Fragmentation Threatens Small App Developers
Independent app developers have a harder time breaking through because of the proliferation of device types that require deep pockets to support widely.
To function properly on 80% of connected devices, including tablets and smartphones, would require optimizing an app for 156 devices. Even getting 50% means supporting 18 devices, a new report by an app advertising and analytics firm Flurry argues.
This fragmentation has made it harder for smaller developers to compete, since they are less likely to have the resources to build across many different devices and platforms.
“They may also be disadvantaged in economies of scale in promotion (including word of mouth) if their apps are not available or do not work well on most device models. Scale is likely to be increasingly important when it comes to app development, and that may lead to consolidation within the app development industry,” stated the Flurry analysis.
As it is, only a minority of developers make more than $500 per app per month. What can a smaller player do? Among possible strategies, the report suggests focusing on the device models used by the most people. That’s especially true of iOS devices, which developers have long favored for reasons beyond just their large market share.
Models running on Apple’s iOS platform average 14 times the number of active users of those on other mobile platforms, including Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. iOS also leads when it comes to sessions per active device. Compared to device manufacturers including Samsung, Xiaomi and Amazon, Apple devices had 7.7 times the active users.
But even just sticking with iOS means having to cover 28 different models. Plus, independent developers are going up against gaming powerhouses like Zynga and Rovio, which have invested heavily in app promotion.
“That becomes really important when you consider that there are 800,000 apps in the App Store alone,” said Mary Ellen Gordon, author of the report and director, industry insights and analysis at Flurry. She concludes that app developers of the future are more likely to be companies with the means to develop and distribute apps at scale than individuals with a creative idea.