Mac Developers Survey Results

Selling on the App Store VS Building Your Own Theme Park


Being a Mac developer takes guts. The app market rivals street vendors on a holiday festival: you have to work really hard to get noticed, even if your product is beyond all praise.

How do you succeed as a developer? Should you sell on the Mac App Store or venture on your own? What brings more money? How do you go about the tools you need?

679 Mac developers have taken time to tell us about their experience in a survey, and now we’ve got a ton of first-hand info to share with you.

Choosing the Marketplace

A Mac app developer has a choice to make in his app developing life: selling apps via the Mac App Store, selling outside of it, or being a daredevil by doing both.

Most developers we asked are gods with multiple arms: they manage to sell their apps both on the Mac App Store and outside of it. About a third were brave enough to only sell outside, while the smallest part have chosen the MAS as their only marketplace.

Money matters: what pays more

Unexpectedly, for those who sell both on the MAS and outside, revenue parts coming from the two channels are practically identical, which means you don’t actually make more money on the MAS.

What developers think of the Mac App Store?

To figure out if the MAS is a nice place to be in general, we’ve employed the famous Net Promoter Score, which can range from a low of -100 (if every customer is a Detractor) to a high of 100 (if every customer is a Promoter). 

We asked “How likely is it that you would recommend using the Mac App Store as a primary distribution channel to a friend or colleague?”

And the rates have turned out to be dashingly negative. The highest mark was -23, and that’s among those who only sell there, so it’s exceptionally low. It seems everybody dislikes the Mac App Store, to a different degree.

Mac App Store Developers:

Non - Mac App Store Developers:

Developers who distribute their apps both via the Mac App Store and Outside of it:

Home Sweet Mac App Store

Despite the love-hate relationship, 22% of the devs we asked choose to sell via the MAS, which is more than understandable, considering that it’s packed with perks. Still, the absolute majority believes all the perks are not worth the revshare of 30%.

Do you think sharing 30% of revenue is worth what the Mac App Store gives you?

What’s wrong with the Mac App Store then?

For them, it’s not about the lack of data or the absence of bundles. Their main troubles are tied to one-way communication with users, no ability to offer pricing upgrades and trials (which are not allowed on the MAS), and the notorious Apple App Review.

How critical are the following App Store limitations to your business?

Hell and high water: getting through the Apple App Review

App Review is the closest you get to Apple as a developer. When your app is ready for release, you send the build to Apple, where they decide if your app fits the guidelines and can be allowed on the MAS.

It’s the one and only human contact between the devs and the Apple team, and it’s apparently resented by both parties involved.

App review process, overall experience:

Speed of the review:

Communication with the App Review Team:

AppStore Review Guidelines:

Appeal Process:

What would you like to see improved in the App Store review process?

Where the wild devs are: life outside the MAS

About a third of the devs we asked run their own business. Funny enough (not really), more than 20% of them have tried MAS, but left.

Have you tried distributing your apps on the Mac App Store?

Reasons developers decide to sail alone

If you’re thinking giving away 30% of your hard-earned revenue is the deal-breaker, you’d be surprised. Revenue share is not the main reason developers flee. The main reason is the long and unclear App Review process, closely followed by revshare and the absence of trial versions.

Select what was the reason for not going with the Mac App Store:

What it takes to sell an app and sell it well

We asked which features matter the most to them. While nothing was labeled altogether unimportant, licensing and analytics topped the list as critical to success. Which are, naturally, the things that the Mac App Store doesn’t offer.

Speaking about app management and distribution, how important are the following for you?

As any marketer will tell you, you’re not going far as a business without data and a good sales mechanism. Developers know it all too well, so they know they have to either write their own solutions or get a quality third-party functionality. Almost a half of our respondents writes their own goods.

How do you develop, distribute and manage your apps outside the Mac App Store

Challenges of crafting your own distribution tools

When the MAS is no longer your friend and you have to develop the tools yourself, it can get complicated. Hosting seems to be easy, together with communication with users. Hardships lie in crafting an activation-licensing scheme and collecting data on your app. Coincidentally, the exact features developers have pointed out as the most important.

How difficult do you think it is to develop the following functionality to distribute your apps outside the Mac App Store

Top third-party platforms for Mac app development

Since another half of devs saves time using third-party functionality or combines them with their own fixes, we asked which tools and platforms they prefer. Here’s a list of substitutes for everything the Mac App Store can offer, and everything it cannot:

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