This year I flew to San Francisco for WWDC a few days early just to find my feet and have a bit more time to see the city. One of the things I really wanted to do was go down to Baker Beach and get some photos of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, which I managed to do as you can see from the photo above. It was a magical sight, though it’s pretty tricky getting down there.
As you no doubt know already, the keynote that Steve Jobs delivered on Monday was an incredibly ambitious one for Apple. iOS 5 and iCloud bring with them a huge set of new, incredibly useful developer APIs and tools to work with. It also means that we have a lot more work on our hands, reworking and rethinking our current projects and already shipping projects.
For me, one of the best things about WWDC is meeting so many great developers and designers. If you’ve been following my Twitter stream you’ve seen just some of them. When I get back home I’d like to collate them all and do a blog post listing them all, so I can share the experience of meeting them with you.
This year it’s been a bit different to 2010 because Nick – the other half of Glasshouse Apps – didn’t make it since his wife is due to launch v3.0 of his offspring any time now. But there’s a great bunch of Aussies like Marc Edwards, his wife Nadja and Sean Woodhouse who don’t seem to mind putting up with me.
That’s it from me for now – the beer bash is on tonight and I think I might head back to Blue Bottle to keep the caffeine levels in check and maybe even meet some more cool WWDC nerds before they start dispersing all over the globe tomorrow afternoon.
PS. “Cool nerds” – you can laugh but it’s true! (especially in San Francisco)
Just when you think you know a thing or two about the App Store, something like this happens.
We’ve been working on a pretty big iOS project for the last few months and haven’t been paying too much attention to sales figures. So when I logged in to iTunes Connect the other day and saw that our nifty iPhone app Gift Plan had reached an all-time low of 15 sales in a day, worldwide, I thought maybe we should try shaking things up a little. What did we have to lose?
So we decided to do two things we’ve never done before:
- Trial a new regular price of 99c, and…
- Make it free for 24 hours to hopefully give the price change a bit of attention.
The entire extent of my marketing plan for this little experiment was posting this tweet. Amazingly it was retweeted by about 60 people, (thanks to TiPB, Mac Stories and Desktop Magazine for being among them). Then Cult of Mac wrote a nice review, and as far as I know that was about it.
So anyway, I wake up this morning and reach for my iPhone to check the figures out. I’m glad I was still in bed or I would have fallen over. In 24 hours, Gift Plan went from 15 downloads in a single day, to 55,290. That’s right, read it again if you have to – I did.
But that was just the first shock. The USA App Store only accounted for a little over 5,000 downloads. It was France which drove the numbers through the stratosphere, with over 38,000 downloads on the French App Store. I wish I’d been able to see it yesterday, but I found out through an app ranking website that Gift Plan was the top free app in France yesterday, even beating the untouchable Angry Birds.
So… What have I learned?
- Firstly, I knew this already, but I’ve been reminded how immensely different the free app market is, compared to paid – even at a measly 99c.
- Secondly, I simply had no idea that the French App Store was so strong. We will definitely be thinking more seriously about localisations from here on.
- Thirdly, even really good apps can sell poorly if no one knows about them. Obviously I’m just a tad biased, but I really like Gift Plan and I think it deserves to sell well for all of the finesse we’ve put into it. But these days, standing out from the other 300,000+ apps is a very tough gig.
- Fourthly, I’m more confused than ever about charting well on the App Store. If I ever tell you that I’ve got it figured out, you’re welcome to punch me in the face.
Secrets. Does anyone really like secrets? My guess is that most people don’t. If information is power, then I guess the reason we hate having it kept from us is that it takes some of that power away.
And here’s something else we don’t like: Waiting for stuff. Really, who likes waiting? (if you do actually like waiting, go call your telco or bank and enjoy the hold music).
So nobody likes secrets, and nobody likes waiting.
App Store customers are no different. They love apps, and like to have information from developers. The trouble is that software development doesn’t always go according to plan, and plans can change at any time. In fact it’s pretty rare for software plans to stay on schedule.
So the dilemma is ‘How much is too much information?’. Customers often ask us for information about our plans for new features, updates, platform ports or entirely new apps. On the one hand we’d love to answer all of these questions. Why hold back from people if there could be helpful information to share? But all too often when developers announce plans, somehow they turn into promises and if they fall behind schedule, all hell can break loose.
So what’s the answer? Should developers announce their plans out of respect for customers and take it on the chin if things backfire? Or keep everything a secret and risk alienating customers by never giving anything away?
Apple have famously taken the secretive approach. Some say to their discredit but the fact is that keeping new products and features under wraps until the end of their development cycle has been a huge factor in Apple’s success.
To be honest, we’re not 100% sure where indie app developers like ourselves should stand, but we’ve decided to stay closer to the secretive end of the scale. We’re happy to discuss bug fixes and performance issues, but as far as new features and products, we’re going to remain tight-lipped (as the saying goes, it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver). But we want our customers to know that we don’t enjoy being secretive. It’s a very hard and quite unnatural thing to be.
What I will say is that we are really excited about the year ahead, and when the time comes I hope you’ll decide that the secrets we’re keeping now were well worth the wait.
It’s been a long time coming but our new iOS app has been approved just in time to help you out with your Christmas shopping. And after Christmas? Well it’s got you covered there too. Gift Plan presents a whole new way of remembering and managing birthdays, anniversaries and any other gift-giving occasion you can think of.
Take a look at the demo video and let us know what you think!
[UPDATE: The sale is now over. Thanks to everyone who picked up a copy while it was going cheap. We hope you're enjoying the app!]
To celebrate the release of version 1.3 we’re cutting the purchase price of The Early Edition by 80%! If you already own it, now’s the time to tell your friends because the price will return to normal on Monday.
Click here to get it from the App Store.
We’ve introduced some great new features in version 1.3 including more multi-touch gestures, feed backup and plenty of sharing options. See a demo of what’s new here.