Almost 1,000 App Store devs earned their first million dollars in 2021

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App Store icon (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • A new report claims almost 1,000 App Store developers earned their first million dollars in annual net income 2021.
  • The number of developers earning $1 million or more has doubled since 2016.

Amid ongoing controversy regarding the App Store and its practices, a new report claims that almost 1,000 developers earned their first $1 million in net annual income during 2021. What's more, that's a number that's almost double that from five years ago.

The numbers come via a Sensor Tower report that notes Google Play developers are also experiencing similarly impressive returns.

Slightly more than 900 publishers worldwide are projected to surpass this significant milestone across the App Store and Google Play in 2021, up close to 91 percent over 2016's total of 475. The number of iOS publishers alone exceeding this mark will reach 581, up 87 percent from 310 in 2016. Google Play will see a similar trajectory, growing its first-time million-dollar-plus publishers from 165 in 2016 to 325 this year. This represents 97 percent growth, surpassing the App Store's performance in this regard by 6 percentage points.

However, it isn't all good news. The same report says that App Store sales are expected to normalize following a period of time that has seen income increase thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. In short, 2021's million-dollar earners are smaller in number than 2020's and that trend is likely to continue.

While consumer spending has continued to see positive growth, the number of publishers surpassing the $1 million net income milestone for the first time this year is expected to decline year-over-year in 2021. This is likely due the result of consumer behavior continuing to normalize in the wake of an outsized year for new app downloads in 2020. Based on our install estimates, consumers experimented with fewer new apps this year than last, which saw adoption driven to staggering levels at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's important to remember that while some people are making a very successful living from the App Store, many more are struggling to find ways to make their apps pay their way. Independent developers and big publishers alike continue to work on new ways to monetize apps, often switching to subscription-based payments as a way to secure continued funding.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.