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iPhone devs' riches exceed expectations

Light a fire under App Store plods

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Money can ease the pain of many things: a messy divorce, holding down a US contractor's job in the City of Fallujah, tripping over the paving stones on some lost and neglected city street.

It can also make up for shortcomings in Apple's App Store, it seems.

A significant number of iPhone developers are making more money than they'd initially expected they could by selling apps on Steve Jobs' App Store, according to an Open-First's survey of coders.

Almost half — 48 per cent — told an Open-First survey conducted between August 30 and September 10 that the amount of money they're making on the App Store was more than they'd expected. Open-First gathered data from 110 developers using an online questionnaire and a phone follow-up.

A hard core of 28 per cent, however, expressed dissatisfaction with Apple's market, saying they are making less than they first thought possible.

Among the reasons cited: the need to have your application placed in a "popular" category and for that app to Darwinistically break into that category's 25 apps in order to be seen. Breaking that top 25 means charging the downloader no more than $3 per app, the devs complained.

Miscellaneous reasons were cited by devs for why they're making more than they'd expected: media attention, word of mouth, and favorable reviews — nothing scientific or decisive.

Overall, 78 per cent rated themselves as satisfied, very satisfied, or somewhat satisfied with the App Store in general. Ninety-nine percent of the devs said they'd publish more iPhone applications to Apple's market.

The App Store also rates highly against rival markets, especially Android: more than 40 per cent said the Android market is worse than the App Store. Markets from BlackBerry, Microsoft, and Nokia were scored worse by more than 20 per cent of the respondents.

You can read Open-First's separate comparison of App Store, Android, and the Ovi market here.

Apple's top-line satisfaction, though, hides niggles that have developers divided, pull down satisfaction levels to less than half in some cases, and cause significant negative numbers in other cases.

For example, the App Store police's notoriously Byzantine application-approval process has developers almost split: 49 per cent expressed some level of satisfaction with the speed at which Apple's plods work, compared to 41 per cent who reported dissatisfaction.

Half, meanwhile, were happy with the App Store's prudishness and approved of the strict rules banning things like porn. More than a third, though, were dissatisfied to some degree.

Fifteen per cent were neutral on Puritanism, and — as any political pundit will tell you — it's the uncommitted voter who swings an election result. So, if enough of those folks become unhappy over time, it'll mean that iPhone developers are split on yet another facet of App Store policy.

Apple's support of end users also took a knock. While 40 per cent of the devs expressed some form of satisfaction, more than a quarter — 27 per cent — were unhappy. Among the reasons given: failure of applications to download, confusion over refunds, inability to extend applications upon users' request because of limitations imposed by Apple, and lack of awareness among users that reloading or reinstalling an application is free. ®

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