Maximizing app revenue with HTML5

Aug 22, 2013
Vote on Hacker News

iHTML5

My latest posts on HTML5 have generated quite a few comments via offline channels (It’s pretty simple to email me or DM at twitter @pyramedium) on an intriguing topic:

 “I’d rather focus on building a native app for platform x because the platform has a large user base” or  “I’ll build native for x because there are fewer apps there so more of an opportunity”.

Apple and Google showcase how much has been paid out to developers who use their stores. There is more to focus on than a specific eco-system (and do something native).  Yet, this is mainly a marketing ploy and once you do the math, you will quickly see that developing your app using HTML5 makes a lot more sense in terms of potential revenue.

If you are an app developer, then I encourage you to read this great article from Tristan Louis on the average revenue from apps.

In his well-researched article, Tristan shows that the average payout per app for each store is:

  • Microsoft: $625
  • Apple: $400
  • Android: $1125

For completeness’ sake, I do realize that Tristan’s study leaves 3 elements out:  First, it does not consider apps that are just marketing tools (say the Starbucks app), it also entirely discounts power laws that dictate that only a few developers will make any money, and it cannot evaluate revenues from in-app purchases.  Yet, considering the average income per-app is an eye opener.

  • It’s really, really, really, hard to make money from applications.
  • There is no way you can sustain a development team on just the revenue from selling the app.
  • In-app monetization is far from being easy and right now few people do it well and truly benefit from it.  Companies focusing on helping with monetization are sprouting left and right.
  • The app stores that will eventually succeed will be the ones that truly help developers monetize their apps.  Amazon, Intel and several other app-stores new comers have a great opportunity to position themselves as leaders.
  • It’s always simpler to sell picks and shovels rather than pan for gold!

Given this revenue drought, consider the benefit of going HTML5 rather than native.  In the same time it takes you to write the app for one platform, you can now have your app available on multiple platforms.  Let’s say you just push to the big 3, you now increase the average payout to $5750.

There are however 4 extra benefits of going the HTML5 route that will maximize your payout further:

  1. Better Behavioral Data.  Users will “consume” your app differently based on the device they are using.  Unless you are truly cross-platform, you will not be able to track the trends.
  2. Focused monetization.  There are many ways to do in-app monetization yet some will negatively affect your app.  Using behavioral data you can push the right monetization techniques out, at the right time, on the right platform.
  3. Better Ux.  By lowering your time to market on the technology side, you can focus some resources on creating an application that meets customers’ needs and expectations.  Looks matter!
  4. Smart Gamification. Gamification may be seen as the latest industry buzzword but it works.  Gamification will be the topic of my talk at HTML5DevConf this fall so look for some entries on this blog in the coming weeks.

Making money by selling apps is not an easy proposition, especially if you are solely relying on in-app monetization to do so. By reaching prospects on more platforms and catering to their specific needs, the odds of success do increase and who knows, you may end up being the next candy crush!