Nov 22

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?)

written by Nick \\ tags:

Nov 20

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.

written by Nick

Oct 24

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.

So if you are developing games or have any interest in the Steam platform, you should checkout Trey’s latest webinar. (Replay)

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.

 

written by Nick

Oct 22

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

Nokia began the day by announcing the Lumia 2520 Windows RT 8.1 tablet. It looks very nice, but with a price tag of $499 plus $149 for the power keyboard who is going to buy it? If you are a developer developing for the Windows tablet market then you would probably buy the ‘official’ Surface tablet as your reference development device. If you are an enterprise deploying the full Microsoft stack, then it seems the Surface would be the natural choice too. Maybe this is Microsoft’s way of providing some (artificial) competition in the Windows tablet market. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Nokia Lumia product line once the merger with Microsoft is complete.

Microsoft Surface 2

Short on the heels of a $900 million dollar writeoff and several attempts at giving away the first generation Surface tablets, Microsoft launches the next generation Surface. It should be clear to everyone that Microsoft is going to spend whatever it takes to get into this market.

What would a Microsoft product launch be without some rebranding. This time they got rid of the confusing RT branding for the Arm based Surface. Now it’s just called Surface 2. (And plain Surface for last year’s model. Apparently they still have some of those in stock.) The version with an Intel processor is called Surface Pro. This model can run your regular Windows software. At $899 that’s a rather expensive Windows portable computer.

Who is the target consumer? If you are looking to replace your aging Windows laptop, it might be worth a look. But if you do a lot of typing, then the keyboard cover might not be the best ergonomic choice. Anecdotally a lot of people purchase an iPad instead of, or as an upgrade to, an old home computer. Apparently all those people do not feel tied to the Windows software ecosystem. Will the Surface take a bite out of that market? I don’t see any compelling reason to buy a Surface with an anemic catalog of apps, over the more mature iPad.

On the enterprise side things probably look brighter for Microsoft. Many enterprise customers that I talk to say that they are planning on deploying Windows tables within their organization. Most IT departments feel a lot more comfortable staying in the Wintel world.

As an app entrepreneur, the Surface could be a interesting opportunity. Microsoft is going to sell (or give away) a large number of these devices. With comparatively very little competition in the Windows Store (currently at around 110,000 apps) you can become a big fish in a small pond. (I’m actually working on a port of an existing iPad app to Windows. I’ll report back on how that turns out.)

New iPads

Maybe the main event of the day was Apple’s introduction of the next generation iPads. With the many rumors leading up to the event, there were very few surprises this time. Maybe that’s why it felt a bit off.

iPad Air

Smaller, lighter, much faster and the same battery life as previous models. This may seem like small incremental improvements, but taken together this year’s generation is no small achievement!
I think the name Air is interesting. First it gets rid of the old confusing line of model names (iPad, iPad 2, The New iPad, iPad (4th generation)). Second, if you look at the model names of the Mac laptops, there might be a place for an iPad Pro.

No Touch ID

If you have become used to the convenience of Touch ID on your iPhone 5S, you are going to miss the lack of Touch ID on the new iPad. Why did Apple not include a fingerprint scanner on the iPads? Some analysts have suggested that the hardware components that make up Touch ID are supply constrained. Or maybe Apple wants to observe the success and challenges of Touch ID in the “consumer” devices that iPhones mostly are, before they bring it to the iPad which is going to be used more in corporate environments. Or perhaps they are just saving that feature for the iPad Pro.

iPad 2

Apple is still keeping the iPad 2 for sale. Many pundits are shocked at the thought of buying a tablet generation that was released in 2011. But many industries do not move as fast as the tablet business and they have very lengthy testing and approval processes. Take schools and airline pilots, for example. Other businesses may incorporate the iPad in a solution that still requires the 30-pin connector. These customers, who may buy large quantities of iPads, can rest assured that their standardized device will still be available for another year. As long as customers keep buying the iPad 2 (it accounted for 22% of all iPads sold last quarter), it doesn’t cost much for Apple to keep those production lines working.

iPad mini

The big question for the new iPad mini was if Apple was going to pull off a retina display this year. The answer is fortunately yes, but its just barely. The challenge is being able to produce sufficient number of display panels for the very large quantities of iPad minis that Apple sells every month. The iPad mini goes on sale “later in November” and there is no pre-ordering. It’s pretty clear that these devices are going to be supply constrained for the rest of this year. So if you’re planning on getting an iPad mini for the holidays, grab one as soon as you can.

What does it mean for app developers and app business owners?

There was no new category of device introduced today, so there’s no new screen size or other device capabilities that you need to consider. The iPad Mini went retina, but the old model remains on sale, along with the non-retina iPad 2. So you can’t drop your @1x assets quite yet.

The new iPad Mini has the new 64-bit A7 chip as well as the M7 chip. This certainly broadens the market for apps that take advantage of this new hardware. (Update: David Smith discovered that the new iPads don’t do step counting, even though they have the M7 chip.)

The iOS train keeps charging forward. Apple has sold over 700 million iOS devices to date. A great, and growing, target market. Even more important is that 64% have already upgraded to iOS 7. This makes the case even stronger for developing new apps for iOS 7 only, and leaving behind old iOS 6 code bases sooner rather than later. Your overall code will be so much simplified, resulting in lower maintenance costs and more time to focus on new features.

written by Nick \\ tags: , , ,

Jul 12

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.

 

Today

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”.

 

The Future

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?

Discovery

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.

More platforms

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.

Always changing

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!

written by Nick

Jul 05

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:

  1. Go to the WWDC Schedule page at https://developer.apple.com/wwdc/schedule/
  2. Find the session that you’re interested in.
  3. Click on the View Details link.
  4. 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.

written by Nick

Jun 24

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

written by Nick

Jun 21

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.

AirPlay

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.

Multiplayer

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.

written by Nick

Jun 18

#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
Slides: http://mds.public.s3.amazonaws.com/Eli%20Hodapp%20altWWDC.key
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.
  • Summary
    • 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

Speaker: Josh Michaels
Live stream video: http://www.twitch.tv/altwwdc/b/416539228 (starts around 17:00)

  • 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

Speaker: Jean MacDonald, Partner Smile Software
Live stream video: http://www.twitch.tv/altwwdc/b/416561363

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

Sponsoring Podcasts

  • 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

Panelists:

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.

written by Nick

Jun 12

$10 Billion Paid to Developers
This is an astounding number. How many businesses have gone from zero to $10B in less than 5 years? And $5B was paid out in the last year alone, which means that the growth is still accelerating.

Apple also mentioned that they have 6 million registered iOS developers. I have a hard time getting my head around this number. Does this mean that 5 million people decided to register as a developer but never managed to ship an app? However, if you are selling a service to app developers, then this number shows that there is a large target audience for your product.

Transfer Apps in the App Store
This is really good news if you ever want to sell one of your apps. Previously there was an unofficial manual process that you could go through with Apple, but now there’s much less friction with iTunes Connect. This opens up new app business opportunities.

93% Are on the Latest iOS Version
Another really nice number. What this means in practice is lower development costs. In the past you typically had to support the current iOS version, plus the prior one. With these numbers it will be difficult to justify that extra cost for such a small market share. The over-the-air iOS update introduced with iOS 5 essentially means that almost all customers update to the most recent release, up to the point permitted by their hardware generation.

With the update to iOS 6, the first generation iPad was left behind. This was a bit controversial at the time since that hardware had been on sale not too long prior. Today I don’t see much reason to keep supporting iOS 5. The main question in my mind is if you should go iOS 7 only at this point.

But your actual circumstances and the devices that your current customers use, need to guide your decision. 7% of 500 million devices is still a very big number.

iOS 7
A lot has already been written about the look of iOS 7. See below for some good articles on this topic.

iOS 7 shows how touch devices have matured. When Apple introduced the first iPhone with one of the first touch user interfaces, people did not have any experience interacting with this type of UI before. Therefore they had to use metaphors that would be familiar. For example: buttons that really looked like old fashioned buttons and behaved like buttons when you pushed them.

With iOS 7 Apple is betting that most of their customers are now used to touch interfaces and are not afraid to explore a little to figure out how an app works. If there is an item in a top corner of the screen, where there used to be buttons, but the item no longer looks exactly like a traditional button, it’s not a stretch to think that this item might do something if you tap on it. Especially if it’s offset with a different color than the content on the screen.

But that’s just the skin appearance changes in iOS 7. The more advanced changes in iOS 7 are much deeper than that. One example is the new, much more consistent layering in the UI. Most people will not consciously notice this, but subconsciously it will provide much better clues to where you are in the OS and inside an app.

With the extensive UI changes in iOS 7 it is not a small matter to do update an existing app to iOS 7. To to a good job of this you have to change your thinking: Start with your content as the star of your app, then add the chrome and navigation only as needed around the content. You should really make an effort to re-imagine the UI to make a great iOS 7 app, one that makes intelligent use of all the new features and capabilities.

When you have finished your re-imagined iOS 7 UI design, you can then port it back to iOS 6 (if you still have to support this). Of course this will significantly increase the cost of your project. Not only do you have to make changes for iOS 7, but also make changes to your existing iOS design.

Multitasking

Another important and deep change is the new multitasking model. Previously only certain types of apps were allowed to run in the background. With iOS 7 the OS will observe the behavior of apps to determine if and when they might benefit from running in the background. The canonical example is that you check the news in an app the first thing when you wake up in the morning. iOS will learn this and can wake up the app 5 minutes before you wake up, so that the app may start downloading data with the goal of having updated data available when you yourself launch the app a few minutes later. This is a great compromise between user experience and battery life. And it avoids the problems of letting any app run unfettered in the background at any time it wants.

More multitasking options opens up the possibility for new types of apps that were not allowed previously.

App Updates

In iOS 7 apps update automatically without user intervention. This is a great convenience for customers and it can also be a benefit to you as an app developer because more of our customers will be running the latest version of your app. But this can also be a curse. You really, really don’t want to push out a bad update to the App Store. Because very quickly that update will be automatically pushed out and installed onto all of your customers’ devices. Good thing that the latest version of Xcode has improved unit testing features. You do have unit tests for your apps, right?

Good Times

This is a really good time to be an iOS consultant or freelance developer. Customers are going to need a lot of help in adapting their old apps for iOS 7.

I think the transition to iOS 7 will separate the pros from the amateurs and the cheapskates in the App Store. Creating great iOS 7 apps will require experimentation and a lot of iteration to get right. This is difficult to do on a fixed budget and without passion for your app.

App Store Improvements
Finding popular apps near me is a new feature in iOS 7. This is a step in the right direction along the lines I outlined last week. It will be great specifically for apps that have a geographic home, e.g. city tours, language apps, local events.

A lot of the app store content is displayed in the App Store app as HTML. So hopefully they can add more, different ways to discover apps in the App Store without waiting for a whole new iOS release.

More Car Integrations
This is an oddball on the list. But maybe you can think of some new app ideas for your car. I don’t know what you need to build apps that integrate with a car. Maybe you need to be a member of the MFI program.

iWork for iCloud
This was one of the most under-appreciated announcements at the keynote, judging from the audience reactions. From a technical perspective, it was some really cool stuff. You can drag an MS Office document into your browser and it is automagically converted and uploaded to iCloud, and is then also available for continued editing on all your connected devices using native Apple apps. My head hurts when I think how much JavaScript must be involved in iWork in the browser.

iWork for iCloud looks amazing and the rich documents you can create and edit in your browser certainly puts Google Docs to shame. But iCloud is still just personal. That means you can edit and sync a document on all your Apple devices, but you cannot collaborate with other people on the documents.

To be a serious contender in cloud services, Apple needs to have a solution for collaboration between individuals and inside companies. But for this year I would be happy to see just the basic, existing iCloud services just work. All the time.

Gaming
If you look at the App Store, a significant portion of the most downloaded apps are games. If you look at the APIs available to developers there are very few specifically designed for gaming. You wouldn’t think that iOS is such a popular gaming platform. (A fellow attendee and hard core game developer, whispered in my ear that Apple used to have a real bias against gaming.) With iOS 7 there are several new APIs that will be great for gaming, and gaming has been emphasized several times. There is even a production quality source code example for a graphical multiplayer game available to developers to use as a starting point for their own game development. Or use it as is. I expect that we’ll soon see several slightly reskinned versions of this code on the App Store.

What We Did Not See
No new platforms, i.e. iWatch or Apple TV SDK, were announced. While this was disappointing, all the new stuff in iOS 7 will keep us busy for quite a while. And given how much overtime Apple engineers must have worked on this release (and will continue to work to refine it over the next few months), I don’t see how they could possibly also have created a brand new software platform.

Get Featured by Apple
Apple likes to feature apps that showcase new technologies. With the release of iOS 7 this is a golden opportunity to increase your chances of being featured by Apple. Take a look at your existing apps, and your long list of app ideas, and see if you can make great use of some of the new APIs.

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written by Nick