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Plant an App, Grow a Business?

posted in: Market | 0


One of the first questions I often hear from people not currently in the mobile app development market is the following –

Is there any money to be made?

Aren’t you wasting your time… hasn’t it all been done already?

Can small independent developers and studios compete with the big players?


There may be a variety of reasons why you want to start creating mobile apps or games –

  • Maybe you have a great app or game idea that you think will be the next big hit ?
  • Perhaps you want to see if you can simply make any money from publishing apps ?
  • Or possibly you are just curious about the profound ability to have your idea come to life in the hands of hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of people around the world?
  • Maybe you want to make an app to make peoples lives easier each day?
  • Perhaps you want to make a game that gives the user a little bit of joy each time they play it?


Whatever your motivation is…. there is, and will be a market for developers of apps and mobile games in the foreseeable future.


Why you might want to start creating apps?


To start, I want to provide a bit of context and motivation into why any person might want to start down the journey of creating mobile apps and games. Let’s look at a few numbers to understand the potential market demand and where it is heading –


At the time of writing this blog post, consider the following statistics:

i) The world population has been estimated to have exceeded 7.2 billion [1].

ii) There are now over 3 billion people online or approximately 42% of the current world population. By 2020, this number is predicted to hit nearly 5 billion people online, representing 65% of the world’s population. Referring to the chart below, this can be seen in the extrapolation of internet user data from 1993 to today [2].


Chart - Internet user growth over time

Chart - world population and internet users over time


How big is the mobile device market?


Okay, so it is obvious that the global online population will be increasing over the next several years. But what about the forecast for mobile devices which is the reason you are on this site? Let’s look at a few more numbers –


iii) As reported by Ben Evans there are around 1.6 billion PCs in use today [3]. Recall the Apple II was released in 1977, along with the IBM PC released in 1981. So it has taken approximately 35 years to reach that total population of personal computers and laptops. In contrast, for 2015 the sale of tablets is set to surpass the sale of PCs [4].


iv) The number of iOS and Android based devices is currently estimated at over 2 billion [5]. That is amazing! Recall that this industry has not been around very long.. The 1st gen iPhone was released in June 2007. The number of Android devices has exploded over the last several years and iOS continues to be a solid performer in terms of sales.


Graphic of two billion smart devices


In the presentation “Mobile is eating the world” by Ben Evans [5], the prediction is that by 2020 approximately 80% of the world’s adult population will have a smartphone. In most developed countries today that seems quite intuitive because everywhere you look it is hard to not see someone carrying or using a smartphone or tablet.


But… it is 2014, is there any hope for indie developers?


Yes, the market was indeed less saturated a few years ago and there are large companies like King (Candy Crush Saga), Rovio (Angry Birds) and Supercell (Clash of Clans) that carry a lot of app store weight, pulling in huge sums of money daily. However, recall that the ‘market pie’ is BIG and it is GROWING. So for indie developers or small studios to become successful there is still plenty of opportunity.


This year just a couple of widely publicised indie success stories included –

  • Dong Nguyen – a 28 year old from Vietnam, creator of Flappy Bird that went viral, was reported to be making around $50K per day in January/February this year.
  • Pawel Kitajewski – in July of this year, the game Timberman had a similar download explosion to Flappy Bird. At its peak, similar revenue figures per day were being reported in the media.


Okay, these stories of explosive success are not the norm, but there are many indie developers out there taking advantage of this relatively new and growing market. As reported at the Google I/O conference this year, Google paid out $5Bn to developers over a period of approximately 13 months. Similarly, Apple paid out approximately $10Bn to developers in a similar time period.


App developer payout in 2014 by Apple and Google


But… don’t you need tens of thousands of dollars to get started in apps?


The answer is – No.
Both the risk and start-up cost can be very low (if you follow a path of self learning, not just outsourcing everything to a 3rd party).
Since you are reading this post, this is a good chance you already have the tools required to get started –


  1. A computer
  2. Some knowledge (or willingness to learn)


Think about it. To start up an app business there is no need to go buy a physical ‘bricks and mortar’ shop to sell your product. You can do it from the comfort of your own home… just like I am. There are no manufacturing costs. If you get into manufacturing costs then that is generally a good sign and you have likely hit the big time (like all of the Angry Birds merchandise you find for sale at the major retail stores).


In Summary…

  • The mobile app and gaming market is MASSIVE! and will continue to grow into the foreseeable future
  • Publishing mobile apps and games has the potential to make money 24 hours a day, 7 days a week !
  • The start-up cost and risk can be extremely low if you use the strategies I’ll talk about in this blog
  • The potential customer base is 2 billion people and growing !


In the next blog post I will detail how I got started and where I am currently in my app creation journey…




1. United States Census Bureau – Population Clock. Accessed: 29 Nov 2014.

2. www.internetlivestats.com – Elaboration of data by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and United Nations Population Division. Accessed: 29 Nov 2014.

3. Ben Evans – Connecting the World

4. Fortune.com – Tablet Shipments

5. Ben Evans – Mobile is Eating the World

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