After the somber story I referred to last week on an Indie App Store developer, here is a kind of success story. In an excellent series of blog posts, Stuart Hall has posted details of his "App Store Experiment", quite in detail. Thanks to a friend who shared this with me after reading my previous post on this topic. This is a definite read for anyone interested in developing for the App store.
Can I develop an iOS App? - More lessons
For me the take away points from this were significant; any platform/ecosystem comes with its share of advantages and disadvantages. But as a developer in any of the platforms we need to be smart and try to make use of the advantages the ecosystem offers while dodging the disadvantages. For example in the iOS App Store, unfortunately, there has been a race to bottom on the App pricing that has changed the mindset of the people who are so very skeptical in paying even 99 cents for an App (or is it that we as people were always like and the App Store just made us realize the fact?). This is a definite disadvantage for developers whose Apps genuinely deserve something more than 'Free' from its customers. Apple's introduction of the in-App purchase was a definite boost to the developers, but again as in any democratic market place (yeah, Amazon I am talking about you!) there will be elements who take advantage of this and hence the reputation of in-App purchase is general is pretty bad in the App Store.
But many developers have shown that clever people always find ways amidst all sorts of challenges to be successful (but not deceitful). Marco Arment's Overcast has (if you ask me) an excellent pay if want model. Overcast, a very much usable podcast App is free to purchase for anyone and if you want additional features (like cellular downloads for example), you pay extra. Even then his is a one time one, in-App purchase price is $4.99 for unlocking everything in the App, similar to the "Pro" version in Stuart Hall's App Store Experiment. And these two are extreme opposites of Apps seems to me to be equally successful (relative to the effort that was put in). Marco Arment has been working his App for more than a year at least and he has some unique feature-set to his Podcast App and is know for 'extreme' programing including meddling with Server side programing and building his own Audio engine. Stuart Hall's 7 Minute Workout App on the other hand is pretty much a few hours of work, according to his post. But (if you ask me) both of their success (revenue normalized by the effort they put in) factors are pretty high and can easily be termed a success. So again the key is to know your battle ground before committing to a battle!
Start small, particularly if you are an Indie developer, who is just getting into the iOS eco system. iOS App Store is a totally different beast compared to traditional software stores, like the Mac App Store. Don't underestimate the importance of a 'Free' App. In-App purchase is not all that bad, though its general reputation is bad and if you ask an average App buyer, he would say that he hates in-App purchases. But if you read the many developer stories on the App store, only Apps with clever but not tricky (as in trying to steal the customer's money) in-App purchase schemes make it successful in the App Store. Last but not the least, don't go in with only a mind set to make money in the App Store, rather start with an effort to create trust in the customers and money will eventually flow in. These are the lessons I have learnt even before entering the App Store as a wannabe developer. I will keep a watch out for any more pointers that I come across and will update my blog with them.