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Archive for the ‘App Store’ Category

Hours is here – get it for 50% off

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

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This is surreal. It has been three years since we thought of Hours. Today our baby has finally gone out into the wild and wonderful world of the App Store.

Snag it during the 50% off launch sale: App Store link

Also be sure to check out the snazzy website.

I couldn’t be more proud of the team. Huge thanks to everyone for your support along the way!

If you want to make me really happy, write a review and about it. We’ve never done a premium app so it will be interesting to watch.

Yep, paid apps are dead

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Marco Arment recently wrote what most people with top apps were thinking and what David Barnard predicted over a year ago: “Paid-up-front iOS apps had a great run, but it’s over.”

Besides being an app maker, I am a hopeless optimist. Given that my very, very favorite business model happens to be selling my wares for a simple price, it took some really hard evidence for me to come to the same unfortunate conclusion.

The new reality

I have been talking to a lot of the most successful app makers out there — who many would assume are millionaires off their top apps — and I’m hearing the same thing again and again: people just aren’t buying as many apps anymore.

By piecing together a few anecdotes I have heard, the top ten best-selling apps are selling roughly 25% as many copies as they did a year ago. If a #5 app sold 16,000 copies a day a year ago, #5 might only sell 4000 copies a day today. Now, that may still sound like a lot but apps are lucky to be #5 for a few days before dropping back into the abyss of obscurity. I’m not saying those statistics are by any means exact or even accurate but this is the kind of scale we are talking about. It is pretty drastic.

The volume just isn’t there anymore for paid apps. Premium apps that can sell for $5-$20 can probably continue to do well but the days of hit-based $0.99 apps are very much over.

Please convince me otherwise. I would really like to believe what I am saying is not true.

The way forward

Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means the appocalypse™. People are downloading more apps than ever before and there are still incredible opportunities. Developers who can adapt have an extremely bright future! The question is, how are indie developers going to not only survive, but thrive in this changing environment?

Sure, Apple could allow for trial versions but…

  1. Without trials in the actual marketplace, it is very difficult to predict if or how much free trials would actually affect sales.
  2. More importantly, Apple is unlikely to do it any time soon.

In-app-purchases for non-games have been used with some success by some of my App Store buddies. It is definitely worth exploring. David Barnard tweeted the four main factors that work together in a good IAP strategy:

  1. Massive download numbers
  2. High conversion rates
  3. High prices
  4. Reccurring revenue

He says “You’ve got to get the blend just right to make good money. High conversion rates don’t matter if downloads and prices are low. A niche app that only gets a few hundred downloads a day needs really high conversion rates, high prices, and/or reoccurring revenue.”

Then he posted a screenshot of sales for two of his apps…


Mirror makes 50x more than Timer in a day, showing the crazy amount of variance with the IAP model. Grades 2 had nearly half a million downloads and, though we didn’t do too much to increase our price or conversion rates, it made a laughable amount of money for a reasonably well known, Apple Design Award winning app. The IAP equation is just really difficult for niche apps, though some developers have pulled it off through remarkably high conversion rates and prices.

As a general rule: with IAPs, go big or go home.

Getting a little more radical…

IAPs are great but I am not sure they are the ultimate answer, at least not for my company.

My thinking has changed quite a bit over the past few months and here is what I have come up with: we need to stop making apps and start making businesses.

What on earth does that mean? It basically means that the simplistic business models aren’t working any more and we might need to think bigger and more creatively about how our apps generate revenue. It means we might need to start thinking about business models that go beyond charging users for the app.


Hours is a perfect example. The old thinking goes like this: sell Hours for a few bucks, try to have a big launch. Rinse and repeat for updates. Since we’ve learned some things about launching great apps, we can probably do fairly well with this model and make, say, $100k.

That would be considered a successful app. But $100k isn’t enough to support a business like Tapity. It’s not nearly enough.

But what if we think bigger? Yes, release the app and sell a lot of copies but don’t stop there. Use that to prove to big companies that Hours is the absolute best time-tracker out there, hook into the back-ends that those companies use, and sell it to them at the corporate level for big bucks. Build some web and Mac integration. Maybe even hire a small salesforce. Make it a company.

Yeah, it’s going to be hard but that may be what it takes to stay in the game for the long term.

A lot of apps don’t have the potential to be bigger businesses. I don’t think I can afford to be interested in those ideas any more, at least not until we can get the cash cow apps figured out first.

The App Store is what it is and I intend to make the best of it. I think there is a certain stigma in the indie app community for thinking bigger. We need to get over that. I’m actually really excited because I believe thinking bigger will let me continue doing the work that I love and maybe even make a couple bucks along the way.

To finish, I’ll leave you with a quote from David Barnard’s forward thinking article on the same topic:

“The future of sustainable app development is to give away as much value as possible and empower those who receive more value to pay more for it.”

Jeremy Olson

Jack of all trades, master of some

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Image by Matthew Stumphy,

Nathan Barry, author of The App Design Handbook, recently wrote a great post about his professional journey to master not just design but development and marketing too.

A common critique of that approach is the age-old aphorism:

“Jack of all trades, master of none.”

What sounds like a truism is actually an excuse for not taking the initiative to learn things outside your comfort zone. In fact, some of biggest names in our industry are the tinkerers, the curious ones.

loren_brichterJust look at Loren Brichter, maker of Tweetie and Letterpress. This guy is an amazing designer but he also is a fantastic developer with a knack for marketing. In a recent interview he described his prototyping process as thinking, then coding. He doesn’t wireframe things out on paper. While I personally prefer to prototype with paper and Photoshop, Loren’s obviously got a good thing going, a process that would be impossible had he not learned to code.

Check out more examples on Mike Rundle’s blog.

Why are these people so successful? I think the various disciplines inform one another. They force you to think in different dimensions. They also make you a great product person because you understand the nuances of what it takes to build successful software from beginning to end, even if you don’t always execute each step of the process yourself.

The main danger is spreading yourself too thin, too fast. It’s always good to master something and make sure you are always on top of your game. Thats why I am a designer who also happens to code and market. I spend most of my time designing and staying current in the design world, but I also spend some time every week on marketing and sometimes coding. It’s really fun to switch between different sides of your brain and takes a lot of the tedium out of work. I think it’s also great to have hobbies beyond technology because I’m a strong believer in Steve Job’s emphasis on the intersection of technology and liberal arts.

I’m not saying this is for everyone. I think some of the best designers and programmers in the world are extremely focused on one discipline. But I think exploring unfamiliar disciplines can be a ton of fun and help you think differently. I also don’t think it’s as hard as people think. I’ve learned enough about design, development, and business to release a couple pretty successful apps and I’m only 22 — it doesn’t take decades to master this stuff.

These skills can be learned and mastered so why not be curious and take a few hours a week to learn them? I think it’s time for a new aphorism: Jack of all trades, master of some.

Best of 2012!

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Best of 2012

We are super honored that Apple included Languages in the App Store Best of 2012 list in the “Intuitive Touch” category. We always strive to create innovative apps that delight users so we are stoked that Apple chose Languages as one of the most cutting-edge apps of the year, alongside inspirational apps like Clear.

Congrats to all the other winners!

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 11.26.57 AM

A brief update on Languages

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Now that Languages has been out for a bit I thought I would post a brief update.

Editors Choice

The launch was, in a word, unbelievable. Apple chose our little app as Editors Choice — the best possible feature — in many countries, and New & Noteworthy in most others.


We finally accomplished my lifetime goal of beating Angry Birds in the top-charts (if only for a time!) The app peaked as the #1 app in the entire App Store in some countries like France, and #5 overall in the US.

For a tiny company like ours, that is a pretty ridiculous feeling.

Sales? We’re not talking about sales publicly but I can tell you that sales in the top ten are quite nice and we are happy about where we have settled down after the initial buzz ended. Indies can definitely thrive on the App Store and this whole experience has given me a ton of hope for the future.

We definitely have big plans for Languages and also have a bunch of other apps in the pipeline. As always, I look forward to sharing everything we are learning along the way. I am currently writing a lengthy case study on Languages for Smashing Magazine so you can look forward to more details soon.

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