When you are trying to be successful with something you think a lot. You are researching methods that worked for other people. You are pondering, designing, sweating. You are emulating what caused success in others. And it does not get you anywhere where you would already call yourself successful.
But then comes a long a new aquaintence, a little tool called AppRanking for FREE, that turns your world upside down and with this external help you suddenly realize that you are already many times more successful that you thought you are. You just looked in the wrong direction.
Or maybe your opinion what really constitutes success is skewed by reports in the media of people who stroke a gold mine with their first app, like this guy that made trism. Oh boy, wouldn’t it be great to make a quick million dollars from a month’s work?
I promise that I would not let it get to my head. I would found a company, employ multiple people to design, create and market wonderful iPhone apps. And just like John Cormak I still would be touching code more often than not, in between negotiations with venture capitalists. One can dream …
My first app was called DropClock and it would measure the time that your iPhone was in free fall. From this amount of milliseconds it would calculate the fallen height. So this would enable you to quickly measure heights, provided you provide a cushion or other soft surface for your phone to land on. Also I added a joke, which was a picture of a broken screen which would pop up after 3 times falling from a greater height than 30 centimeters. So you could show this app to a friend and when he got the broken screen image you could tell him “Hey! You broke my iPhone.”
I was sure that millions of people would buy this stupid app, but Apple denyied me this box of gold, but instead made a couple of fart apps’ makers rich. Apple considers joke apps that endager your iPhone too dangerous to permit onto the app store for fear of liability. At least that’s my theory because I cannot explain why such a simple app still is “under review” after 7 months.
When I started making apps my girlfriend had this app iWoman that she totally loved. So I figured, as an exercise, I am going to copy the app and add a couple of personalized touches. I even contacted the original author to see if he would be interested in a cooperation, but he told me that Nullriver had different plans. My iWoman turned out really well and so I submitted it to Apple on my own. I prized it slightly less than the competition which was much more complicated to use and was rewarded by a steady number of purchases every day. Nothing to get rich from, but it did finanze my dev setup costs within 3 months.
Now with iWoman out on the market, clearly not being the gold mine I hoped for, I shifted my focus away to other apps. I made iFR Cockpit to play with accelerometer and GPS. I made GeoCorder because I needed GPS data for better understanding of how to improve iFR Cockpit. Both apps added a couple of dollars to my daily income. Again, still no gold mine in sight.
The next hope for millions went into MyAppSales. At first I created it as a tool for myself so that I could keep track of those elusive daily reports. In the beginning I was downloading them one by one every day, but then I missed a week and these holes in my history I can never fill again. I added features and did an extensive BETA test with a dozen people to iron out all bugs. I figured that if I could be the first in the store with an app that EVERY developer needs then surely I would get rich this time.
Some voices told me that Apple might not approve of MyAppSales, but then somebody showed me Sales Report by Maringo Holdings which essentially also downloads iTunes Reports via HTTPS. This app is still on sale for $14.99 at the time of this writing. So I took heart and poured all of it into MyAppSales, figuring that I could make a better app and sell it at a cheaper price.
Again, Apple denied me my gold mine, after submitting it several times. Every time I wrote them I got an additional sentence of information until in the end they cited 3.3.7 of the SDK agreement which prohibits scraping of the iTunesConnect site. I mailed Maringo congratulating them for having successfully fooled Apple and bested me. The maker of Sales Report responded very friendly thanking me and in a later e-mail informed me that his version 2.0 update got denied by Apple on the same grounds.
I considered several methods of still making some money of those three months of work that I put into MyAppSales and ended up putting the source for sale. Since the customers for MyAppSales are developers anyway they might as well just compile it themselves and put it on their own devices. This also circumvents the problem that somebody might have of putting his secret Apple ID into an untrusted app. With the source code in front of you everybody can verify that MyAppSales is not doing anything criminal with the data.
I was hoping for the power of word of mouth to make MyAppSales famous enough to earn me a couple of thousand dollars. I am still waiting for that. On a good day I have one or two people who send me $15 for the source. Again, a couple of dollars every day, but nothing to quit your day job for.
Then came along Michael Dorn who approached me for cooperating on LuckyWheel. I was to create the programming while he took care of the graphics. I was somewhat excited, clearly games are making the most people rich on iTunes. But having seen 3 gold mines and 1 oil well crumble in front of my mental eye I did not let myself be too excited about the chance of having a game in my portfolio.
So we made LuckyWheel, in part as a programming exercise, in part because our testing with user’s showed how much people loved to have such a game to play with one or two other people. Social guessing, only mildly competing. Colorful graphics and a wheel to turn with your finger. When we released it LuckyWheel became an instant Non-Success, because on the very same day it got approved Apple also approved Wheel of Fortune by Sony Entertainment. Haha, very funny Apple! How do you think we can compete Sony?
We made some improvements, added additional languages and tweaked the gameplay to make LuckyWheel into the best budget wheelturner that we knew how to. With the latest update we now have English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish and Italian content, with the French UI being the last to be added with the next update. We made a Lite Version, which is limited to the first 10 proverbs in all included languages. All of these measures trippled our sales of the full version.
We had also added silent copy protection in an earlier version and we saw that the number of cracking attempts double from the previous to the current version. And yesterday was the first time in history where LuckyWheel surpassed iWoman in sales. So undenyable there is some momentum building. We are not getting rich from LuckyWheel but in the least the setup costs of Michael can be earned with it.
Speaking of Michael, he was the one who gave us AppRanking for FREE which I now use almost daily to check up on my best selling apps. Without it I would have never known that iWoman is now ranked first in Health&Fitness in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
This is the kind of success where I can honestly say that I don’t understand the reasons for. How are those countries different from USA or western/central Europe? What do women in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Guatemala and Thailand have in common? If you have an idea what could be the reason for this phenomenon then please comment. I did not believe it at first, so I changed my iTunes country to Israel and found the information to be accurate.
So all the while I was focussing on wealth and other manly big ego goals, women in a couple of countries became my main audience and source of income. And I am ignorant and keep complaining that not enought people love me my apps. Silly me.
So with all those disappointments, why do I continue to develop apps solely for the locked down Apple iPhone platform? That’s easy to answer, I love my iPhone and I love how easy it is to create applications for it. And besides all these letdowns I am still making a relevant amount of money that other people have to get a second and third job for. Or to put it in manly terms: Apple owes me a couple of million dollars of prevented income and I am going to stick around until I have gotten those out of them. 😉
That’s why I would like to make my future wife the president of my company. She is the one who tells me I should be satisfied with having a steady stream of income however low it might be. And in any case she will still have me even if I only make a couple of hundred dollars a month from my apps. Be happy with what you’ve got!
She’s wiser than she gives herself credit for.
PS: Our wedding date is set to May 29th 2009 and we appreciate your donations to our wedding fund. (PayPal firstname.lastname@example.org)