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It strikes me that, more than anything, it is the lack of an efficient "Add to Home Screen" flow, that has doomed mobile websites.

...and it's intentional. By having an app store, mobile OS distributors know that they have control over a massive revenue stream.

A good part of it is their absolutely massive 30% cut. The only reason they get away with it is that when Apple's app store first came out, most of the online casual applications were games. Hosted by a few gargantuan aggregators (cough newgrounds cough) who charged 70%+ of the revenue for their ... service.

Against a backdrop of above-criminal-rates extortion, 30% must have looked like a bargain.

To put these numbers in context, very good agents get 15%.

Forgive me a bit, since I haven't been on Newgrounds since before the iPhone came out, but did Newgrounds ever charge to host on their site? Did they allow you to monetize your games?

Most of the money being made on the App Store is for in app consumables from pay to win games. You’ll have to forgive me for not shedding a tear for them. I hope Apple Arcade takes a huge chunk of their revenue.

It’s not indy developers trying to make a living.

The other types of apps that use to make Apple a lot of money are streaming services. But most of those are now not allowing you to do in app purchases.

I’m looking through all of my apps, and I only have two or three that I actually paid money via in app purchases and those were to turn off ads.

All of the rest I had to buy subscriptions on the app makers websites or buy content in the case of Amazon for Kindle books.

As a developer of a pro app in a niche market trying to make a living on the app store, i can tell you those 30% are what prevents me from working full time on my app.

There are thousands of desktop app developers that never got out of the hobby stage because they couldn’t get past the costs of processing payments, managing refunds, managing download servers, implementing licensing frameworks, implementing a smooth upgrade process, search engine optimization, establishing enough trust with users that they are confident they aren’t installing malware infected software, marketing, push notification infrastructure, and probably a few other things I’m not thinking of.

It’s probable that 30% is too much to pay for help with all of that, but people too often act like Apple’s just taxing them and providing no commensurate value at all.

Part of what makes it so galling is because Apple has those competencies in spades anyway (SREs, designers, datacenters, bizdev.)

Another aspect is that the App Store feels like a value-add for the actual marketed products — iPhones and iPads — and not something you are ever explicitly buying. It doesn’t show up on the receipt. People talk about buying a new iPhone, or getting then latest iPad. No one ever goes to the Apple store to buy the lates access to the App Store.

As such, Apple’s cut feels like it’s everything from cheeky to an abuse of their “monopoly” in the providers of iOS devices marketplace.

> Part of what makes it so galling is because Apple has those competencies in spades anyway (SREs, designers, datacenters, bizdev.)

But what do you mean 'anyway'? If Apple suddenly said 'you know what, App Store is EoL, do your own distribution' (because of legal or whatever reason) surely there would be a spade or two of those competencies that were consequently redundant?

I don't imagine they're hiring people to work on say Apple Maps; who subsequently say 'cor, good thing I'm here, someone should take a look at that unstaffed app store project'!

Trust and payments being the largest.

I download any random crap on my iOS devices trusting that the sandbox and permissions model will keep the app from doing too many things I don’t expect. I’m not downloading a random app on my computer.

I can also pay a lot easier on my phone than digging out my credit card.

i think you also forget that many people buy ipads because of apps created by developers ( in my case, i believe my app is the direct reason for the sale of my customer's ipad pro). and that developpers need to buy apple hardware to build and distribute on the store. those 30% come in addition to all the revenue generated by hardware sales, because of independant app developers.

So your customers are willing to pay at minimum $799 for an iPad Pro but don’t value your product enough for you to charge enough to make it a sustainable business?

Just maybe it’s a product market fit issue?

Over the life of the ipad, they'll have paid me more than the ipad. But it'll be over a few years. It's a market with a few hundreds potential users (maybe a thousand) per country, not more.

> There are thousands of desktop app developers that never got out of the hobby stage

There's so much money out there searching for an investment. It's a shame really.

Could you elaborate on this a little? I understand that Apple only takes 30% the first year and then they drop their commission to 15%. Is the commission on the purchase price of the app what makes it too expensive, or is it too great a cut out of your in app revenue?

That drop on commission is only for app subscriptions that continue longer than a year.

Thanks! I hadn't spotted that...

If your app was such a great one, you couldn’t convince your customers to pay enough to make up the difference?

Marking things up 43% generally impacts sales.

If it is a “specialized”,”pro” niche app people are usually willing to spend more.

It’s hard to make a living selling a niche app to price sensitive people.

Also if it is a niche app, with a small addressable market, how do you continue making money on it since their is no facility for upgrade pricing - especially since you have to keep releasing updates to support newer devices and new screen sizes?

"people are usually willing to spend more" : not in my case ( and probably many other)

when i say it is a niche market i mean it not only in terms of number of customers, but also in term of potential generated revenues. there are businesses , especially in artistic fields, where people simply aren't willing to spend a lot of money on accessories, even if they are useful to their job.

now i'm not saying i will never be able to be profitable enough. just that with my current marketshare ( which is very good on a local scale, but not yet worldwide), those 30% are what makes the difference.

ps : as for the revenue model, i had to invent some kind of pay per use model, based on in app purchases.

I think perhaps your business model isn't as solid as you might think. Producing an app is not a free pass to live on the revenue, and the market capture is an important part.

I'm not an app developer, I'm in the music industry (day job in IT infra), but it seems to me there are some people projecting their bad business sense onto Apple. As per my other comment in this thread, and the reply someone made for me, the commission drops on subscription based apps, could you not use a subscription, rather than your pay-per-use system (which sounds like a creative workaround, kudos) and then you'll get the benefit of the tax rolloff.

Trying to make your own way in this world is damn hard work, and if a business model falls apart because one needs to "pay taxes," Apple will not be the biggest problem for very long. I'm sure most here would agree that it stinks that Apple are demanding a 30% tax whilst paying ~0% to the U.S. Government, but that is the way of things for now.

I don’t understand your comment. I have other sources of revenue, mainly doing development for customers. I didn’t bet everything on that app and raised money on the expectation this would be a gold mine. I’m just stating a fact : without those 30%, in my present situation, i could live only based on this app revenues. With the 30% cut, i can’t.

I understand, I was inferring some blame on Apple's part from your commentary -- as though they were denying you a living from your app. Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Probably shouldn't necro this thread any more than I have :)

I’m sure most people could live off of less revenue if they didn’t have any expenses.

But, a niche product where people aren’t willing to spend money is a business model problem.

That's one way to look at it. All businesses come down to balancing income with expenses indeed. All i'm saying is that 30% cut on the income by apple makes it harder , and sometimes impossible , for some business model to survive.

This raises the question ‘harder than what’?

The services provided by the App Store would have to be present for the business exist at all.

So without the 30% Apple charges those businesses would certainly not survive unless they paid someone else for the services.


But do you know how many businesses would die to be able to sell products that had a 70% gross profit margin?

I'm not sure about your calculation. A business with only 29% gross profit margin wouldn't be able to survive on the app store because they'd have to give 30% to apple.

Where did you get 29% from? I’m assuming that you are the only developer working on this (you didn’t say otherwise), for every $1 that someone spends, you get .70 cents.

But then why do you assume i've got no expenses ? Just because i'm the only one working on it doesn't mean i don't have to pay myself something to live. That's actually my point : the app doesn't generate enough revenue to cover my personnal expenses.

The marginal profit is the price the good sold for - the marginal cost. The only thing Apple has to do with this is the 30%.

The only fixed cost imposed by Apple is the $100 developer fee and whatever it cost to buy a Mac.

If it's a niche app, I'd imagine you would monetize it differently than a 99c clicker game (eg. sell a subscription to the app on your website, or supply it as a companion to hardware you sell, or something) and the app itself would most likely be free to install off the web store.

I've seen companies get around the upgrade pricing question by just releasing a new version of their app every year and deprecating the old one.

Though we should shed some tears for those who just try to sell their apps and make a living, after already being ripped off for expensive equipment and an annual developer account fee.

If Apple would care, it would be possible to charge a smaller commission based on the app category, and to vaive annual developer account fees for verified open source developers.

Apple gear is no longer as comparatively expensive as it used to be -- they aren't ripping you off, they have put a lot of work into delivering different 'gear' to what's available in the rest of the market. Shed a tear for people who buy HP and need a new laptop every year or two. I'm typing this on a 7-year old MacBook Pro, which works better than the day I bought it.

Hosting an app marketplace is not a free endeavour either. They host infrastructure to facilitate all of this, and they review app code in an attempt to prevent malware being distributed by underhanded developers. Maybe they could vary the price based on the use case, but why should they? No one is compelled to publish on the App Store, why complicate their business model to give themselves more work for less money.

> Apple gear is no longer as comparatively expensive as it used to be

It still is if one can't afford it. Apple could provide macOS and iOS VirtualBox images for developers to build and test their apps.

> why complicate their business model to give themselves more work for less money.

Because that's the right thing to do when you shut out indie developers using expensive equipment and annual developer fees.

Developers who aren't affluent or don't get into app development solely for profit may stay away from the Apple ecosystem, and that's a loss for everyone.

Apple is now also selling access to their user base on macOS. Apps distributed outside the Mac App Store must be notarized to run on macOS, which requires a developer account ($99/yr). Yes, workarounds do exist for now, but all of them are inconvenient enough that they seriously hurt the distribution of open source apps, unless maintainers pay up.

If you can’t afford $900 for a Mac Mini and a 1 year developer license and can’t sell anyone on letting you borrow the money, is it really a great idea that would stand out among the million of apps out there?

Also, you don’t have to buy a Mac. You could always pay Mac Mini Colo $80 a month and develop remotely.

> You could always pay Mac Mini Colo $80 a month and develop remotely.

In my country, one of the electronics stores has this thing where you pay about 35 USD per month, each month for 24 months, to have a MacBook Air in your possession, but which you don't own. So I guess in a way it is sort of rent/leasing. But the nice thing is that after the 24 months are up, you will be able to exchange it for a new model.

It's sort of like how mobile carriers do with mobile phones also sometimes. Except in this case of the MacBook Air that you are paying to have in your possession, there is no additional subscription to anything (unlike with the cellphones that mobile carriers charge you in a similar way for, but where in addition to paying for the phone you also need a to pay for subscription to a carrier plan).

I looked at the deal, considered it, and took it. My reasoning went that, over the span of 2 years battery life will probably degrade to the point that I want to replace the laptop after that. (Battery life was one of the major reasons I was looking to replace my previous laptop in the first place). And for the amount of money that you'd sell a two year old laptop, it will probably have lost about as much in value as what I am paying these guys to rent/lease the thing. (Obviously not quite the same, since they are making money from this deal. But close enough.)

So I went ahead and took the deal. They tried to sell me on insurance for it too. Guess that is one way for them to make a bit extra on the deal. I am generally careful with my stuff and I do have some home insurance plan already that should cover at least a bit of it if I do end up accidentally damaging the laptop.

I was very happy with that decision and continue to be so. It might not be for everyone, but for me it was a very suitable deal.

>In my country, one of the electronics stores has this thing where you pay about 35 USD per month, each month for 24 months, to have a MacBook Air in your possession, but which you don't own. So I guess in a way it is sort of rent/leasing. But the nice thing is that after the 24 months are up, you will be able to exchange it for a new model.

Interesting. That sounds like a so-called operating lease, which is quite common in my country for business technology purchases, and other operating assets that become outdated quickly and need to be rolled over every few years. It's similar to a regular financing arrangement (where a customer may spread the full cost of acquiring some asset over X months instead of paying in full up front), but the customer never actually owns the asset.

Instead of paying the full cost gradually via monthly payments, an operating lease is structured so that there will be a somewhat large residual payment due if the customer wants to keep the asset at the end, which allows for lower monthly payments. And, as you mentioned, encourages the usual situation where the customer returns the items at the end of the term, and immediately takes out a fresh lease on some new technology.

Since the customer taking out the lease never owns the asset, they needn't depreciate it or worry about other long-term asset concerns, and can treat the payments as deductible operating expenses rather than as the purchase of a fixed asset that would go on the balance sheet. Paying a predictable expense every month for your equipment can often be more manageable than making one big capital outlay every few years, and sometimes has tax advantages too.

There are places in the world where developer labour (especially if the developer is trying to work for himself) is far cheaper than the 900$ capital investment of what essentially is 500-600$ worth of hardware with a shiny aluminum case. Don't forget that not everywhere in the world developers have to choose between several jobs that pay tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

So these same people couldn’t spend $300 on a used 2014 Mac Mini but could buy a PC?

In those places, old Apple hardware isn't significantly cheaper than new hardware. You might get a 25% discount for a degraded experience (security updates may end in ~3 years) or buy much older hardware (e.g. 9 year old models) that cannot run current macOS and Xcode, etc.

And yes, a local PC can work out to lower prices due to specific tax arrangements, sourcing components straight from manufacturers and assembling them locally.

So do you expect Apple to give away Mac OS if they did allow it to run on a VM or should they go back to charging $129 for the OS like they use to (and like MS still does)?

The current version of OS X runs on the 2012 Mac Mini. I see one on eBay for $145.

Ypu don't need to buy a PC - you already have one.

So if you already have a PC and such a great app idea, why not develop for Android first - where 85% of the mobile users are - make money on your great app idea and then by a Mac?

There are places where people make less than $80/mo, but they still have dreams and awesome ideas, and to deny them the opportunity to start programming and share their work because they can't afford to pay up is apalling.

A quick Google search shows you can buy a perfectly usable 2014 refurbished Mac Mini for $300 and you would still need at least one iPhone to test on.

How much would a PC cost that could hypothetically run MscOS in a VM well enough to run XCode?

Is it also “appalling” that if I had a great idea for a PS4 game I would have to pay at least $2500 if Sony would even let me buy one?


> Is it also “appalling” that if I had a great idea for a PS4 game I would have to pay at least $2500 if Sony would even let me buy one?


And how many of those developers would have “made a living” if it Apple lowered their fee to 15%, cut the price of a Mac Mini by $300 and waived the $99 a year?

> more than anything, it is the lack of an efficient "Add to Home Screen" flow, that has doomed mobile websites...and it's intentional

It’s literally a default option on the safari “share” button: “Add to Home Screen”. I’m not sure how Apple could have made it easier.

Because it's not very intuitive that the share button would allow you to add something to your home screen.

TBF that icon is kind of apple's system hamburger as it contains sharing, sending the current "thing" to other apps, searching etc. If you don't know that (and I agree it's terrible, but at least it's consistent) you probably don't know you can add a page to the homepage at all.

Apple has an "add to home screen" option. Its in Safari.

Oh, 100%!

It is absolutely intentional that iOS Safari on iPhones does not have support for fullscreen api, for example, whereas both WatchOS (somewhat) and iPadOS do. Apple is quite anti-competitive when it comes to letting web apps utilize the full potential of modern web standards.

And they often use "industry advocates" driven psy-op tactics to manoeuvre public opinion such as the following:

[1] https://stackoverflow.com/questions/49589861/is-there-a-non-...

There has been an add to home screen shortcut on iOS since day 1.

The other downside is that even if mobile websites encouraged people to use the “Add to Home Screen” ability to the point it became somewhat popular, Apple and Google could just remove the ability all together in an OS release for “reasons” leaving users SOL.

Add to home screen is two clicks, how more efficient does it need to be?

That's true along with proper notification support. Firefox for Android has 'Add to Home Screen' and was one of the reasons along with extension support for my switch from chrome.

that's factually untrue since there have been ways to add web apps to the home screen for while.

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