I’ve been collecting interesting stories of my fellow iOS developers related to Barcodes and iOS. Anecdotes are the spice of life. You might not think it possible, but this 40 year old technology is still good for many surprises.
I’m happy to report that my book Barcodes with iOS has entered the production stage. Over the past few weeks I had some back and forth with a tech proofer, my developmental editor as well as a copy editor. A few minutes ago I had a meeting where we discussed the transition into full on production. A few virtual high fives were in order.
Two years ago, for WWDC 2011, I researched how to get 3G data on my iPhone. Last year AT&T tweaked their policies slightly to make it more complicated to use prepaid data with smart phones. Since I got myself a phone with nano SIM (iPhone 5) since then I needed to do something again.
Also 2013 marked the first day when I brought my employee to WWDC and wanted him to have prepaid data as well. In this post I’m summarizing the current state of affairs as of Summer 2013.
I’ve been sponsoring my cousin Julia Grill for a while now. She’s a teenager that has a strong interest in technology, but never gotten much support for her wish to pursue a career in this field. So I made it my mission to help her out in these matters.
Today Julia launches her new blog which is targeted at other young tech-curious women, and she’s calling it TechCriquette. You can read about the meaning of this unusual name and what her mission statement is on her first blog post.
You are welcome to give her hints about companies or products that do an exceptionally good or bad job in talking to women. Options on how to contact her can be found on the TechCriquette About page.
For the longest time catalog apps where all over the place on the app store. Some in Lifestyle, some in Entertainment, some in the area matching the goods they are depicting.
In the past Apple has been known to establish a new section on the app store whenever the need for it becomes obvious. Remember, when they introduced the Books section? Or Newsstand?
Apple now has opened a new section titled Catalogs that aggregates all such apps. This is of special interest to us because of the multitude of digital catalogs that are built with our iCatalog.framework technology.
Just when I was sitting down to do a quick tutorial I saw a tweet that picquet my interest. Something about “Pieceable Viewer Runs iPhone Apps From Your Browser”. While the text is utter nonsense it was still tempting and so I clicked through.
Much to my amazement I found that this company Pieceable just launched the equivalent of online demos that we iOS developers where eying with jealousy on some Android app store. Just recently we heard that since Android was essentially Java you could basically also run these apps in the browser, provided you had the appropriate frameworks available.
I suck at predicting. Really. I appears that I am proven wrong time and again when it comes to seeing the future. One area where this can be seen rather clearly is when it comes to the success of the apps I have coded so far.
Half a year ago I already ranted about I lost Millions of Dollars because Apple did not permit my first two killer apps into the store. One (DropClock) was too dangerous, the other (MyAppSales) was incompatible with the SDK Agreement. Both apps I had very high hopes for because of their uniqueness or usefulness at the time. Niente.
iWoman I had originally created it for my (now) wife to keep track of her female cycle days. I was also my first full project going from start to finish, so I saw it mostly as a means to learn certain techniques being new to the platform. Therefore I did not make a prediction as to the immediate income, basically telling myself: Who would need this app besides of my wife? Well, I could not have predicted at that time that most of my income would come from “the long tail”.
This tail I am talking about is the constant trickle of sales you get even long after you released an app. It would inadvertently follow any kind of initial peak and be a result of a constant influx of new shoppers on the Apple app store. So my commercial disinterest in iWoman kind of proved me wrong once again. Until two days ago iWoman was responsible for a major portion of my total income from app sales.
It seems to be an inborn need for humans to successfully predict. And then when it turns out that the predictions where wrong, we find reasons correlations excuses what external influences out of our influence where to blame. And of course in the rare circumstance that your predictions actually pan out, we feel exhilarated and brag about how clairvoyant we have been.
Some time ago I started to do publishing deals with other guys. Like for example my 50:50 partnership for LuckyWheel. For my 80:20 partnership for Frequency Annoyer. I figured, since I cannot successfully predict the success of a single app I would diversify and be content with a portion of the profits of many apps as opposed to all of the profits or non-profits of only my own. That’s when I essentially also became a publisher.
For LuckyWheel I was doing the coding and my partner Michael Dorn did the artwork and questions. We split the profits evenly. LuckyWheel failed to make me rich as well, but it was sticking to the sold second place on the long tail, right behind iWoman.
Being a publisher does not mean my prediction track record improved. The diversification this brings simply reduces a negative impact from single apps and improves the long tail scenario. When Laurens approached me to publish his first app I was extremely skeptical. Who would want to buy an app like Frequency Annoyer? Hey, so I thought, it’s evil to annoy people with a high pitched tone that they cannot localized. Laurens was extremely enthusiastic, it was his first app, and he told me that he is confident that this will sell really well.
So for 20% of the profits I agreed to publish it after riding him hard to make some UI and usability improvements. But those apparently paid off, the app was approved the first time we submitted it, because I had learned by now how to avoid most of the kinks that would cause Apple to reject apps. Again, not a major surge to prompt instant retirement, but a sold long tail. So solid in fact that after overtaking LuckyWheel every now and then, it conquered the second place in daily income some weeks ago.
Laurens approached me for his second big app, this time even more confident. He said he was certain that even more people would purchase his latest invention the Full Screen Browser. Again I failed to see the potential, but my rate was set. 20% and I publish anything. And good luck. FSB got rejected twice by Apple. Once for not setting the age rating to 17+ as any app has to have if there is unfiltered access to the internet through it. The second time because Laurens was using the undocumented method setOrientation which is an incredibly irreplaceably useful method, but still forbidden. Well, we got that worked around and resubmitted.
I did not want to tell Laurens my opinion at that time. Who in his right mind would purchase a browser when there is Safari built into every iPhone? Full Screen Browsing for one Dollar? Seriously? Don’t you agree that this is a silly proposition?
If you answered Yes to the previous question that you fell into the same trap as me. We developers think we know what the customers want, but fail to notice the reality that we don’t. We can code extremely well, but only the customer knows that the customer wants. Hell, billions of dollars are spent by companies every year on trying to find out what the next big thing will be. Which political party will win. Which stock will go up. The matter of the fact is that nobody is good as predicting, but big companies have money to spend on the hope that somebody actually is. The logic goes: if I pay you a thousand dollars and you do a study then I should get a more valuable result than just predicting myself. Namely the result will be worth a thousand dollars, because of the simple rule of the market: Something is always worth as much as a willing buyer and a willing seller can agree upon. Or put differently: something is only worth as much as somebody pays your for it.
You probably guessed it by now, that FSB absolutely rocks my reports. Shakes my foundation of beliefs. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. In just two days since it got on the store, Laurens has already sold 574 copies. So in just two days he made more money with FSB than in the 2 months before with Frequency Annoyer. 2 months versus 2 days. That’s over 2900% more success than I had predicted.
They say you can make numbers talk in any way you like if you just torture them long enough. But I am at a loss here. I have NO idea how to make these numbers prove my predictions.
What the morale of this story?
- Don’t trust me (or any iPhone Developer) on any kind of prediction related to commercial success or failure of individual apps.
- Diversify to reduce negative impact if single apps.
- Partner with other people. It’s better to have a small share in something big, then to have everything of nothing.
- Just try it out. Even hobby projects will increase your programming and marketing skills. But you need to see them through from initial inception all the way until they can be purchased on the app store.
- Don’t try to be “right”. You’ll rarely be. Instead try to be “in” with the profits of many apps.
- Don’t let your ego get the better of you. Don’t get cocky. Much of my income is a direct result of partnering with two teenagers half my age (Laurens and Fabian)
- And the correlary to the previous learning: if you are under age, don’t be afraid to contact me and let me publish your app for a portion of the profits.
Yesterday a prediction of mine was proven wrong in an entirely different area. About a year ago I had predicted that a big international company would have to keep it’s Windows desktop support staff while reducing in other areas. Even a small staff (100 machines in 2 locations) still requires maintenance and logistics and a local person taking care of their hardware needs, right? It’s logical. There is no other way. So I thought this to be a safe bet that I had made and I felt secure throughout the financial crisis.
Still I was proven wrong. Big company decided to completely lay of the local IT support staff and replace it with remote support. W00t?! I’m laughing and crying at the same time. Crying because I can imagine the support hell that this will be for my former colleagues. Laughing because you now have access to Dr. Touch Cocoa Helpdesk full time. The doctor is in tha house!
So in closing I predict that I will refrain from predicting henceforth. Rather lets orient ourselves on the facts at hand. Fact is, my iPhone business has grown substantially over the last year. Fact is, I am a much better Cocoa coder than I was a year ago. Fact is, I am in constant contact with thousands of developers worldwide through this blog, twitter and lately also a new podcast. Fact is, I am frequently being approached by people with small and big iPhone projects.
So I predict that I should be fine.
At drobnik.com we are not only publishing our own apps or doing contracting/consulting. Sometimes we get approached by people with an interesting idea or concept for an app who are looking to partner with us. The simplest form of partnership is a publishing deal like we struck with Laurens from ipodandiphoneguide.com. Laurens developed the app “Frequency Annoyer” and sought a partner to publish it for him.
Reasons to do so may vary to enter into such an agreement, most developers try to “go it alone”. But Laurens recognized that our experience and help would allow him to reap way higher benefits as he would have been able to by himself. Faster to market, easier navigating around the cliffs that Apple’s review team presents, copy protection, intuitive reporting and lots of other reasons why drobnik.com is the publishing partner of choice. In short: drobnik.com knows how to get you published pronto.
Frequency Annoyer allows the user to emit high frequency sounds up to the maximum the iphone is able to. There are many uses for this, besides testing your hearing or repelling insects. The reason why most people bug this app is to annoy other people who have a sensitive enough hearing. Did you ever find your self asking “Where does this annoying high pitched tone come from?” This is the app that puts the capability for such pranks right into your pocket.
Getting it ready for to pass Apple’s review was no easy task, let me tell you. Theoretically the iPhone speakers should be able to go up to 20.000 Hertz, but in reality there are hardware differences between iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS which made Laurens’ work really hard. To put it in simple terms: iPhone speakers: Crap. iPhone 3G speakers: fine. iPhone 3G speakers: very fine, twice as loud as 3G.
Rigorous testing was necessary to make sure that only frequencies where enabled that could be sounded without problems. In some cases the physics of sound made it necessary to reduce the volume of the sound to prevent overloading of the speaker and nastly crackling noises. Anything else might would have gotten the “might lead to customer confusion” response from Apple.
Several weeks of acceptance testing on 4 different devices finally paid off when Apple approved the app on the first go. Since then it became an overnight success outperforming all our other apps on the store, even reaching sales rank #5 in the Entertainment category for Netherlands.
– Ranking Data by Applyzer.com
The Dutch are for some reason one of the countries that buys most on the app store, at least when it comes to satisfying their hunger for interesting new entries in the Entertainment category. Twice as many Dutch purchased “Frequency Annoyer” (in absolute numbers) on the second day than people from the USA. Could it be that the US market has reached its Apex and now the sales volume in other markets finally has a chance to play catch-up?
You can now get your mobile “Frequency Annoyer” on the app store. Please comment at the end of this article of interesting uses you found or give us your prank reports.