While Android is still the leading platform for mobile software development, and iOS is second, there is considerable interest in Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10. That’s one of the key findings in a new report on choices by mobile developers.

The report, "Developer Tools: The Foundations of the App Economy," is the fourth in a series on developer economics from ecosystem analyst firm Vision Mobile.Based on a global survey of 3460 developers and 20 one-to-one qualitative interviews, it found that 72 percent of developers are creating software for Android, a 4 percent increase from the 2012 survey, and 56 percent choose iOS, a 5 percent drop.

Windows Phone, HTML5

Windows Phone, which has been struggling to gain a substantial foothold, is the target platform for 47 percent, and BB10 for 15 percent, indicating that there could be a continuing stream of apps for a third or even a fourth major platform.

HTML is still widely used as a development technology by nearly three-quarters of Android developers, more than half of iOS developers, and 21 percent and 16 percent respectively for those targeting Windows Phone and BlackBerry. In particular, HTML5 is widely used, although the report noted that the standards-based technology needs better native API access to mobile devices, a better development environment, better debugging support and devices that are optimized for HTML5.

The rise of HTML5 is one of the biggest stories in the mobile development scene, given the possibility of easily porting apps between Web sites and mobile devices. In fact, the study found that, for 56 percent of developers surveyed, cross-platform code portability was the top reason for using HTML5, with low-cost development being a close second. HTML5 is the star of some new mobile environments, such as the Mozilla Foundation’s emerging Firefox OS.

Developer Economics II.png

From "Developer Tools: The Foundations of the App Economy"

BB10 Strength?

Apple’s iOS platform is what the report calls “the highest priority platform,” since 48 percent of iOS developers use it as their main platform. Android and BlackBerry are similarly “lead platforms,” used as the main one by its software creators, while Windows Phone and HTML are currently “extension platforms,” which developers use to extend their app footprint.

Learning Opportunities

About three-quarters of developers use, on average, 2.6 platforms. Based on these developer stats, it would appear that BlackBerry 10 could be in a stronger position long term than Windows Phone, at least among developers.

Smartphones remain the most popular development target among mobile developers for each of the platforms, although tablets are a strong second. Among Android developers, for instance, 96 percent target smartphones while 64 percent also, or exclusively, target tablets. Among iOS developers, those numbers are 95 percent for smartphones and 76 percent for tablets, showing the continued strength of the iPad.

Paying the Rent

How are mobile app developers paying the rent? The report said that, although advertising provides the least revenue per app, it is the most popular model and is used by 38 percent of the sampled developers. Pay per download is second, at 32 percent, while in-app purchases are used by 26 percent. A quarter of developers use in-app purchases and the freemium model, and 12 percent have subscriptions.

Among developers using ad services, 65 percent used Google’s Ad Mob, far beyond the next group of Inneractive, InMobi, Apple iAd and Flurry, which range from 7 to 12 percent.

PhoneGap is the most popular cross-platform toolset with 34 percent of developers that use CPTs, with Appcelerator second (21 percent), then Adobe AIR (19 percent), Sencha (12 percent) and Qt (11 percent). Corona, Mono and Marmalade are in the single digits. All in all, the report found, mobile app developers have over 500 third party tools to choose from, including ones for user interface prototyping tools, cross platform development, A/B testing, performance management and customer support.