Annual Mac Market Survey, 2017

6 min read


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


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.

choosing the marketplace pie chart 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.

choosing the marketplace pie chart 2017

Revenue proportion


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.

revenue proportion pie chart 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.

revenue proportion pie chart 2017

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?”

MAS recommendation from 0 to 10

Mac App Store Developers:


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. t seems everybody dislikes the Mac App Store, to a different degree.

MAS developers 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.

MAS developers 2017

Outside Mac App Store Developers:

As for those who sell outside the MAS, we’re expecting an even hundred sometime soon. The result fluctuates around the numerical equivalent of “I’d burn the place down if I could.”


developers outside MAS 2016


developers outside MAS 2017

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

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.


developers who distribute apps both MAS and outside 2016


developers who distribute apps both MAS and outside 2016

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?


do you think sharing 30 worth what app store gives 2016


do you think sharing 30 worth what app store gives 2017

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.


how critical MAS limitations 2016


how critical MAS limitations 2017

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!


major improvements overall experience 2016


major improvements overall experience 2017

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.


speed of the review 2016


speed of the review 2017

Communication with the App Review Team:

Minor positive dynamics is present even in the communication with the App Review team.


communication with review team 2016


communication with review team 2017

AppStore Review Guidelines:


MAS review guidelines 2016


MAS review guidelines 2017

Appeal Process:


MAS appeal process 2016


MAS appeal process 2017

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 a whopping 20% and clearly needs attention.


list of preferred improvements 2016


list of preferred improvements 2017

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.


MAS apps distributing 2016


MAS apps distributing 2017

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 second place and the absence of trial versions has kept the third.


list of reasons why devs flee the MAS 2016


list of reasons why devs flee the MAS 2017

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.


app management and distribution 2016


app management and distribution 2017

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.


app management and distribution outside MAS 2016


app management and distribution outside MAS 2017

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.


Challenges 2016


Challenges 2017

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.


Top third-party platforms for app development 2016


Top third-party platforms for app development 2017

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 with 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.

switch to subscription model

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.

a positive impact of subscription

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.

what’s good about subscription model

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.

what’s wrong about subscription model

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.

top reasons not to try subscription model

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.

kinds of challenges when implementing a subscription model

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.

Would you recommend subscription model to other developers pie chart

But what’s interesting is that among those who didn’t like it, 20% would still recommend it.

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.

Would you consider trying subscription model in the future

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