Capturing More Value with Voice Services

Of the tools and services for developers we asked about in our last survey, one category stands out by miles as having the wealthiest developers: voice services. If we exclude developers earning over $50k per app per month (as we typically do for other tools categories since a small number of successful developers can heavily distort the data) from those interested in money and reporting their income to us, then those using voice services earn an average of $4379 per app per month. This is a similar level of revenue to those using crash analytics services, which we’ve already shown is correlated with financial success. However, excluding those earning over $50k per app per month is rather unfair for voice services since this is almost 10% of developers using this tool category; if we include them, the average rises to $13410 (the comparable figure for those using crash analytics is $8764). Of course there’s a lot of variety in the voice services sector and the revenue is not at all evenly distributed.

Popular is not always profitable

In order of popularity, the most used services in our survey were Twilio, Skype, Mircrosoft & Tropo. Of those, the best in terms of revenues, Tropo, had 77% of developers above the “app poverty line” of $500 per app per month, whilst the worst, Microsoft, had 77% earning below that level of revenue. Outside of the top four services by popularity, there was a wide range of developer success but the average revenue was very close to the average for the whole category.

Skype is an extremely popular consumer service but their services for developers, particularly mobile developers, are quite limited in scope. SkypeKit, which is their offering for embedding Skype functionality in devices and other apps is not permitted to be used in mobile devices. Although Microsoft has similar capabilities to Twilio and Tropo through their acquisition of TellMe that is not yet fully integrated into their standard developer offering. If they try to use their capability to differentiate the developer offering for Windows Phone then it’s likely to remain limited by the success of their mobile platform.

Isn’t voice commoditised?

Whilst having voice services tied to a single platform is not ideal, cross-platform availability is not critical. Developers whose main reasons for selecting their service included cross-platform availability earned a below average for the sector but still very respectable $8120 per month. Those focused on call quality did slightly worse, while developers whose primary concern was cost did very poorly at only $2280 per month on average. At the top end of the spectrum, the only reasons correlated with revenues above $20k per month were feature set and scalability. The feature set breakdown in our survey makes it much clearer where the bulk of the money is being made by users of voice services. Fortunes are not being made by delivering generic VoIP services to giant user bases; in fact, the average number of active users for the most popular apps of developers across the whole voice services sector is only about 27,000. On the contrary developers using voice services for inbound calls averaged $25k per app per month, while those using intelligent call routing and/or Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems averaged $30k per app per month. While it is possible that there are some developers doing good business using these cloud services to replace legacy IVR services or extend the reach of such services to smaller businesses, it’s very likely that many of these developers are building customer services channels for their own apps. In this case there’s some survivorship bias here – only fairly large and successful businesses would build out such complex customer services systems. Also it’s quite likely that businesses that need voice and SMS based customer service channels are about more than just an app, in which case the revenues associated with the apps may reflect sales of external goods, services or content and are thus not directly comparable with those of developers purely monetizing through paid downloads, advertising or in-app purchases (although all of these revenue models are used by some developers using these voice features).

Consider the costs

When you consider that numbers rented, call minutes and SMS’s sent all have associated costs from the voice services provider it’s not so surprising that a typical voice services developer has higher revenues – they need to in order to stay in business! The existence of these voice platforms is strong evidence that basic voice is commoditised and there’s very little room for differentiation or profit simply packaging and branding such services for consumers. So, while the revenues for all kinds of voice app are higher than average, the associated costs are higher too. Those developers that capture significant value with voice services are using them to add value to some other service, rather than trying to re-sell them directly. That said, these services are very easy to use and relatively inexpensive. It’s worth thinking about ways you could use them to build better relationships with the customers for your app business.


Voice on the verge of break-through? Going beyond telephony with Voice Application Platforms

Voice communication is one of the core functionalities of every mobile phone. However, telephony is up for a big shake-up, as Internet telephony companies like Skype and voice application platforms like the ones below are challenging century-old assumptions about how people speak with each other remotely. (You can read all about this trend on the VisionMobile blog: here and here.)

Indeed, voice is no longer the domain of telecom operators alone. Voice Application Platforms allow you to make creative solutions that integrate voice communication deeply in your app: as voice messaging, click-to-call, person-to-multiperson, voice search and more.

Voice platforms cater to many use cases

Voice APIs allow developers to integrate voice functionality within their apps, bypassing the telco services that traditionally provided these capabilities. Developers use Voice services to enable a number of use cases such as voice calls, conference calls, video calls, voice transcription, IVR services etc. Telcos such as AT&T and Verizon are reacting to this trend (for over-the-top services) by opening up access to their services via APIs.

While Voice services cater to a number of different use cases, their use is relatively low among developers because, contrary to other tools in the Developer Economics 2013 survey, they are specialised tools that provide functionality within an app rather than support for the app or the business (as, for example, user analytics or ad services).

The different services surveyed cater to a different mix of use cases, and therefore do not always compete against each other. Developers integrating voice services in their apps tend to use them primarily for enabling voice call capabilities within their apps, including Conference calls (33% of developers utilising Voice services), Outbound calls (29%), and Inbound calls (24%). About a quarter of developers using voice services, are interested in Speech recognition while 20% use them to implement IVR applications. Callback function is also quite popular as indicated by 20% of developers utilising using voice services.


Skype (39%) is leading, with Twilio (31%) following

Skype leads in developer mindshare when it comes to voice services, used by 39% of developers that integrate Voice services within their apps. However, Skype does not provide services through an API but rather through URIs that redirect the user to the Skype client which must be installed on the user’s device. Developers using Skype use it primarily for conference calling (55% of developers utilising Skype), Video calls (43%) and Outbound calls (37%).

Twilio follows at a short distance, utilised by 31% of developers implementing Voice services. Twilio API allows developers direct access to voice services within their apps. Twilio users mostly use the service for Outbound and Inbound calls (43% and 41% of developers using Twilio respectively).

Microsoft Voice services, used by 27% of developers using Voice services, use it mainly for Speech recognition (44% of Microsoft voice services users) and Speech transcription (30%). Telco APIs such as those provided by AT&T and Verizon are less popular (17% and 10% of developers using Voice services), while OneAPI, a joint attempt by telcos to react to the OTT threat, seems to fall far behind at 4%. The AT&T API is mainly used for Conference calls and Callback (36% and 32% respectively). The latest AT&T Call management API, powered by Voxeo Labs Tropo Platform, allows users to link their cellphone number to OTT Voice services provided via AT&Ts API, negating the need for a new phone number. Tropo, by Voxeo Labs is used by 5% of developers using Voice services and is mainly used for Conference calls (50% of developers using Tropo), Speech recognition (41%) and IVR applications.

Quality is still key selection criterion

Most developers (39% of those using voice services) highlighted performance and quality as a top selection criterion for Voice services. Voice quality is not guaranteed on mobile data networks but is critical in most use cases where voice services are used, particularly in real-time voice such as conference calling. While network quality is often out of the direct control of voice services providers, there is still a lot that can be done on the service providers’ side such as optimising encoding algorithms and scaling the architecture of their voice infrastructure. Ease of integration and availability across platforms, the prevailing selection criteria among all third-party tools and services are also important when selecting a Voice services, as highlighted by 35% and 34% of developers using Voice services, followed by cost (27%).

[doritos_report location=’DE13 Article – Voice platforms’]

Which voice services are other developers using?

[toggle title=”Important things to know about this interactive graph”]

  • All the filters in the graph refer to survey questions in which respondents could select multiple answers. This means that there is no direct link between the filter and the use of the tool. For example, filtering on “Android” means that the respondents develop Android apps. It doesn’t imply that they use the tools for their Android apps specifically, or even that the tool supports the Android platform. Use filters as a guideline only.
  • Keep an eye on the sample size. If the sample size is low, the graph doesn’t offer strong conclusions about the popularity of different tools. Use your good judgment when making decisions.[/toggle]

    Find the best voice provider for you!

    [sectors slugs=’voice-platforms’]