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Convert, $150,000, and traditional vs hit-driven iphone apps

September 15th, 2009 Jeremy Jeremy

tap tap tap ~ Convert first month sales
Tap Tap Tap has posted the sales of Convert for its first month: a little nigh of $150k.

Along with the sales, they posted a note about traditional vs hit-driven iPhone apps. It is a very worthwhile read for any iPhone developer.

Essentially, the guys at Tap Tap Tap feel that the notion of an app being a failure if it doesn’t reach the top 100 is a farce. They recommend that developers choose and solidly commit to either the traditional route (of selling a quality app for > $5 with a fewer sales) or the hit-driven route (crazy-awesome design, marketing blitz, top 100), both of which could be a sustainable businesses.

Hit-driven success

Tap Tap Tap have chosen the hit-driven route, and have mastered it. Where To, Classics, and now Convert. But in order to win the hit-driven game, a lot of up front work is required: a great idea, an appealing design and attention to detail, pre-launch marketing—its a lot of work. It pays off in the first few weeks as your app gets in the top 100. Tap Tap Tap seem to have it down to a science.

Traditional Success

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The other route can also be profitable. Tap Tap Tap points to Omnifocus, which sells for $20 (yeah, thats not a typo) and has made over a million dollars doing it. This route also isn’t easy. Hard work to build a quality app and sustainable marketing to drive continual sales.

Developers compromise. Developers lose.

The problem is compromise. Developers try to find the middle ground. They want it both ways.

So it looks like we’ve got two choices if we want to succeed in the app store:

1. Am I going to put a lot of up-front time and money into building a delightful app with mass appeal, spend more time and money on building buzz, and then spend even more time and money for a marketing blitz on launch? I am risking a lot up front because I’m betting the app will get on the top 100 (and it better because I’m only selling it for a few bucks, at most).

2. Am I going to make a long term investment in building and updating a quality app that will sell for >$5, for which I will continually invest in marketing and updates.

I can think of successful apps that don’t neatly fit in either of these categories but I think, as a general rule, we developers need to stop complaining and stop compromising and learn from developers like Tap Tap Tap and the OmniGroup to choose one of these two paths and master it.

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