A recent survey by a marketing firm called App-Promo shows that 59% of developers don't manage to make enough money from app sales to break even on costs, and 80% don't generate enough revenue to support a standalone business. 68% earned $5000 or less from their top app, while 12% earned $50,000 or more. Those top earners have around $30,000 set aside for a marketing budget. 64.5% of the apps created by those surveyed were paid, while 39.5% relied on advertising and 32.9% were freemium or lite versions of full apps.
The sample size of the group was only 102 developers, plus the marketing firm has a vested interest in scaring devs into pouring money into marketing, but even in that light, the figures still paint an interesting picture. There are a lot of disposable apps out there that I couldn't imagine any iPhone owner spending good money on. The few companies that can churn out really high-quality apps tend to have sizable budgets and a big, established business in the app world. And when developers do make high quality apps, they're often faced by an App Store customer base which no longer puts a high value on quality apps.
You can take a deeper dive in App-Promo's white paper, below,, or check out the short version in the snazzy infographic. Developers, do you have a hard time earning cash in the App Store? How much time and money do you spend on marketing and promotion?