Clumsy Ninja is the featured app in the App Store this week. What’s noteworthy about this is that the App Store listing includes a video. Yes, a video inside the App Store!
It’s well known that most people don’t take the time to read your carefully crafted app description in the App Store. Since the screenshots are more prominently placed (no need to tap a tiny more link, for example) that is probably the primary way most customers make up their minds to download your app or not.
Having a video here would be awesome. With a video you can really tell a story and show off the great features of your app.
But it will also open up a whole new level of competition, as Marco points out.
Right now Clumsy Ninja is the only app on the App Store that has its own video. Hopefully Apple will roll out this feature to all apps in the future. To begin with I’m guessing that they will use videos just for the featured apps. This will allow them to gauge the popularity of videos and work out the initial kinks. (For example: Did you notice that the Clumsy Ninja video only plays in portrait mode on the iPhone, but it looks like the design of the video was deliberately made so that all the vital information actually fits in portrait mode when you tap on the full screen vide button?)
Ever since the iPad was launched Apple has heavily encouraged developers to create Universal apps that have two separate UI:s in one binary, instead of having two separate apps in the App Store.
This week Apple finally launched their Apple Store for iPad app, and interestingly it’s not a universal app. It’s an entirely new app just for iPad. The old Apple Store app (for iPhone) is still available. Note that the iPad app requires iOS 7 while the older iPhone app still works on iOS 6. So maybe this release was just an artifact of separate development timelines and the two apps will merge in the future.
Since Apple has opened the topic for discussion, I think it’s worthwhile to consider the pros and cons of each approach:
Benefits of one universal app
- Customers only have to purchase and keep track of one app.
- Higher likelihood of being featured by Apple in the App Store. (Anecdotally)
- All your app downloads are aggregated for the purposes of ranking in the App Store, instead of being split across two separate apps.
Benefits of two separate apps
- You can make two sales to your customers who use your app on both types of devices.
- You can price the two apps differently.
- Reduced size of the app binary when you remove all the image assets for the other device type.
- One release will not tie up the other. Say that you are working on an iOS 7 UI update and you complete it for the iPhone version first, then you don’t have to wait to also finish the iPad UI update before you can release the app.
It’s been interesting to follow Trey Smith’s journey building his app business. Trey comes from an Internet marketing background so he brings new perspectives on marketing apps. That’s why I enjoy his products and listening to his presentations.
Trey is currently in the launch phase of a new product called Indie Academy. This course teaches you how to build apps (primarily games) using Unity and distributing them via Steam. You can of course deploy Unity apps to mobile devices too, but according to marketshare stats, the PC platform is much larger than iOS and Android combined. And there’s a lot less competition on the Steam platform – about 3,000 titles – compared to iOS and Android with over a million apps each.
The webinar also has some great ideas on how you can break through the noise and reach reviewers and important media people to tell them about your app. Specifically pay attention at 41:38.
Today Apple revealed the new iPad generation. But before we get to that, let’s take a brief look at today’s other tablet announcements.
Nokia Lumia 2520
Microsoft Surface 2
No Touch ID
What does it mean for app developers and app business owners?
This week marks the 5th anniversary of the launch of Apple’s App Store. It’s been quite a ride!
On launch day I was fortunate to have 5 of the 552 available apps be ones that I had developed for my clients. Being involved in 1% of the total App Store inventory was an amazing start to a new career, and crazily enough I was able to keep up with the pace of the App Store growth, for a while. Then things quickly began growing exponentially.
Looking back it would have been impossible to predict that in just 5 short years the 552 apps would grow to over 900,000. One of the first App Store best sellers was Super Monkey Ball by Sega, and they netted $3 million in the first month. Today the best grossing apps take in almost as much per day.
Perfect for games
I don’t think Apple set out to create the perfect marketplace for games with the App Store. But looking at the App Store today, that is what has happened. With a few exceptions, all the top grossing apps are games. What makes the App Store so perfect for games is the lack of friction of downloading (mostly free) apps and then making micro payments inside the apps. This combined with the genius idea of consumable in app purchases, which are practically tailor-made for games.
The ongoing revenue generated by these purchases can fund ongoing app development and serious marketing budgets.
Great for brands and non-app businesses
Companies that don’t rely on app sales or in app purchases for revenue also love the App Store. They enjoy the frictionless, and free distribution of their apps. To the company, building an app is often a marketing expense. And in many cases it’s relatively cheap compared to their other brand advertising.
What about other app categories?
The App Store of today is not so great for productivity apps that require ongoing development and support, while at the same time they can only charge a one-time fee for the sale of the app. Consumable in app purchases are in most cases not appropriate for these types of apps. Apple even restricts the IAP business models that they allow on the App Store, making it difficult to innovate in this area.
Consumer acceptance is another challenge. It’s widely accepted to pay for shortcuts, power ups, virtual candy and all sorts of items inside a game. But a productivity app that tries to eek out a few more pennies beyond the initial purchase is often panned in reviews.
But is it in Apple’s interest to help these “poor” developers? In the short term it will probably not lead to more hardware sold. But if the best developers leave the platform because their business model was not compatible with the App Store, then there will be fewer “Only on the iPhone” apps, and Apple will suffer in the long term.
See Ben Thompson’s excellent blog series Why doesn’t Apple enable sustainable businesses on the app store? for more on this topic.
App Store is just a feature
When the App Store was launched five years ago it was a brilliant innovation (or if you will, a brilliant execution of several existing ideas). The success of the App Store has spawned a $10B+ industry. But today, launching an app store is not enough to achieve success.
Any new technology/gadget platform needs to launch with an app store. That’s what customers expect today. The app store is a feature on a checklist that has to be checked off. The bigger picture is the platform ecosystem. Here is where Apple still has an advantage with its integrated software and hardware, and a rabid following of developers.
Maybe this helps explain why Apple this week withdrew their lawsuit against Amazon for the use of the term “app store”.
Based in the past five years it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen with the App Store in the next five. So like a good Internet pundit, I’ll expand my views on the obvious…
What is good for Apple?
Apple initially stated that their goal with the App Store was for it to break even financially. As Horace Dediu has shown, the iTunes Store is now clearly in the black, contributing about $2 billion to Apple’s bottom line. That would be a fantastic business for most corporations. But when compared to the billions that Apple makes from iPhone hardware sales, the App Store is a very thin layer of icing on top of the large hardware sales cake.
So when predicting how the App Store will evolve, I think it helps to keep this question in mind: Will the change help Apple sell more hardware?
With over 900,000 apps in the App Store, everybody is in agreement that app discovery is a huge problem. It is also a problem that is impossible to solve to everyone’s satisfaction, because obviously each app developer wants it to be easy to discover their apps.
There was a brief flicker of hope earlier in the week when suddenly all the Top Charts disappeared from the App Store apps and in iTunes. But this was probably just a temporary glitch, and we’re stuck with the top charts for a while longer. Even though there are many good reasons to abolish the top ranking lists and replace them with something better, the inertia of the marketplace that has grown around them will make any radical changes difficult.
Let’s look at app discovery from Apple’s point of view: Will fixing this problem help Apple sell more hardware? In the short term I would say no. Apple can brag about the hundreds of thousands of apps in the App Store and all the apps that are exclusive to the iOS platform. This helps sell hardware. A customer can search the App Store for almost any conceivable task and find something to download. So for the most part the iPhone customer is happy.
The party that loses is of course the app developer that had developed the perfect app for the customer’s query, but it was not found, resulting in no sale. The number of potential customers for each app that the App Store brings is so large that many developers still make enough money to stay in the app business. But over time, many will call it quits because they are not able to sell enough apps. So in the long term, app discovery is something that Apple has to address or they will risk the App Store turning into a marketplace for just the top 100 developers.
Apple wants to sell more hardware to their existing customers. Since most customers only upgrade their phone every so often and they only use one at a time (developers excepted of course), Apple has to launch new device platforms. As stated above, these new platforms are very likely to launch with App Stores.
They way a customer will interact with an App Store may differ if the device is an iWatch or and Apple TV. But it’s in Apple’s interest to provide a marketplace for app developers to make money on these new platforms.
Capture more payments
In app purchases was a genius idea when it was introduced 4 years ago. (At the time I optimistically predicted that in app purchases would add a mere $1B to the App Store business for Apple…) However it remains limited to purchases that enhance apps. And there are probably very good business and liability reasons for this limitation.
But since Apple sits on one of the largest hoards of credit cards on file in the world, and one of the more efficient systems for processing micro payments, it would be tempting to also handle payments outside the scope of apps. To take on PayPal, Square and other payment processors head on.
Would this help Apple sell more hardware? Not directly. But once you get used to using your iPhone for all your daily payments why would you switch to a different brand?
Note that this does not have to depend on NFC, which seems to be stuck forever in chicken-and-egg mode. More thoughts on this in a future blog post.
The App Store and the app business around it, are always changing. What created success five years ago, doesn’t work today. Some of the cutting edge techniques from just a few months ago, don’t work today. This is what makes this business so exciting. But it can also be a bit overwhelming. If you need help or some coaching, get in touch.
I can’t wait to see what exciting things the App Store will bring us in the next five years!
If you are a registered Apple developer you may have found that locating and downloading this year’s sample code from WWDC is quite a challenge…
The first place I looked was the Sample Code section of the iOS Developer Library. But no dice.
Then I found a link on the WWDC Resources page, but that was broken at the time I tried it.
Finally I found this direct link to all the WWDC 2013 downloads: https://developer.apple.com/downloads/index.action
If you’re looking for sample code for a specific session, you can find it this way:
- Go to the WWDC Schedule page at https://developer.apple.com/wwdc/schedule/
- Find the session that you’re interested in.
- Click on the View Details link.
- At the bottom of the session detail screen there is a section called Related Resources. If the session has any sample code, it will be listed here. Just tap the link to download the zip file.
There’s also a Ruby script by Johannes Fahrenkrug that will automatically download all WWDC videos and sample code in one fell swoop. I haven’t tried this since I didn’t want all the videos too.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with many great consulting clients over the years, and I’ve helped many build successful app businesses.
Today I’m excited to announce the launch of my official one-on-one coaching program for app entrepreneurs.
I want to help even more people get started in the wonderful world of making a living from apps. And if you’re already making apps, maybe making some money too, then let’s take your business to the next level together.
More details here: App Entrepreneur Coaching by Nick Dalton
Ever since the introduction of the Apple TV there has been a lot of discussion and speculation about apps for the device. I think those discussions have missed some important technical aspects.
My Basic Assertion
Apple has sold over 13 million Apple TV boxes. This is a good market size for attracting developers to the platform. It avoids the chicken and egg problem where nobody wants to buy new hardware until there are apps for it, and developers don’t want to invest in a new platform until there are enough potential customers.
Apple TV customers are purchasing over 800,000 TV episodes and 350,000 movies per day. And Apple is continuously adding new services to the current generation Apple TV, also indicating that this is not a product that is about to be replaced.
Therefore, my basic assertion which the rest of this article builds upon is that an Apple TV SDK and subsequently apps for the Apple TV need to work on the current generation Apple TV hardware.
An Actual TV from Apple
For years there have been speculation that Apple is just about to launch a flat screen TV with the Apple logo on it; to revolutionize our living rooms. For the purposes of this article I will just posit that any app capable hardware built into an Apple TV set will have to be compatible with the current Apple TV box, per my basic assertion above.
The Apple TV SDK
The 3rd generation Apple already runs iOS, so “all” that’s missing is an App Store, some people say. Oh, and a way to control apps other than with the anemic Apple TV remote.
The solution to the latter problem is the new game controller API introduced with iOS 7. I’m speculating that compatible game controllers can come from third party accessory manufacturers as snap-ons to your existing iDevices, and as low cost freestanding devices similar in form factor to Wii remotes and other game console controllers. A minor complication is that the existing Apple TV owners don’t have game controllers, so if an App Store is introduced, I will not “just work” for them.
More problematic is where purchased apps will be saved on the Apple TV. The “black puck” generation Apple TV officially does not have any internal storage. However iFixit’s tear down showed that the device does have a 8 GB flash memory chip. Allegedly this memory is used for caching streaming movies to improve the watching experience.
8 GB seems a bit excessive for just a cache, so say that we allocate half to storing apps. Remember back in the day when we only had 4 GB storage on the original iPhone? How many high quality iOS games would fit into 4 GB today?
So why not stream the apps too? Movies and music are great candidates for streaming since you typically consume them linearly. Compiled code is unfortunately not so predictable. There are other systems out there that stream software, so it’s not an impossible problem. But it doesn’t seem like a trivial thing to add on top of iOS when it was not initially designed for this.
For this reason I think it’s unlikely that there will be an Apple TV SDK anytime soon.
Future Apple TV Hardware
Apple is no stranger to releasing new hardware that replaces and obsoletes their current models. Releasing a new Apple TV that has built-in storage would be easy for them. But wait, they already did that. The first generation Apple TV had a built-in 40 or 160 GB hard drive. Flip-flopping back to the hard drive design after they finally found success with the current model, would be a strange product evolution path.
What about flash memory? Even though Apple is the world’s largest buyer of flash memory, it’s not cheap. The main technical differences between the various iPhone/iPad/iPod models is the amount of flash memory included. Take a look at the price differences to get a feel for how expensive flash memory is. At the current $99 price the Apple TV would be a stand-out in the game console market. At $199 it would be in a crowd of low powered game machines.
The Apple TV can act as an AirPlay receiver for both audio and video. iOS apps have been able to send streams over AirPlay since iOS 4.3 and AirPlay mirroring is available in iDevices starting with iPhone 4S. I’ve written about the AirPlay potentials for app developers before. And there are several games on the App Store that make use of AirPlay. What is new this time around is the game controller API. This enhances game play in several ways, including: Significant screen areas no longer need to be dedicated to touch areas for your fingers to control the game. This makes even less sense when you’re viewing the action on your TV and (hopefully) not touching your TV to control the game. Also, with physical buttons on a game controller you can keep your eyes on the big TV screen instead of having to look down on your iDevice screen to see where your fingers are.
I this regard agree with Kyle Richter that the “Apple TV SDK” has already been launched. You will use the iDevice you already own to purchase and play games on, and then use the current Apple TV to display the action on your big TV screen so that your friends and family can be part of the fun.
The game controller API will certainly enhance game play and raise the awareness of gaming with your Apple TV. But it’s not a requirement, as all games that support the game controller API presumably have to work without a game controller connected.
New game console generations are launched about every 5-6 years. People just don’t upgrade components in their entertainment system as often as they upgrade their mobile phones. With this upgrade cycle Apple can take advantage of newer gaming hardware much quicker than the competitors if the games actually run on iDevices instead of on the Apple TV.
AirPlay has a drawback in that there is a lag between the bits being drawn on the screen on the iDevice and the image shows up on the Apple TV. This could be irritating for some fast paced games. But this could be countered in the app with some clever delay handling and by designing your game mechanics with this in mind. When this is not possible, the active player can use the iDevice screen and friends watching would look at the TV not caring that there is a slight delay.
iDevices can already communicate with each other, so a multiplayer game can be done by having one device be the master that renders the screen for all players, and the other devices just send the movements of their players to the master.
With stand-alone game controllers (i.e. those that don’t snap on to the device) you could connect multiple controllers to one iDevice for multiplayer capability. This is even easier to handle from a programming perspective.
What Does This Mean for Your App Business?
If you don’t already own an Apple TV go buy one. Also get that new fancier flat screen TV you’ve been wanting. Write them off as business expenses since you of course need these new toys to properly test your apps.
If you are developing games, you should definitely add support for the game controller API when you update your apps for iOS 7. Remember that Apple loves to feature apps that make good use of new technologies and APIs.
You should also consider supporting AirPlay. This is very easy to do.
The next level is to consider the Apple TV environment when you design a new game. I’m sure there are many new and exciting game ideas that will be invented over the next several months.
#AltWWDC was a great conference organized by the Appsterdam folks in San Francisco last week. The intent was to be an alternative to the sold out WWDC next door. Interestingly there were many attendees wearing WWDC badges at AltWWDC. A testament to the high quality of the speakers.
There were several sessions at AltWWDC discussing marketing which is a topic that you won’t find at Apple’s official events. Here are my notes from the sessions that I attended.
Traditional Marketing Sucks. Let’s Get Weird.
Speaker: Eli Hodapp – Editor in Chief, TouchArcade.com
Live stream video: http://www.twitch.tv/altwwdc/b/415713862
- For your app launch, think about what you can do different. How can you be smarter than everyone else?
- Example: Bounce On 2 first launched a free version of their game. In the app there was a countdown timer to the launch of the full version.
- Bypass the press by building your own community. Make memorable connections in smaller communities.
- Examples: Post a thread for your game on the TouchArcade.com forums. Or in the iOS Gaming Subredit.
- Crescent Moon Games
- Participated in every RPG discussion on the Touch Arcade forums. See user “JoshCM”
- Posted early concept art.
- Built a loyal following.
- The end result was that the editors of Touch Arcade wanted to put up something on the main website because of the activity in the forum. Much better than sending press releases that nobody cares about.
- It’s so easy to connect to people.
- Build a fan base.
- You can do this every day.
Turning Angry Customers in to Fans – Tales from Indie Tech Support
- Tech support is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about app marketing.
- This session is very funny and offers great practical advice on how to respond to tech support emails.
- The presentation is well worth watching. My dry bullet points here cannot do it justice…
Marketing You Won’t Hate
Create an Email Tips Series
- When the app launches the first time, ask customer if they would like to get an email tips series?
- Schedule a short autoresponder sequence of emails. Send the first welcome email immediately, then the first tip on the following day. Send a new tip each week after that.
- Smile uses MailChimp. (Note that the autoresponder feature is not included in the free MailChimp plan.)
- The open rate for these tip emails is about 75%, and remains consistently high.
- This is one way to capture emails from customers that come from App Stores.
- Make the tips short
- Number the steps
- Include a screenshot. (Bonus: allows you to see email opens)
- Customers respond with fan mail!
Review Your Approach to Twitter
- Don’t retweet everything nice everyone says about you. You’re preaching to the choir.
- Retweet tips from your customers. (After verifying the tip.)
- Smiles uses Hoot Suite to manage Twitter with multiple people.
- Reply with thank you to customers.
- Don’t tweet actual promo codes.
- Better to have a give-away on Twitter.
- Ask a simple question. (Related to your product.)
- First five responses win.
- Tweet follow up announcing winners, with their Twitter handles.
- Then DM the code to the person. (Requires winners to follow you.)
- The answers to your question also gives you valuable data.
- Encourage a dialogue
- Reply to mentions
- Smile started small with a coupon offer on one podcast.
- Like to work with smaller podcasts and grow with them.
- List of new and upcoming podcasts: smilesoftware.com/altwwdc
- On these smaller podcasts $1,000 will get you on 4 podcast episodes.
- You don’t want to sponsor just a single episode. That is a waste of your resources. You need to build recognition over time.
- Find a podcast where the host is a fan of your software. Much better than the host reading a script about you.
- Give the host guidelines, not a script. Change them over time, to not get boring.
- Promote the podcast yourself.
App Marketing Panel Discussion
Moderator: Brett Terpstra
- Jana Boruta, Prismatic
- Dave Howell, CEO of Avatron Software makers of Air Login, Air Display, Air Sharing and Air Connect.
- Ouriel Ohayon, CEO of AppsFire
- Marco Tabini, writer for MacWorld
Live stream video: http://www.twitch.tv/altwwdc/b/416578699
Random notes from a wide ranging discussion:
- Marketing has to start before the app is done.
- Blogs are a great way to get out pre-release information.
- Writers want personal interactions. They want to see indies succeed.
- Apps need to be marketed like music and movies. Before they are available in the store.
- Create a great teaser video.
- If you spend 3 months developing an app. Spend three months on marketing.
- Find influencers and try to get them to use the app.
- Beta program is also important.
- Send out creative beta invites to get people excited.
- Begin your launch at least 4 weeks before your launch.
- Comment on a blog with a thoughtful response to get the attention of a blogger.
- Attend events to connect with people.
- Advertising does not work for apps that cost less than $10. The economics are not there.
- Tracking is critical.
- Buy impressions with metrics in mind.
- ROI is difficult for paid apps.
- Price discounts works well for paid apps. Combine with paid installs to accelerate adoption.
- Measure app engagement before paying for ads or installs.
- Don’t underprice your app. Easier to lower price later and to have temporary sales.
- Try everything in the App Store.
- If your app does something sensitive, e.g. 1Password, people want to pay more for a “trusted” app.
- Huge difference in customer opinion between free and $1 app.
- Use an honest approach.
- Bloggers see everything under the sun. Excellent source for feedback.
- Don’t be afraid of showing your app before it’s ready.
- Make sure you list any limitations and requirements in your app description.
- MacUpdate advertising effective for Mac apps. Automatically does A/B testing.
- How do you get to the right person on a multi-person blog?
- Read and research past blog posts.
- Create a spreadsheet with names and interests.
- Friends are a powerful source of recommendations.
- Make it easy to virally spread the word inside an app.
- Don’t be pushy in the app. Give the control to the user.
- Email to blogger:
- Begin with a concise description of why your message is important to the readers.
- 85% of press releases don’t have active links to the website.
- Risky to mention past stories, since the writer may not be personally interested in the topic.
- Traditional press releases are pretty much dead.
- Create an HTML page where the writer can get all the necessary info, copy & paste, etc.
- The excitement of the developer is contagious. The tone of the email is important. How much passion is behind it.
- Many apps play well together with other apps. Reach out to those developers and collaborate on marketing.