The Future of AR (Augmented Reality) for Indie App Developers

Today I want to talk about the Augmented Reality kit that Apple released recently and what it means for you, the app and indie developers, marketers, entrepreneurs, appreneurs.
Augmented Reality is and will continue to be very big. That is a proven thing, with Pokemon Go probably the best example of the first real big one. We’re going to see more and more Augmented Reality apps and integrations in the world and in the marketplace.

Million Dollar Question

But this is the million dollar question for you: Is this going to be something that you can make money on? Is Augmented Reality the new thing for app developers like you?
My personal take on this is that it’s not. I don’t think there’s going to be a viable business model for AR apps for individual developers.
What I do think there’s a big future for is gaming studios or app studios at large integrating AR into their apps and then providing some sort of service. And maybe even selling it off to Facebook or Snapchat or Google or something like that.

Why Not AR Apps?

First, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities to build stuff that the average user is going to want, that the big guys aren’t going to build already or the studios won’t build already.
Second, I’m not convinced that the advertisers are going to dive into Augmented Reality the same way they dove into banner ads. The whole reason for the App Store is the ad networks. That’s the way the money flows, that’s where the growth comes from.

Where’s The Money in Augmented Reality?

The money that’s going to go in Augmented Reality will be in things like product placements. But I’m not convinced that that is going to be a very successful ad platform for advertisers. They’re obviously going to try. But I don’t think people are going to want to use AR, click on something and then get taken to another experience.
As Apple Pay evolves there may be some opportunities there. But I don’t think the money’s going to flow through the ad networks nearly as well as it did on the other apps like Applovin, Chartboost, and Admob. That’s going to be a big barrier to entry.

The Creativity Side

Finally, the bigger piece of it is the creativity side. Other than games, how many Augmented Reality apps could you make that the average users will really love?
There’s going to be a few categories that really dominate, like productivity, reference and news, and maybe gaming, and fitness. But, once you get in those categories, I don’t see how after the top 10, there’s going to be a million other apps that are worth downloading or paying for.

Focus on Monetizing Apps

I think the App Store is going to explode not necessarily on the AR side, but on the ability to monetize, like Apple Pay, subscriptions and messaging-related payments.
Apps are just going to be a better way to collect data and to transact.
I think there’s going to be a place on a mobile phone for transactions. And, for most of you, it’s the place to focus on if you want to build a business for that, if you want to make money.
If you want to make something really cool that you can eventually sell or that maybe goes big, if you want to get into AR, start a studio and got a bunch of partners and do that.
But if want to stay lean, stay as a developer and make passive income, you have to focus on the subscriptions, Apple Pay, the money that’s flowing through the App Store which is getting bigger and bigger. That’s the real opportunity for people like you, not in Augmented Reality.
The evolution of information and the payments through apps is going to be a big opportunity.

What about Virtual Reality (VR)?

I think VR is just virtually the same thing. It’s just AR with goggles, right? It’s more immersive, but all the same things. All the same concepts apply where I think that the barrier to entry is high enough that it’s going to be difficult to break in as an indie and to monetize.
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you guys.


  1. Doug Lance
  2. Simon

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