This year, for the first time ever, we asked members of the Ionic community to tell us about the tools and technologies they use to develop Ionic apps, and what types of apps they’re building.
More than 13,000 developers shared their story.
The results reveal some very interesting trends that, we hope, will serve Ionic community members and vendors alike. While we encourage you to check out the data yourself, here are the top insights and observations from our team at Ionic.
Hybrid dev is taking over.
Two years ago, 20% of developers surveyed were building exclusively with native tools instead of hybrid. In the next two years, that number is only 2.9% - a nearly 7x decrease. Similarly, the number of hybrid-built apps is growing as a share of overall app development. In the next two years, 32.7% of developers surveyed expect to completely abandon native development in favor of hybrid.
The broader trend is that hybrid development is gaining traction, while the native approach is waning. We think that makes sense. The benefits of hybrid are obvious. And as the web evolves, there are fewer and fewer reasons not to adopt.
More than just consumer apps.
Many enterprises focused on B2E.
The types of apps being built for commercial purposes aren't just consumer apps, althought that remains a dominant use case. A large percentage of apps being built with Ionic (41.7%) are actually for internal-use apps. This is consistent with a broader trend in the enterprise, where the value of mobile extends beyond the essential flagship consumer app. More and more, older legacy systems are steadily being replaced - or modernized - with mobile experiences that make employees happier, and more productive.
Wearables and smart devices? No.
There’s been a lot of talk about wearables and other smart devices, but the data shows that app development on these platforms is still very nascent. Only 3% of developers are building for smartwatches, and even fewer (2.7%) for TVs.
And for all the talk about tablets taking over the world, they still accounted for less than half (45%) of responses - while Android was targeted by 94.3% of developers, and 83.2% for iOS.
Finally, 31.5% of developers are targeting progressive web apps. That’s a big jump for something the dev community just started talking about two years ago. Meanwhile, responsive web apps were targeted by 34.7% of respondents. What’s driving this trend? Part of it could be app fatigue among consumers who care more about mobile experiences and less about installing yet another app, and developers who want their apps to run on mobile and desktop web environments, not just in the app stores.
Overall, we see this as validation for two things that Ionic has been saying for awhile: mobile remains the killer platform, and web is the future.
Tools of the Trade
Firebase tops hosted backend services.
Google’s Firebase is the clear winner in backend services. For push notifications, Firebase was used by 41.3% of Ionic devs, while AWS was used by just 8.2%. There was a similar disparity between Firebase Auth and Amazon Cognito (30% vs. 2.5%). And Firebase topped the list of hosted backend databases, with 32.4% of developers using it compared to a combined 11.5% for Amazon DynamoDB and RDS.
Our take: The Firebase strategy of focusing on ease of use, and adding services on top of their free DB, appears to be working.
Node dominates and Google owns analytics.
The survey results confirmed some previously held beliefs. Node.js is the dominant choice (56.6% of devs) when it comes to backend technology. And Google owns the analytics space, with Google Analytics and Firebase Analytics emerging as clear winners (used by 68.3% and 24.9% of devs, respectively).
Microsoft winning over devs with VS Code.
VS Code was launched two years ago at the 2015 Microsoft Build conference. Aimed at cross-platform developers, Code was touted for its speed (fast), size (small), and advanced debugging features.
Fast-forward two years, and adoption of Code has grown to nearly half of the developers we surveyed (46.7%) - by far the most widely adopted among Editors and IDEs on the list. Sublime, Atom, and Webstorm trail as the next most popular code editors.
Add to that the 12.7% of devs using Visual Studio IDE, and it looks like Microsoft has really won over developers with its code editing and development toolsets. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Microsoft is the reference editor for common tools like TypeScript, which may have helped them become the defacto text editor.
Device testing in the cloud is still nascent.
Device testing is one of the most challenging aspects of mobile app development. Even in larger teams, no one has enough devices to cover every scenario.
With access to large device farms, AWS, Firebase, and others like Browserstack and Sauce Labs, have emerged as a way to move device testing to the cloud and gain much better test coverage in the process.
And yet, an overwhelming majority of devs we surveyed (65.1%) are not using any cloud device testing services. Time will tell if these services take off, or remain a niche offering.
Real-time remote updates gaining traction.
The survey results show that most developers (53.2%) are still pushing app updates the traditional way - through the App Stores.
Meanwhile, some are embracing rapid real-time updates that are made possible with hybrid apps. Using tools like Ionic Deploy and PhoneGap ContentSync, apps can be updated - at the web layer - remotely, outside of the App Store, though still in compliance with Apple and Android standards.
We expect to see adoption of real-time remote updates increasing over the next year.
Ionic Developers care about design.
We were a bit surprised to see how many devs are using prototyping tools as part of their development flow. This is a good sign that developers care about design, and have embraced rapid prototyping tools that help them get their ideas out on paper, before engaging in costly development work.
Ionic Creator was cited as a popular prototyping tool of choice (used by 22.8% of respondents), followed by popular design solutions Sketch (17.6%), Balsamiq (12%), and Invision (10.1%).
Almost half of participants not tracking errors and crashes.
A surprising percentage of developers surveyed (44%) reported that that they aren’t tracking errors or crashes in the apps they’re building. This sizable gap in adoption suggest there is some disillusionment in the tools that exist today. One possible explanation is that native crash tools are less effective when it comes to understanding the web layer. If true, the market for crash reporting in hybrid apps is still up for grabs.
Who’s building apps with Ionic
Web developers are moving to mobile.
We asked respondents to tell us about their development background. Nearly 80% of 13,000+ Ionic developers who took the survey identify themselves as web developers. An additional 10.8% identified as newbies learning to develop mobile apps for the first time, while a sizable percentage (8.4%) described themselves as “born-and-bred" mobile developers.
Overall, the data suggests that Ionic serves a broad cross-section of the developer community - from newbies to hardcore devs. It’s also clear that Ionic is fulfilling its mission to help web developers participate in the thriving mobile app economy. By embracing the power of open web technologies, Ionic is helping the vast web developer community build mobile experiences using tools they already know and love. We’re excited to see that the approach seems to be working.
Mostly building for commercial use.
The vast majority of Ionic devs (75.2%) are building apps for commercial use. By far the biggest segment of developers we surveyed (41.9%) were contract developers and dev shops building on behalf of their clients, while many others (33.3%) were building apps for their company. The companies they represent range from solo shops to large enterprises.
The web is winning. 🎉
Looking at the big picture from this year’s results, the broader trend is the web is winning. Hybrid apps are beginning to dominate. Progressive web apps are catching on faster than we anticipated. And more and more web developers are moving into the mobile space. Most importantly, “cross-platform” doesn’t just mean iOS and Android. It means a consistent experience across mobile and desktop, web and app store, phone and tablet.
Of course, we’re not too surprised. Developers building hybrid apps and PWAs are taking advantage of the single most adopted, tested, and dominant technology stack in the world: The Web. Ionic has always bet on the web, and it looks like we’re not alone.
Data from the survey is available below. Feel free to interact, play, and form your own conclusions!
What services do you use to send Push Notifications?
How do you manage user authentication?
What database(s) do you use for your backend?
How do you host the server-side of your app?
What backend technology does your app run on?
What service do you use for Analytics?
How do you test your app in the cloud?
How do you track errors and crashes in your app?
How do you update your apps remotely?
Tools and Testing
What Text Editor or IDE do you use?
Use any App Prototyping tools?
How do you beta test and gather feedback?
How do you distribute your apps to users?
What platform do you develop your apps on?
How big is your employer?
Who are you building apps for?
How many Ionic apps have you built?
What kind of apps are you building?
What platforms do you target?
What is your background?
What version of Ionic are you using?
In the past two years, what percentage of your apps were hybrid (mix
of web and native code)?
What percentage do you expect in the next two years?
The Ionic Developer Survey was fielded from February 2017 to June 2017. A total of 13,248 respondents completed the survey during that period. Responses were collected directly by Ionic using Google Forms. Analysis of the results was performed by Ionic following completion of the survey in June 2017.