Annual Mac Market Survey, 2017

Introduction
Last year we held a massive Mac developer survey and got a whole pack of industry insights. We decided to keep up the good work and ran another survey to see what’s changed in the world of software development over the year.
We have 742 filled-out questionnaires and a lot to share with you. To keep it consistent, we asked the same questions as in 2016, apart from the small section added to learn about the latest trend — subscription pricing model.
Here’s what Mac development looks like in 2017.
Choosing the Marketplace
2017
2016
The choice of the marketplace has shifted mildly from selling only outside the Mac App Store to selling both on it and outside. Seems like those developers who can afford revenue cuts and avoid sandboxing prefer to keep their eggs in the MAS basket as well.
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.
Revenue proportion
2017
2016
The revenue division for those who sell both on the MAS and outside of it grows deeper. This year developers get even less profit from selling on the MAS. Either developers have mastered selling on their own or the App Store payouts have shrunk, but the trend is clear: the MAS brings less money.
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 grasp the general feeling towards the Mac App Store we employed the Net Promoter Score again. The results of it 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?”
Mac App Store Developers:
2017
2016
For those who only sell via the MAS the dislike morphs into loathing. From -23 to -34 in a year and to make it clear: it’s their one and only channel. And they wouldn’t recommend it unless they kind of hate the one who’s asking.
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.
Outside Mac App Store Developers:
2017
2016
As for those who sell outside the MAS, we’re expecting an even hundred some time soon. The result fluctuates around the numerical equivalent of “I’d burn the place down if I could.”
Developers who distribute their apps both via the Mac App Store and Outside of it:
2017
2016
However, those who sell both on the MAS and outside have become more loyal to the first. They still oppose the App Store, but this year it’s a little less severe.
Home Sweet Mac App Store
We asked if the comfort of the MAS is worth giving away 30% of your hard-earned revenue and nearly 70% believe that it’s definitely not. Last year the situation was slightly better, so you might say it got more painful to share money with Apple.
Do you think sharing 30% of revenue is worth what the Mac App Store gives you?
2017
2016
What’s up with the Mac App Store in 2017?
How critical are the following App Store limitations to your business?
This year sandboxing stands out like a very sore thumb. When rules change monthly if not daily, avoiding sandboxing turns into the-floor-is-lava game, but suddenly the couch is also lava, and so is the bed. The absence of analytics is still not seen as an issue, while the App Review became much less critical. In a few graphs we’ll see how that happened.
2017
2016
Major improvements: getting through the Apple App Review
App review process, overall experience:
There’s a steep drop in negativity towards the Apple App Review in a year. From 45% to 26% for joined “Bad” and “Terrible” experience and a huge rise in “Good” and “Very good”. Way to go, Apple!
2017
2016
Speed of the review:
Another step up is the Review speed which has also greatly improved since 2016. Somebody’s working the hell out of their job this year.
2017
2016
Communication with the App Review Team:
Minor positive dynamics is present even in the communication with the App Review team.
2017
2016
AppStore Review Guidelines:
2017
2016
Appeal Process:
2017
2016
What would you like to see improved in the App Store review process?
While faster approval holds leadership on the list of preferred improvements, sandboxing gained whopping 20% and clearly needs attention.
2017
2016
Developer’s life outside of the MAS
Have you tried distributing your apps on the Mac App Store?
Two thirds of those who sell on their own never set foot on the App Store grounds. The picture remains stable from the last year.
2017
2016
Select what was the reason for not going with the Mac App Store:
While App Review has gotten better, it still tops the list of reasons why devs flee the MAS. It has gained another 13% of disliking since last year. Revshare holds the second place and the absence of trial versions has kept the third.
2017
2016
What it takes to sell an app and sell it well
Speaking about app management and distribution, how important are the following for you?
App licensing and communication with users are even more prominent now as key success points, but nothing is still altogether unimportant. Selling an app well takes it all, and it’s a shame that App Store only provides a few things on the list.
2017
2016
How do you develop, distribute and manage your apps outside the Mac App Store
Since developers don’t have all the tools out of the App-Store-box, they have to employ ingenuity and find or create their own. This year developers spend less time on wheel invention and tend to outsource tools.
2017
2016
Challenges of crafting your own distribution tools
How difficult do you think it is to develop the following functionality to distribute your apps outside the Mac App Store
Among the hardest wheel-inventing operations there’s activation, licensing, and crash reporting. Last year a few devs saw communication with users as somewhat difficult to manage on your own, but this year a lot consider it cumbersome.
2017
2016
Top third-party platforms for Mac app development
When you outsource your tools, you need to make sure they’re good. So we keep asking developers which platforms they prefer when it comes to ready solutions. Since last year, Paddle and FastSpring have gained plenty of users, while DevMate is still the most popular platform.
2017
2016
Walking the Talk: Subscription Model
Selling software by subscription is rapidly gaining traction but it’s still hard to pull off for most developers. This year we added a couple of questions to figure out what the hype is all about. We asked those who switched to subscription about how it was and those who didn’t what stopped them.
General Market Division
Did you try to switch to subscription model whith your app?
Some 20% of the devs we surveyed have switched (or tried to switch) to subscription model. While it doesn’t look like much, considering how complicated the process is, it’s a pretty substantial number.
Do you think subscription model had a positive impact on your business?
When asked if subscription model worked for them, most devs split between “yes” and “ask me again later.” Out of the whole sample, only 13% think subscription is not a good idea after all.
Switching to Subscription
Please specify what’s good about subscription model
Those who are happy with their subscription model seem to be equally happy with every aspect. Revenue increase is still the major factor for most, but the rest of improvements, like a bigger user base and better relationships with customers follow closely.
Please specify what’s wrong with subscription model
Developers who tried and refused subscription saw the main problem in growing the user base. Interestingly, customer relationships are among the key benefits for those who like subscription, while their unsatisfied counterparts call it a problem.
Sticking to The Old Plan
Why did you decide not to try subscription model?
Since the majority didn’t try subscription model despite the hype and recurring revenues, we asked why. The results show the devs are either pretty happy where they are or just don’t see their app fit for subscription. Or subscription fir for their app, whichever you prefer.
The hardships of building a New Life
What kind of challenges did you face when implementing a subscription model? (if any)
Everyone knows (or senses) that switching to subscription model from a one-off purchase is no easy business. The main challenge lies in persuading users who are generally pretty sore about another monthly payment on their budget. Which is also why the second challenge is deciding how big that payment is supposed to be.
Word of mouth of the development world
Would you recommend subscription model to other developers like yourself?
The absolute majority of those who use subscription model would recommend others switching to it, that much is clear.
But what’s interesting is that among those who didn’t like it, 20% would still recommend it.
Would you consider trying subscription model in the future?
And a half of those who never tried are determined to do so in the future. Which gives us a pretty clear picture of what software distribution might look like very soon.