programming experience (I have always found it fun when I did get the opportunity). Outside of my full time job I have about two years before my wife and I have kids and I'm wondering if this extra time (about 20hrs a week) is enough to make this a profitable hobby.
     
  2. WSFrazier macrumors regular

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    #2
    Curious on this as well, as I have lots of downtime at work sometimes to take my MBP with me and develop in free time.
     
  3. firewood macrumors 604

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    #3
    About 5 or 6 years ago, iPhone development could be a profitable hobby... very profitable for some people who quit their day jobs for awhile. But there were less than 100k apps in the App store back then.

    Today, there are well over 1M iOS apps competing for everybody's attention. No one will notice a new hobby app unless you get very very lucky (your cat's photo goes viral worldwide, and you've made an app to go with that, etc.). Or unless you are well connected and your hobby is being an expert at social marketing. The top few apps take 99% of the money. Pure code-for-fun-as-a-hobby types (with ordinary, boring looking cats/dogs) need not apply. Without a big marketing budget and expertise, it's likely less profitable than playing a spin of roulette at the casino.

    A couple years ago, around 85% of new paid apps earned daily coffee money or less. Putting 20 hours a week into that level of earnings is way below minimum wage.

    But learn to love coding apps as a hobby, write really cool apps... and you may get lucky and hit some unique niche that stands out. Or just end up doing something you enjoy. Profit or likely no.
     
  4. Punkjumper macrumors member

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    #4
    Most of the time you just hope to pay for developer fee back. You're more likely to make money as a side project doing contract work building an app for someone else than selling in the App Store.
     
  5. TouchMint.com macrumors 68000

    TouchMint.com

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    #5
    Its possible but getting harder everyday.I started making apps for fun about 3 years ago and as of about 1 year ago I make just enough to develop fulltime.

    Id think of it as any other "art" profession atleast from the indie side.

    Yes its possible to sell paintings but you have to be really good. just because you can draw does not mean someone is interesting in buying your paintings.
     
  6. forcesteeler macrumors 6502

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    #6
    Back in 2008-2011 You could of made a lot of money being a indie, Now The Big Corporation with Big Market Budgets have taken over.

    The Market is way to Saturated now, I can predict that in 3-4 Years. 90% of the apps on the App Store will be free and paying for apps will be a thing of the past.
     
  7. TouchMint.com macrumors 68000

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    #7
    They may say free but will be full of ads/iap. It really sucks for games because everything becomes pay to win. Freedom is the devil but its what the consumers want so its what they get i guess.
     
  8. firewood macrumors 604

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    #8
    Maybe in the games and entertainment categories. In absolute terms, there's still plenty of paid app revenue in some of the other "less fun" categories; and ads or IAP isn't necessarily better than paid for many of the more useful apps. Look in the Medical and Finance categories for the percentage of paid apps on the Top Grossing list. High priced apps can still make money if they are specialized, targeted, and way ahead of the competition in technology or content licensing (etc.) You will need to be more than just a good programmer and great designer to attack these niches.
     
  9. 1458279, Aug 14, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014

    1458279 Suspended

    1458279

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    #9
    Short answer: No.

    Like any new market, apps became flooded. The lure of 'easy money' drew hundreds of thousands to start developing apps, ending with over a million apps with no sign of slowing.

    This caused a self-imposed race to the bottom and the vast, vast majority lost. A very, very small percentage won, and won big.

    This caused several problems, no chance of being seen in a sea of over a million.

    Imagine an oversized football field filled with 1 million people... now pick one...

    The marketing of apps did the same thing on a smaller scale. All of the sudden everyone had the secret to getting your app to the top. The sometimes slick sales pitch with case studies to entice you to part with your money. They say how connected they are and how good their service is and take your money. I've heard of nobody here or anywhere, that's actually had good luck with them.

    Even if you do get a hit, the sharks will smell the blood and will copy you like they did with flappy birds.

    One reality about business, is that it's war. If you come up with a really great idea, others will be waiting and will have a knock off as soon as they can. Just like they knock off brand name products or work alikes.

    There's very very little (if any) protection for what you do. You can shoot for a software patent or cry to Apple about being copied, but I've seen cases where someone copied another app, then had Apple shut the original down.

    Point: The odds are very strongly against even a great app with some good marketing, the odds are even worse for a good app with little marketing budget.

    Remember, MicroSoft NEVER had a great OS. They worked with vendors to have their product pre-installed on the computers in order to define a standard.

    If that's not enough, the time to be very good at ObjC and all the APIs makes it tough for someone to jump in part time.

    The market will continue to become more advanced, simple flashlight apps are done and over with. Anything simple, will be cloned overnight and washed out, just like flashlight apps of the past.

    If there is an upside, it would be that whatever is hot today, will be old soon. _IF_ you can master the language and APIs and come up with an idea that's NOT simple to clone, you can make it. However, this is usually past a hobby, unless you find programming somewhat natural and enjoy it.

    Find a niche area, develop something great and easy to use, you have a chance. Don't focus on the market today, focus on where apps will be next year.


    http://techcrunch.com/2014/07/21/the-majority-of-todays-app-businesses-are-not-sustainable/
     
  10. forcesteeler macrumors 6502

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    #10
    The only way indie can survive on the apple platform is if apple launches new products (iWatch, iTV,etc..). Which apple has been slow in launching new products, The Last new product they launch was the iPad which was almost 5 Years ago.

    They New Products mean new opportunity.
     
  11. omenatarhuri macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    I think you guys see this in a quite a negative way. There is obviously more apps these days but the market is also massively bigger than 2009. 2009 the iPad didn't even exist, now there must be about 200 million users. For the iPhone the difference is equally drastic.

    If the only way you can think of winning is to be the first or there to be no competition you need to think more like Apple. Don't be the first to market but make the best app.
     
  12. 1458279 Suspended

    1458279

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    #12
    I don't think it's really negative as much are realistic about a market that's long been flooded.

    You're right about the growth of the people using devices, but the growth of the number of apps and more advanced apps are the real issues.

    More people vs more apps:
    People still go thru the same process of discovery of apps, there's just more people doing it. In other words, if more people drive cars, they still drive the same way, there's just more of them The process of finding apps or getting your app discovered is much different.

    Consider: If you have a local grocery store that serves 10K people, then the number of people grow to 20K people and they carry the same number of products, you simply process the people fast and/or it takes longer.

    Now consider the same grocery store that once had 150,000 products and now has 1,500,000 products ... there's just too many products to look at and much harder to pick the one that's best for you.

    About 25% of all apps downloaded are run ONCE.

    Look at the web. Do a Google search and see how many results you get. If you get 15 million results for a search, are you really going to go through ALL 15 million of them and evaluate each and every one?

    NO, nobody is. Most go through the 1st 2 pages then leave.

    Look at your browser bookmarks. You probably have around 100 or 200 bookmarks. What about the billions of web pages you don't have booked marked?

    How many unique web sites do you visit each month? How many of those unique web sites to you bookmark AND go back to more than a few times each month?

    This is the same way the app store works. Go to a site that shows web traffic. You'll see the top 20 probably account for more traffic that ALL THE REST combined. Those are probably YouTube, Google, Bing, FB, etc...

    There was a study done on Twitter. They looked at 400,000 accounts and found the over 85% were following or being followed by ONE... ONE!

    Read the article that I linked to above (prior post).

    The fact is that Apple could remove 500,000 of the lowest downloaded apps and almost nobody (other than the developer) would know or care.

    The 2nd issue is that apps are more advanced, no more flashlights. Professional developers that have been here since or near the start, already have 2+ years head start. Coming in at ground zero is all the harder and would (should) at least include a great idea.

    Your point about not having to be 1st is correct, top apps can get busted off the top at any time and often do. Some also OWN the top. EA, Disney, and others have marketing machines that the Clintons would envy.

    It's not about having a great idea. I read about a timer that was all over the stock timer and any others. It wasn't just based on looks, it had great functionality and very configurable (IIRC). It never hit the tops, nobody could find it even if they were looking for it.

    Years ago, I was watching iPadToday and went to the app store to look at the app they were talking about. I couldn't find it. I finally found it by a link from their website. -- Discovery sucks, and it's very expensive, this isn't likely to change.

    Consider: If you came up with a much better version of some popular app, how would you let people know? Review sites? good luck getting there. Face the fact that you are one of about 1.5 million and that's that. EVERYONE thinks there apps are great/better and everyone want to tell the world to download their app...

    A flood of water is much different than a flood of boats. Downloaders are downloading more, but that doesn't mean that the more has changed the distribution of what % of apps get downloaded enough to make it work.
     
  13. omenatarhuri macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    I'm sorry, but I can't agree with what your saying.

    I read your article and it said that half of iOS developers are earning under the poverty line! Well, that sounds disastrous. So I read on. The 'poverty line' was defined as 500 USD per app per month.

    So if you're really doing this for a hobby and wrap up something in a couple of weeks, and it earns you 500 USD per month for about the next year at least, that doesn't sound half bad (12x500USD = 6000USD)? Now if you were to do a couple more apps, it would certainly be a nice bonus on top of your normal salary. Certainly a more profitable hobby than... well.... pretty much most of them.

    Tim Cook said something encouraging during WWDC this year: "90% of iOS apps are downloaded each month."
     
  14. 1458279 Suspended

    1458279

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    #14
    Good point! I pointed out in one discussion, that the study I linked to was very lacking. It didn't say how many apps each developer had or what type of apps they were. Some developers will release the same app with small changes. I saw one developer that had a 'list' app that was sold as shopping, todo, and others... the only difference was the color and title.

    Another flaw in the study was that it didn't talk about development time. Were these simple apps or complex apps? Did the apps require back end servers and how much went into marketing? Was the $500/Mo profit or did 1/2 of it go to marketing and back end servers.

    No doubt the study was interesting but very lacking.

    As to the next point you make: 90% of the apps are downloaded each month.

    The problem here is that 1 app could have 1 download in 1 month and then deleted and qualify for that.

    It doesn't talk about usage or average or mean of downloads. I don't doubt that 90% get at least 1 download each month, but it's a meaningless stat.

    More meaningful would be how many downloads does the average app get per month. How many for apps that have been on the market for 6 months and 1 year? How many for the top 10% vs the bottom 10% etc...

    One other issue is that number of ads. Has the number of ads grown at the same pace as the number of apps?

    Apps have gone from 100K to 1.4Million in record time. How many ad requests were filled 4 years ago vs now?

    We now have probably a million apps asking for ads, what's the fill rate for the top 105 vs the bottom 10%

    The bottom line is that these studies are very very slight, we need much more breakdown in many areas for them to be meaningful.

    What is clear, is that the number of developers and apps grew like crazy. The downloads grew like crazy as well, but that doesn't mean the money flowed into ads/IAP/etc... at the same rate.

    All these things will someday settle down, just like the bubble of the DotCom did. Everyone had a business idea back in the DotCom bubble and most are gone. This is a clear bubble and it'll sort out some day.

    One other note: I have a BS in business management and MIS. One of the biggest problem I've seen with startups are lack of business management knowledge. Of all the developers, how many have professional management background? How many just think, build an app, put it out and wait.

    Not many can actually manage a business, look at how many start up businesses fail within 5 years.

    Far to many factors are not addressed in these studies. One thing for sure is that it's not as easy as it was before and the apps will overall become more advanced just like they did with the evolution of software on the PC.
     
  15. firewood macrumors 604

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    #15
    The very best app will net nearly zero downloads if nobody knows about it. Apple and the major blog/PR sites may never notice it, no matter how good it is. Out of 1M+ apps, how will anybody think to look for it or find it?

    Tons of people would notice and complain. There are lots of special needs and special interest apps in the bottom half of download counts, some very high priced, very highly reviewed, and thus actually profitable. Others are the only one of their kind for some very vocal users. Most people only have a dozen or so very important apps on their device, but that last important app can be completely different for each person. Thus the very long tail, of both cruft and apps that lead a few people to buy an iOS device for just that app.

    Find an unmet need, and fill it. Hopefully, a need where you have a advantage over other app developers in knowing how to solve the users problem.
     
  16. stera8 macrumors member

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    #16
    It depends how profitable you want to be.

    I am an elementary computer teacher and as a hobby I am creating apps. It's fun to me and helps provide my students to show them that you can put anything you dream of.


    I have two apps in the store since beginning of September and through iAd I have made about $5. My goal is to get to $100 just to even out from the developer fee.
     
  17. mcmul macrumors 6502

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    #17
    Yes, it can be profitable. It really depends on your product, the market fit, competition, pricing, marketing and lots of other things. There are lots and lots of apps in the App Store and I would posit that the majority don't make any money. It very much comes down to you.

    I would urge you to consider it from another perspective: developing apps requires skill in many different areas and these skills are very much in-demand. Therefore, why not learn some of these skills, have a crack at making an app, and then if your app revenue stream proves fruitless then at least you'll have some very valuable skills? And, not to mention, it beats watching another TV marathon.
     
  18. grandM macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    True but many of us would not be as motivated facing programming on a daily basis for the regular wage.
     
  19. firewood macrumors 604

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    #19
    Some people gamble at casinos for enjoyment or fun. They go back for more even if they (usually) lose, although they might occasionally have a winning day.

    You might be able to treat iOS app development as a hobby (e.g. without a huge marketing budget or expertise) in a similar way... if you enjoy creating apps even if they don't download or sell in enough volume to pay for your Mac or iOS developer program enrollment. But occasionally an app turns out lucky in its visibility (Flappy Bird, et.al.).

    I wrote my first mobile apps for myself. Only later did I find out I could sell a few of them for revenue significantly over development expenses. And not always the apps that I though would sell well.

    So far, maybe better odds than at the roulette wheel in Vegas. (Knock on wood.)
     
  20. 1458279 Suspended

    1458279

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    #20
    I started a custom business software 3 decades ago and learned many things on the way:

    If you build it, they will come is complete BS! Just like the large ghost cities in China right now, you can build it and make it great only to have it flop.

    Marketing was always important. Studies in the old days were done on Microsoft as it went from a no-name to the largest tech company in the world.
    They found a clear bias towards Microsoft in write ups. Other companies with better products got bad reviews while Microsoft rarely got a bad review. Microsoft got the contracts to be the exclusive to be preloaded on several computers.

    Back in the old days, you'd buy the OS and install it yourself. Having it preloaded was a win-win for Microsoft, as they ended up owning the market.

    They pushed for support on their platform and controlled every aspect of it. Microsoft was a marketing company for 2nd rate products, and they won.

    Point: marketing is everything.

    As any market matures, you see many fall to the side while a few rise to the top. We have little control over this, we as indies have very little power. We can't go to Apple and demand anything.

    If all the milk producers went to the stores and said we're pulling our product, they would get attention... If one small milk producer would say that, they'd be replaced.

    Go to your bank and demand better personal service or you'll leave... See what happens... Unless you have a huge bank account, you'll leave and they won't care.

    Generally speaking, we don't count. Apple's customers have more apps than they know what to do with, bragging about apps has gone from big numbers to functionality.

    As the number of apps continue to increase, the number of ads will spread thinner and thinner until you can't get there without taking a loss.

    Imagine you wanted to build cars, even if you could build great cars, you'd have a huge investment in a factory, then even if you could do that, you'd still have to sell them, and all the other car factories will do everything they can to stop you.

    If you don't have the ability to market, you'd have better luck if you went to Vegas and played BlackJack.

    If you don't enjoy the work as work and only looking for money, look elsewhere.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxo2rGr7Yfg
     
  21. grandM macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    reminds me of the theory of perfect competition: newcomers will come until profits are zero
     
  22. 1458279 Suspended

    1458279

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    #22
    This is exactly what will and what needs to happen. Apps have become the new pop-ups or spam.

    The world works based on supply/demand... people are NOT demanding all these apps and that's exactly why they are fighting over a small amount of ad money.

    Almost all these "I wanna make a game, what's the easiest way without learning..." need to die off, the sooner the better and it looks like it's going to happen pretty soon.

    The recovery will hurt some good developers, but most will come out ahead because mobile advertising is a long term growth movement, once all the spam apps are gone, the real developers will be able to cash in.

    Reminds me of the "day traders" back in the DotCom bubble, the whole thing came crashing down.
     
  23. grandM macrumors 6502a

    grandM

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    #23
    True, then again when it comes down to a certain category of users these games are just a way to beat boredom. So these flappy birds etc are actually fulfilling their needs. I guess the paying stuff can be seen as the more professional app programmers in general.
     
  24. firewood macrumors 604

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    #24
    Thus, the way to better your odds at a profitable endeavor is to only do apps where you know something or have something that will take newcomers a long time to acquire or copy (trade secret sauce, enforceable patent, exclusive license, zillions of "followers", etc.), thus extending the time until your potential profits go to zero... assuming you are lucky enough to find any profits at all.

    If you don't know something or have something unique, it's better to spend your time finding such before creating your apps.
     
  25. grandM macrumors 6502a

    grandM

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    #25
    This is true: luckily I have such other qualities :)
     

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