Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Switched to Android for a Week and Almost Didn't Switch Back

A year ago, I did an experiment where I completely switched to Windows Phone for a week. Overall it was a good experience, but it was lacking in enough areas that it made switching back to my iPhone was a no brainer. Also, tellingly, there wasn't anything that I missed when I switched back. I recently got an invite to buy Google Glass, so I went ahead and got one to test out and hopefully make some apps for. (I'll talk more about Google Glass in a separate post). I also got an HTC One Developer edition to use alongside it.

For a little over a week now, my 4.3 Android HTC One has been my only phone. I haven't touched my iPhone 5s at all except to look up a few apps someone was telling me about (that were only on iPhone). Overall my experience with it has been great, and I could probably switch and not be too sad. Most tellingly, unlike the Windows Phone experiment, there will be things about Android that I will miss on my iPhone. 

Pros

1. Widgets. Widgets are great. I love having the weather and sports information just always on on the desktop. It's handy. This is one of the things I will miss.

2. Google Now. While they have it available in app form on iPhone (which I may start using) it is more integrated into Android. Also, going back to #1, I can have it in widget form on my desktop. (Is it weird that I call the home screen of my smartphone "desktop").

Google Now is pretty great though, as long as you can get past the creepy privacy implications. I'm mostly over it, and the service is pretty handy.

3. Apps - I mentioned that the only time I picked up my iPhone this week was to check out some new apps. That being said, all of the apps I use on a regular basis are available on Android except one. This is close enough for me to list it as a pro. 

4. Google integration - I use gmail, google calendar, and chrome so the integration with them is nice. I was amazed that Google chrome auto-completed a website I had recently visited on my Desktop that I had never been to on the phone. I suspect this is something Safari could do for me as well, but I don't like Safari on Desktop as much. Perhaps I should switch to using Chrome on iPhone, but the lack of ability for it to be the default action is problematic.

Cons

1. Battery - So frustrating. Perhaps it's the awesome new widgets that I love, but the battery life is not comparable to my iPhone at all. Normal days for me I don't go below 50% on my iPhone. Heavy use days I usually don't go under 20%, and I honestly can't ever remember it dying completely. With this phone, I finished almost everyday under 10%, and it died 2 of the days. This is a problem. Perhaps another Android phone would be better, but I suspect at least part of it is software related.

2. Bluetooth - The bluetooth on this is absolute crap. In general, bluetooth isn't great. I know that. But this was beyond "not great" into completely unusable territory. The internets tell me the HTC One has issues in this area. I don't think this is an Android thing, just an HTC One thing. 

3. Crashing - I'm certain this has happened on someone's iPhone, I don't need you to tell me about it. That being said, I had the phone completely crash and restart (not just drop call) while on a business call this week. I've had my iPhone drop calls, but never had the phone just crash. That was a bizarre experience, and really frustrating. 

4. Email - This one I couldn't believe. I like the default iPhone app for gmail far more than the gmail app in Android. WTF. I didn't expect this, but there are several things about it I find really annoying. The biggest is the swipe to archive. On iPhone, I swipe, it gives archive button, I click, it goes away. On Android, I swipe and it archives. It then leaves the blank area with an undo option. If it just went away completely I'd be fine with that, in fact would probably be better. Leaving the blank area just sucks though, especially when try to go through multiple emails quickly. Sometimes it stays, sometimes it goes. I don't know how many times I accidentally clicked on an email I didn't mean to click on. 

5. Keyboard - This is a minor nitpick, and could probably be solved with a third party, but I didn't like the keyboard. Perhaps this is just getting used to something different, but I had more typos consistently all week than I normally do. 

6. UI/Screen issues/screen responsiveness - This one is still frustrating for me. When I click something on my iPhone it almost always does what I expect it to, and it does it instantly. I had repeated issues of clicking things in apps (mostly chrome) where it wouldn't register, it would be delayed, etc. This has recently been benchmarked. I find it amazing that the iPhone 4 that is 3 generations old is more responsive than the newest Android phones. I don't know why this is the case, but I do know that it is a quality of life thing. It makes the phone more pleasant to use. 

7. Find my friends - perhaps it is silly, but I use find my friends on a regular basis, and most of my friends and family have iPhones. Sometimes you can't get ahold of someone for whatever reason (loud environment etc.), it's nice to see if my wife is on her way home or still out wherever she went.  This is another mostly minor thing that I could probably live without, but it is the 1 app I use regularly that doesn't have an Android equivalent (perhaps there is for Android, but not to find my iPhone using friends).

8. I assume this is not Android problem, but rather HTC One problem, but the dialer sucks. I can't seem to default to favorites instead of the dialer, and clicking on the person doesn't dial but instead goes to a contact page even after I set the default action to be call mobile. It appears this is a bug from my online reading. Hopefully it gets fixed at some point. For now it is frustrating. 

iPhone call - Click phone button, click person.
HTC One call - Click phone button, swipe to favorites, click person, click number. 

Why is the dialer hard? The dialer on Windows phone sucked in similar ways, and I don't know why. This seems easy. 

Conclusion

Unlike the Windows Phone, I could actually switch to this phone. I really could. That being said, I'm going back to my iPhone. The main reason? It's better at being a phone. The fit and finish is better. It's more responsive. The battery lasts longer. I didn't list the camera as being a pro or con, as it's fine, but the iPhone is better. 

I listed more cons than pros, but that's just because I'm comparing it to what I already know and like. I could list plenty of cons about the iPhone too, but that isn't what this post is about. The fact that there are things I will miss about the Android phone is pretty big IMO. The fact that I could actually switch is pretty big. When I started a week ago I didn't think that was even a remote possibility. If I could buy and Apple made Android phone, I might actually take that over iOS. Or perhaps I can just convince Apple to add widgets and intents into iOS. That would probably be enough.

If someone asked me what I would recommend, before my answer would simply be iPhone. Now, I'd have to at least get more information from them. My answer would still be iPhone most of the time, but there are definitely people I'd suggest Android to.

Join Discussion on Hacker News




If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.
 

Monday, September 30, 2013

App Store Pricing: Worth at Least as Much as a Cup of Coffee

I read an article this morning on Hacker News suggesting that most apps are worth less than a cup of coffee. In it, Florian Kugler says this, emphasis mine:
Another approach – and I would argue a more insightful one – is to learn about the nature of the market we're working in. And not only about the market as an abstract whole, but about the value of our products specifically. The economic reality is that most apps offer next to no value to people. They might say otherwise when asked about, but their actions speak pretty clearly: A cup of coffee is worth more than almost every app on the store.
I disagree. I might be a bit biased, but I think there are a lot of apps on the store worth significantly more than a cup of coffee. That being said, I also don't think that a cup of coffee is worth the price of a cup of coffee. Perhaps the fact that I think the price people pay for coffee is absurd plays into my feelings here.

The real point here isn't the price of coffee though. It isn't whether apps are worth more or less than a cup of coffee. The question is whether or not apps are providing value to people and how willing people are to pay for that value. It's easy to say "people don't pay for apps" or "most apps are crap not worth a cup of coffee." Kugler goes on to say:
That's a hard pill to swallow, but we should let it sink in. We pour all our creativity, time, and passion into creating basically worthless products. 
Finishing with: 
But we should be aware of the fact that we're in the business of creating products which offer very little value to people. It's our choice if that's what we want to pursue. 
I really don't think this is true. The thousands of reviews I have on my apps telling me how much they like my apps leads me to believe this isn't true. It's easy to cherry pick bad reviews or the trolls out there that complain about your $0.99 app being overpriced. When I get notes and emails from people telling me that my debt snowball or budgeting app helped them change their finances I get the feeling they received more than a cup of coffee worth of value. When people tell me they've used my biking app to track hundreds or thousands of miles of exercise, I suspect they've gotten some value out of my work. To the discussion at hand, when I get paid each month (more than I did at my day job) I have a good idea that some people are finding value from the things I've made.

Finally, just as an interesting side note I thought I'd look up how much Starbucks really does make. According to Yahoo Finance, Starbucks has made $7.5 billion in the last year. In June, Apple said that they have paid developers $10 billion total, and $5 billion in the last year. If you add in advertising as well as Android profits, I suspect that app sales are roughly on par with coffee sales (at Starbucks, let's be honest that's what we are talking about with "price of a cup of coffee"). App sales are also growing at a pretty fast rate. I suspect we will surpass "coffee" sales next year. Don't let anyone fool you. Apps are most definitely not worthless.

Discussion on Hacker News




If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.
 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

iOS App Store Ratings Change

Update: Apparently this is a temporary change, and Apple is playing with this. On iOS 7 currently it is showing the number of reviews for this version, and for apps with less than 5 reviews it is not showing any star rating at all. That is an interesting change as well. I have apps with hundreds of reviews that are showing as if they don't have any currently because of recent updates.

The app stores and any changes that happen on them are very important to me for obvious reasons. I make a living on them so I try to keep up with them. Yesterday I noticed a new change regarding how ratings display on the store. I don't know if Apple is testing a change, or if it is permanent, but currently there ratings are being displayed for all versions instead of for the current version.

Generally, when you are looking through search results, the star rating and the number of reviews is from the current version of the app. With a new update, the reviews would generally revert to total reviews until the app reached 5 reviews for the current version.

Currently, the store seems to be showing the rating and number of reviews for all versions no matter what. This is an interesting change for several reasons. First, if you accidentally release a version with a bug or a bad design decision, it is going to be really hard to overcome. Before you just had to fix your mistake and hopefully get some good reviews on the next update.

On the other hand, it created a scenario where developers were incentivized to not update their apps. If I have an app with a few hundred reviews rated 4.5 stars I don't want to update that. The difference between seeing 175 reviews next to your app and 5 next to it is huge. Starting over has an impact on sales and it can be rough.

Overall I think this is a good change. There should never be an incentive for devs to not update their apps and make them better.

Discuss on Hacker News

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sensor Tower Review (App Store Optimization)

Sensor Tower is an App Store Optimization platform that I use to help find the best keywords for my apps. Search has always been a huge part of app sales, but with the iOS 6 app store changes it is even more important. It is also significantly harder. Before, users got a page of apps with each search and it just took a good icon to stand out. Getting in the top 5 was enough to get you good visibility, and getting in the top 25 wasn't a terrible outcome.

Now, the search results only show 1 app at a time, and you have to swipe each time you want another app. I suspect people rarely get to 25 before making a decision now, and being 5th is much less exciting than it used to be.

There are a few things that you need to know when working with your keywords that Sensor Tower helps out with. You want to know how much traffic the keyword gets, how hard it is to rank for that keyword, and what your rank is for it.


This is a screenshot for some of the keywords for an app of mine (Walk Tracker). It lets me know which keywords have more traffic, and how hard they are to rank for. GPS and jogging get a lot of traffic but they have significantly more competition. Walk tracker is much easier to rank for, and because it is in my title I happen to rank pretty high for it.

Part of what this shows is that I need to work on some of my keywords and/or focus more on the long tail. I don't rank very highly for gps or fitness, but I'm #5 for "gps fitness tracker". You can use this tool to find keywords and phrases that get decent traffic but that are easier to rank for. Optimizing this is really key. I've had keyword changes in the past that meant huge spikes in revenue for me. Getting visibility on the store is huge.

If you are having trouble coming up with keywords, Sensor Tower also gives you the ability to spy on your competitors likely keywords as well as offer suggestions to optimize your keywords.

I'm not entirely convinced this service is something that you need to pay for forever for each app, but it is definitely something worthwhile to use when launching and updating your apps until you are happy with your keywords and doing well on the store. There is certainly value in tracking your rankings over time and comparing them to your revenue though.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why Your Smartwatch Sucks

I have been interested in the idea of so called smartwatches for awhile now. It seems like it is an interesting idea, though I'm still not sure if I'll ever get one. I was really interested to see what Samsung would release today with it's Galaxy Gear. Unfortunately, I am yet again disappointed.

The reason? It's not a smartwatch. It's a dumbwatch. It pretty much doesn't do anything unless it has a smartphone next to it. It's an external monitor for you phone. As if that isn't bad enough, it currently only works with 1 phone and a tablet.

I've heard suggestions that perhaps some features of a phone could be more convenient in watch form just as some things are more pleasant on phones and tablets than on desktops. It wasn't a replacement, rather a supplement. I could get behind that, but if it can't do anything on it's own, without the phone, it loses like 99.5% of it's appeal. If your phone or tablet had to be tethered to a laptop or desktop, it would be useless.

I'd think a huge part of the appeal of a smartwatch would be the fitness stuff. I know my wife doesn't really like using her phone because it is too big for running. She likes her Garmin watch better. If you have to take a 5.7 inch phone with you, what good is the watch? Sure there is a slight bonus to just putting a phone in your pocket instead of on your arm and using the watch to check stuff, but man it feels like this is missing the point.

I don't need an external monitor for my phone. Perhaps checking emails or texts on the watch might be ok, but I suspect the screen is going to be too small to really enjoy that. Replying is generally a pretty important part of texts and emails, and I'm certain I don't want to do that on a watch. The watch has to do something on it's own without the phone. If it doesn't, it's going to be a really hard sell for most people I think. I might be interested in your smartwatch. Good luck trying to sell me on your dumbwatch.

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dropbox Datastore API Review

I spent the last few weeks messing around with the new Dropbox Datastore API. Syncing data to the cloud is a big problem in the mobile app world with several solutions in varying price ranges and of varying levels of quality. I thought this problem would be solved by iCloud when it came out, but sadly it didn't work nearly as well as I'd hoped. Also, iCloud obviously has the problem of not being cross-platform. I haven't revisited it yet, but when it released it was not ready. I was sort of expecting the same from this new attempt.

There are other more specialized options such as Parse, but I found them to be a bit pricey for my tastes. The problem is that apps are almost universally 1 time pay, or even free. Every month you are going to be supporting more and more users, so your costs are going to go up over time. Your revenue may or may not be going up every month though. For it to go up, you have to get more new users this month.

All of this meant that when Dropbox released their Datastore API last month I was excited to try it. Given that it is free for the developer, (and free for users up to a point that easily includes most app needs) it is a very interesting option. I spent several days working it into an app I already have released. (Not ideal in any way, but it was the fastest way for me to test things out). Once I got things going, I was very happy with it.

Overall it was pretty simple to integrate, and in my testing so far it has worked really well. Everything is stored locally as well as in the cloud so it is fast, and it works offline as well. If you are offline, it syncs everything up next time you get online using predefined (by you) conflict resolution rules. If you are online, it gives you updates whenever something has changed elsewhere so you can update the UI.

So far everything has worked great, but the real test will be how things go out in the wild. The apps I put it in just got released, so time will tell. If you want to play around with it, you can check out my to do list app Lister 2. There is also a free version that will let you sync 1 list.

I've only played with the iOS version of Dropbox's Datastore API so far, but I'm hoping to test out the Android version at some point. I suspect it works just as well. If everything works well cross-platform, this will be a really great solution for many devs.

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My first 100K+ on the App Store(s)

Life on the App Store can be a roller coaster. There are definitely ups and downs. 2 years ago I decided to quit my job and start an app business. At the time, I had a few apps on the store, but almost no revenue. My plan was to make apps and freelance as things came my way. I haven't gone out of my way looking for freelance work, but I've had plenty of it. Working on my own products has been more fulfilling for the most part though. It's also less stressful.

Starting from ~0 I recently passed 100K in revenue from app sales and advertising. Actually it's been awhile now, but I've been busy and 100 is more of a nice round number than 117 or whatever it is now.  Anyways, it was a pretty cool milestone for me so I thought I'd share some of what I've learned over the past few years.

The biggest takeaway has been that having your own product is an interesting thing. When you are working for someone else, you get paid for the work you do in a given period of time. When you make your own product, you keep getting paid as long as people keep buying it from you. There are a few important points here:

1. If it is successful, you will make far more than you would on an hourly basis.
2. If it isn't successful, you will make almost nothing.
3. If it is successful, you will keep making money long after you are done with it.

The first 2 are mostly obvious, but that third point is really key. I've had several different freelance jobs fall into my lap recently, so I haven't done an update or made a new app since I think January or February of this year. Last week was my second highest week ever, and the last few months have been nice and steady.

All that being said, this business isn't something that you can autopilot forever. The last year taught me that. There were huge changes to the App Store that really hurt me last year. In June, Apple changed their search algorithm for the store, and then in September they changed the App Store interface with iOS 6. As you'll see in the following chart, these had a huge impact on my sales. I wasn't at the point where I was out looking for a job, but the thought crossed my mind.

(Note this figure only includes sales, not advertising revenue)

Things had been going steadily up with obvious spikes for different events until last June. The changes to the App Store had a big impact on me. I had to adjust. So I did. I added a few new apps in different categories than what I was in, hitting different audiences. I ported a few of my apps to Android. I added a winter app to help with the lull I was experiencing because many of my apps are more summer based. I added free versions of several apps. The free apps were the most important change. Because of the new store more heavily weighting downloads, free apps were getting much better placement. To compete, I had to make free versions to market my paid apps. 

This maintenance was thankfully successful. I released my Android and Windows ports around Christmas, and my free versions at the beginning of the year. This, combined with a bump from Christmas gift cards is where things turned around. Once things got straightened out, I haven't had to do much to keep the status quo for a few months. 

Moral of the story? You have to pay attention and understand how the business works. When things change, you have to adapt and change with them. Once you take care of that though, products can keep selling for a long period of time. My best selling app is something I made 2 years ago in about 2 weeks. I've made updates as needed, and spent a few days getting a free version out, but for the most part I haven't spent hardly any time on it. 


If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why Apple's Review Process is a Joke

This post is going to be a short and sweet rant. Just thought I'd warn you ahead of time. 

I've had plenty of apps rejected for various reasons. It happens, sometimes it even makes sense. Today's rejection though was one of the most frustrating I've ever had. I have a suite of apps for tracking GPS. It's basically the same app with different skin, description, and keywords tailored to different sports. This could be done with a single app, but people aren't looking for a multi-purpose tracking app. They are searching for a run tracking app, or a bike tracking app, etc. It makes sense to build what people are searching for.

I recently made the decision to add a free version to give people a chance to test out the apps. They don't include all of the features of the paid version as you might expect. When you click on a feature that isn't included it tells you that is only available in the paid version with a link to the app store. This has worked well for me on Android, and it has worked well on the first iPhone app I did this for. 

I submitted 1 of the free apps a few weeks ago. I wanted to make sure it didn't cannibalize sales of the paid version so I didn't submit them all at the same time. I expected an improvement, but you never know.  It was approved about a week later, and it started doing ok. Paid app sales went up as expected, so I went ahead and submitted 2 of the others. 

Rejected. 

This time the apps were rejected because they were too much like a trial app, with the rejection stemming from the fact that some of my settings (that activate the premium features) give an up-sell popup instead of activating the features.

Not only is this how almost all of my competing apps work, this app is identical except for artwork to my other app approved last week. LAST WEEK. Usually their standard line is that apps in the store don't matter to your case as their rules change over time. Changing rules isn't the problem. The problem is that the reviews are very subjective. Given a different reviewer on a different day the same app can get approved or rejected. This leads to huge amounts of frustration.

I'm ok with Apple wanting to make the quality of their app store better. Frankly speaking, the review process has made the quality of apps for iPhone better than for Android. Unfortunately, they still let in tons of apps that are junk, and they reject things for incredibly stupid reasons. Not allowing trials is stupid. Allowing trials, but rejecting them for telling the person a paid feature exists along with a link to said paid app, that's really dumb. Having the same app get approved and rejected depending on the reviewer, that's a system failure.

People will still develop for Apple as long as they keep making money. I'll still develop for Apple. That being said, they continue to push me farther and farther away. My next app will at the very least have Android on an equal footing, and some of my latest feature updates have been Android first. This is a problem for Apple. Not because I'm special and they'll miss me. They won't. But if all of the indies like me get fed up, then it will be a problem for Apple.

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.




Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Android App Sales Between 1% and 200% of iPhone Counterparts

I promised to do a comparison of my Android apps vs iPhone after they had been on the store for awhile so here goes. They've been on the store for a bit more than a month so I thought I'd give my initial impressions. It's too early to draw too many conclusions, but I'll be sure to keep everyone up to date as time goes by.

I'll start with the overall comparison. I ported 4 of my top apps and released them at the beginning of December. Since then, the 4 apps on Android have had 61.5% of the sales of their iPhone counterparts. I said I'd be happy if they did 50%, so that's not too bad. It doesn't come close to telling the whole story though. Pretty graph time!

First, here are the 4 apps sales on iPhone over the time period. Sales have been up and down for all of them, but fairly similar for the most part.


Here are the sales from Android. As you can see, almost 100% of the sales are from just 1 of the apps (98% to be exact).


The 1 Android app that did well actually outsold each of my similar iPhone apps over this period and I have been really happy with it. Unfortunately, everything else has been pretty much non-existent. The only difference is simply that this particular niche isn't as crowded as the others are so it was much easier to break in to.

Clearly the 61% of my iPhone sales don't do this story justice. 1 app is selling 200% of it's counterpart, and the others are selling about 1% of theirs. Now, this obviously isn't a completely fair comparison as these apps just got on the store while their iPhone counterparts have been there for a year and a half, but it makes an important point. The niche you pick matters. Competition matters. I still think over time I'm going to be able to grow these other apps, maybe even pass their iPhone counterparts, but it is clearly going to be much harder.

While I was working on my upcoming book this week I've been thinking a lot about picking app ideas. This really reinforces how important your niche selection is. These apps are very similar apps that simply target different areas. One area that was underserved was pretty easy to do well in. I spent $10 on a few admob ads (with questionable success as to total downloads) and within a few days of being on the market I was #2 for my top search term. I did the same for the other apps, but haven't seen anywhere close to the same traction.

The free version of the (somewhat) successful app has over 16k downloads while the other 3 combined are less than 1k. Do some research when you are picking your app idea. Competition is good. It means that people are willing to pay for this thing. Lots of competition on the other hand, not as good. You can still compete, but it's going to be much much harder.

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my newsletter. It's periodic emails (no more than 1-2 a month) on mobile app sales and the different markets. It will also let you be the first to know when my upcoming book launches.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Switched to Windows Phone 8 (HTC 8x) from iPhone 5 for a Week

I recently received a developer version of the HTC 8x running Windows Phone 8. I have the phone because I decided to port some of my more popular iPhone and Android apps to Windows Phone 8. (I talked a bit about my plans to diversify in my 2012 year in review). 

Since I had it, I decided to give it a real test. 1 week as my only phone. I got a nano-sim to micro-sim adapter and I put my iPhone 5 on a shelf. Here are my thoughts.

Hardware

The first thing I noticed is the slightly larger screen. It's 4.3 inches, and I think it's my personal limit. Some people like the really big phones, but I am not one of them. I really like the thinner width on the iPhone. That being said, I like the 4.3 size. It's not so big that I can't hold it comfortably, but it does provide a nice big screen for watching videos etc.

The second thing I notice is the plastic case and hardware buttons. I like the iPhone 5's aluminum case better, but this phone feels really good in my hand. It's shaped nicely and it works well without any sharp corners. I do not however like the hardware buttons. The sleep/power button is basically flush with the top and it takes more effort than I'd like to find and push it sometimes. The camera button on the side (which I generally think is a pretty good idea) tends to be much easier to find and push when I don't actually want to.

OS


Overall, I think the hardware is really nice, though not quite to the quality of an iPhone. The software is where the real differences are. I really like Windows Phone 8. I said a few years ago when it came out that I liked WP7 better than Android. This is still true with Windows Phone 8, more so now though. The live tile paradigm is better and more pleasant than the iOS icons and the Android widget + icon paradigms IMO. It's pretty slick and easy to use. The live tiles give it the advantage over iOS since it lacks widget functionality, and the simplicity gives it the advantage over Android for me.

Built in Apps


An very important part of a smartphone is the built in apps. These are generally some of the most important and most used apps that rarely have 3rd party alternatives at the same level. 

1. Phone App - This is something I wouldn't have noticed without actually switching to it as a phone for a week. The built in phone app isn't very good. There is no speed dial / favorites option, and that is something I use all the time. It has a recent calls section, and a button to get to contacts. Clicking on the contact there still doesn't call them. It brings up another contact specific screen, and from there you finally get to make a call. 3 clicks to make a call. On my iPhone it's 1. Not a complete deal breaker, but it was annoying for me. I spent an hour and built my own phone app that I like much better. 

2. Email - The email app is really nice, though it is missing a few features. Nothing huge, but for instance, it doesn't have an archive option for my gmail. I like to keep my inbox pretty clean, but I don't delete things. Again, not a deal breaker, just a minor annoyance that won't effect everyone. Overall it's a pretty slick app.

3. Maps - In my short tests, the maps had better data than my iPhone in searching, but the interface isn't as nice. Now that Google released their maps for iOS, the iPhone wins here. That being said, they aren't bad at all.

4. Camera - Seems to be pretty decent. Not as good as the iPhone 5, but not really a big deal for me. I hear the new Lumia 920 has a great camera though.

Third Party Apps


The app store is a bit barren compared to iPhone and Android. As a dev that is what attracted me. Even if there are a lot less phones out there, it's much easier to get seen. If Windows Phone 8 does happen to take off, the early devs that are already here will be in great shape. That being said, the store is by no means empty. It has most apps that you are likely to want, it just doesn't have 500 of them like the other stores. It has 10-50 of them. I decided to go through my iPhone and look at the apps I really use on a regular basis. It's a much smaller number than the total number of apps on my phone.

Email - see above

Hacker News Reader - my own app, so nobody to blame but me if it's not there, but there are good alternatives.

Safari - IE seems to be mostly fine. I had no issues.

Bike Ride Tracker - A few that I recognize from iOS, though far less options. This is another of my apps that I use, and I just submitted my Windows 8 port yesterday.

Maps - see above

CNBC - No app. This is very sad. I did find a pretty decent portfolio app, but i really like CNBC'siOS app for the breaking news push alerts. 

Camera - see above 

To Do List - I use my app on iOS, but there are decent alternatives here. Again, just not a lot of them.

ESPN - They have an app, and it seems to be pretty good 

Pandora - No official app, but there is a third party app that works well. Brings up an interesting point, the speakers are really nice. 

Amazon - They have a good app

Weather - weather channel app is good

Flashlight - built in, works fine. It's amazing how often I end up using the flashlight apps on my phone. Really useful.

Glassboard - Sadly no app and no plans to build one.

Find My Friends - I actually end up using this app a decent amount. My family and closest friends all have iPhones so this is sadly missed. I didn't actually check to see if there is a Windows equivalent, but it doesn't matter if everyone else is using an iPhone.

That is pretty much the extent of my app usage on a regular basis. The Windows 8 store has great replacements for all but 3. 

Conclusion


I really like Windows Phone 8 and the HTC 8x. I think I like it better than Android, though I don't have a comparably new Android phone to test with. I'm just going off my short time spent playing with friends phones and the old Droid I use to test with. If anyone from Google wants to send me a Nexus 4 I'd be happy to try that for a week and report back (clarky07[AT]gmail[DOT]com - I could always use a new test device). 

In the end, I've switched back to my iPhone 5. I like a few things about it just a bit better. I like the hardware and the form factor slightly better, a few of the built in apps are just a bit better, and Windows was missing a couple of apps. That being said, I didn't really miss the iPhone 5 much while I was testing this device. It is really good, and for most people it should be given serious consideration when looking at new phones. It wasn't "better" than the iPhone 5 for me, but it could be for some people, and it's definitely not too far behind.

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my newsletter. It's periodic emails (no more than 1-2 a month) on mobile app sales and the different markets.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Impact of iPhone 4S on App Sales

Last Friday Apple released their newest phone, the iPhone 4S. It seems to be a huge initial success, selling over 4 million devices the first weekend. As a developer, this is very welcome news.  The following chart  shows my daily profits since the beginning of May. That was when I quit my job to start my app business full time.



Starting from a very low base, things have been growing steadily over time as I've released a few new apps and continued to improve and update my initial apps. That is encouraging to me, but not really the point of this post. The spike at the beginning of July was from the release of Ez Budget for iPad and a review from TiPb on it.

The things to note in that graph are the general overall decline of sales in September and subsequent peak over the last week. In their conference call, Apple noted that sales of the iPhone at the end of the quarter were much slower due to rumors of the new phone. This seems to fit very well with the above data, as well as anecdotal evidence from quite a few other devs I've talked to.

The recent peak is just slightly higher than the peak in July, and it isn't based on having a new app in the new release list. That is very encouraging to me as a dev. While I expect the last few days to continue to be a "peak" at least in the short term, I think the new normal will be well above the old levels. I hope/expect to continue the upward trend that was broken at the beginning of September as I continue to improve my apps, and now thankfully as Apple has gotten back to selling a lot of iPhones.

Another thing this chart tells me is that I need to get some apps out for Android as well. The trough from lower iPhone sales probably would have been filled by sales of Android phones during that time period. I am currently working on an Android version of my budgeting app, so once that comes out I'll be sure to do a comparison post.

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my newsletter. It's periodic emails (no more than 1-2 a month) on mobile app sales and the different markets.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My First Year On My Own In Review (2012)

I quit my previous job in the middle of 2011 so 2012 was my first full year on my own. Overall it was a great year both personally and professionally, but that doesn't mean that nothing went wrong. Changes are coming for 2013.

Income Report

iOS - $54,042.95
Mac - $4,917.91
iAd - $577.66
Android (Google Play) - $505.81
Android (Amazon) -  $39.20
Revmob - $690.28
Admob - $91.89
Windows 8 - $8.40 

Note: Android and Windows 8 apps were just released in December, Windows only 1 app for 2 days.

Total App Sales - $60874.10

Consulting / Freelance - $6,000

Total Revenue - $66874.10

App Sales Overview

My goal for the year was to exceed my previous salary which I was able to do. Early in the year I had hopes of getting a bit higher than I ended up, but Apple's App Store search changes in the middle of the year set that back a bit. The changes forced me to rethink my monetization strategy for a few apps. They also reminded me that diversification is a very good idea.

I still think iOS is a huge opportunity, but it is a much more difficult environment than it was just a few years ago. I'll be writing a lot more on it in the next few months as well as some things for my newsletter if you are interested. 

The changing environment was part of what finally pushed me over the edge to start developing for Android and Windows 8. It's not that I think they are a better place to make money right now, it simply reminded me how important diversification is. I'd never put all of my money in a single investment. It's silly to put all of your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for developers. When you are relying on a third party platform you never know what can happen. It just makes sense to spread the risk.

So the last part of this year I started working towards diversifying my income streams. I released ports of a few of my apps on Android at the beginning of December. I released 1 app for Windows 8 just a few days ago. I also diversified a bit on iOS by releasing a free app focused on ads and IAP due to some of the recent changes.

Consulting / Freelance Overview

This number was a bit lower than I initially expected this year, but that was entirely of my choosing. I simply got sick of bad clients, and stopped taking any work at all. 1 small job at the beginning of the year just annoyed me so badly I decided to take a break. I was making enough off of app sales that I decided to focus completely on that side of the business and lower the number of headaches I had to deal with.

This year, I've decided to dip my toe back in the consulting waters, but I'm going to be much more picky than I have been in the past about picking clients. I suspect I will make more money consulting this year than I did last, and I'll have fewer headaches. 

What Went Right

As noted above, my goal was to hit my previous salary. I did that, so I can't complain too much. I had an app (Debt Snowball+) get to #2 in it's category (Finance) and all the way to #125 in the whole App Store. That was much higher than I expected was possible for this particular app, so that was a great experience. 

I'm also pretty happy with my start on Android. It's my first real test of the waters and to have 1 app make > $500 in 3 weeks I'm pretty happy with it. I've released a few others that haven't done as well yet, but they are out of season so I'm holding judgement for a bit.

What Went Wrong

I realized how important diversification is firsthand. I really should have moved my apps to Android much sooner. Apple's search changes along with the new iOS 6 App Store caught me a bit off guard. I'm still feeling pretty good about where things are now, but if was making as much on Android as I am on iOS these sudden changes wouldn't be so stressful. 

Figuring out what changed and dealing with those changes is not an easy task. I know a lot of devs who have just given up. Thankfully I have been able to adjust better than some, but it can still be frustrating. If my income hadn't been so dependent on iOS the last few months would have been less stressful. That is something I hope to change in 2013

Going Forward in 2013

I've got a lot of things planned for 2013 to help with the problems I faced this year. I'm going to diversify quite a bit more. I have plans for different types of iOS apps, different platforms such as Android, Windows Phone 8, and probably at least one desktop Windows 8 app. If I have the time, I do plan on doing a bit more consulting this year, and I've been toying with the idea of a SaaS app. Finally, I've started working on my first book and I hope to release that in the next month or two. It's going to be a really busy year, but I'm looking forward to it. 

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.

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