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The Mobile App Gold Rush

By November 19, 2012

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Apple is reporting this week that its iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad has helped create over 275,000 jobs in the U.S. with another 6,000 openings posted in want ads across the country.

So far, Apple reports it has paid $6.5 billion to developers through the Apple App Store. Of course, none of these numbers include developers building apps for other platforms like Android or Windows.

This works out to just over $23,000 per developer, but it doesn't take an expert to know that apps like Angry Birds, GarageBand and Minecraft put these earnings on a steep curve. It's also difficult to determine how many registered app developers haven't yet put out an app. But how big is that curve and what can the average mobile app developer expect to make in a year?

An informal survey of 252 developers done by Steaming Colour discovered that 36 percent were full-time game developers. The rest were part-time and only 4 percent worked for a game development company. About 14 percent made under $100 so far. A quarter made under $1,000. A quarter made under $10,000 and about 22 percent made under $100,000. About 15 percent have made over $1 million in lifetime revenue from the Apple App Store.

Ethan Nicholas was one app developer who made it big in 2008 with an artillery game app, iShoot, which he wrote himself in six weeks. It sold 17,000 copies and returned more than $1 million to him, according to a recent article in the New York Times. His subsequent apps barely brought in any revenue at all.

It's much harder to make it big in app development today simply because of the quality of the competition and the sheer number of apps available - over 700,000 and counting, he explained. For his own success, Nicholas chalks it up to "sheer dumb luck and being in the right place at the right time."

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