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Posts from the ‘Pocket Sounds’ Category

19
May

We Sound Funny…

Just a quick blog post to let you know two quick items of news:

  • Version 1.4 of Pocket Weather AU was submitted to Apple last week, so it should hopefully be approved any day now. Highlights include extended regional forecasts, a new high visibility skin and a configuration option for the wind direction. That last one should final end the religious debate between the into the wind and away from the wind people.
  • We were interviewed on the Mactalk Interviews podcast, which you can find here (if you really want to hear how bad we sound in real life): http://forums.mactalk.com.au/40/64628-mactalk-interviews-interview-7-phil-russell-pocket-weather.html.
5
May

Every Trilogy Needs A Bad Ending

In the last two posts, we’ve told you all about who designs our graphics and ruby magic. There is of course a third part being the iPhone Application itself. That’s where Russell Ivanovic comes in. Russell loves many things (like writing in the third person about himself and gratuitous use of brackets), but chief among them is building iPhone applications. The literary types among you will have to excuse him, because he’s about to go from the third to the first person, all while breaking the fourth-wall that separates yourselves from him.

Let’s start with a history lesson. When the iPhone first came out I, like many mac geeks around the world, watched the video stream with a childlike sense of wonder. I had dismissed all the rumours of an Apple phone as wishful thinking by the Cult of Mac, rather than anything to do with a real product. Then Steve got on stage and did his stuff, and introduced us all to a new phone a new iPod and a groundbreaking internet device. Needless to say I had to have one. Only a few months later I got my very own iPhone, courtesy of the wonderful people who invented forwarding addresses, and the nice people at FedEx. Then in June of the next year the iPhone SDK was announced, I was excited, but too busy to do anything about it. I like many people I signed up, downloaded the SDK, ran a sample app and then never opened Xcode again.

Fast forward to later that month, I was playing indoor soccer when someone kicked me really hard in the calf. As I turned around to give them a piece of mind, I realised that no one was there. Being the genius that I am, it took me a few hours to realise that I had actually snapped my achilles tendon (don’t try this at home kids). A few days later I had surgery and was told I wouldn’t be able to walk for two months! After a few weeks of sick leave, my work shipped out my iMac and all my other equipment and I started working from home. As I soon discovered without the distraction of meetings, coworkers and walking I was working a lot faster from home than I normally would from work. I also spent a lot of time waiting for people to respond to critical emails before I could do anything productive. This left me with a lot of downtime. Long story short, I started investing an hour or so a day of this downtime into Objective-C and the iPhone SDK.

At first it was incredibly confusing, I know a lot of people think that Objective-C and Xcode are the bees-knees of development, the same people I suspect who think that the Mighty Mouse is a good two button mouse. I work mainly with Java (and a bit of Javascript & Ruby) and to have to go back to memory management, header files and good ol’ unexplained application crashes was like trading in my 2000 model Mitsubishi for a Model T Ford. Let’s be frank, Xcode doesn’t hold a candle to IDEs like Netbeans and Eclipse. The result of all this painful learning and head banging was Pocket Sounds. The initial idea was to try and make back the $AUD120 that I had to pay Apple for becoming a registered developer as well as to figure out how the whole App Store worked. This was back in August of 2008, when the App Store was only a thousand or so applications and no one was really publishing stories of becoming instant millionaires from their basement. The result was astonishing…in the end over $1500 of money came back my way. Remembering that there was no expectation of even making my money back (let alone the time involved) this blew me away.

Giddy from all my success I began planning Pocket Weather AU, recruiting Nathan & Philip on the way. The rest as they say, is history.

To summarise our little trilogy of posts:

  • Shifty Jelly is made up of 3 people, each with complimentary and awesome skills in all the areas required for a good application (design – Nathan, back end – Phil, front end – Russell).
  • We work for love, not money (though to be fair my wife loves her new kitchen, which was payed for by money, ironic, I know)
  • As a general rule, no we won’t build your World Changing Application unless you are realistic about what these things cost, and are willing to wait the amount of time required for us to build it. Even then 99 times out of 100 we’ll still knock you back (see the above point). We certainly won’t share your revenue any more than we’ll share your risk.
  • Buy Pocket Weather AU so that my wife stays happy, no really I mean it, I need to do the floors in my house next, and at the current level of sales that’s going to take a while ;)
1
Jan

There’s a hole in my app store

Firstly, happy new year! Ok now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want to quickly cover 2 things: why you’re all cheapskates, and how much I loathe working with Apple.

Let’s start with Apple first, on the 21st we decided to halve the price on Pocket Weather AU and to temporarily make Pocket Sounds free of charge. I could complain that those changes took a full day to filter through the app store, but I won’t. I could also complain about their comical review process, incredibly slow response times, and bizarre treatment of developers, but I won’t do that either. What I will complain about is this: I came back from our holidays, all ready to change the prices back to how things had been, only to find the App Store broken. Rankings have been stuck in place for days on end, and other people (like our main competitor Graham) are reporting that making changes to your application can result in it not being available for sale, for an arbitrary amount of time (a few days in his case). So for now the prices are going to remain where they are, until we’re sure that Apple has sorted out this mess.

This leads me quite nicely onto my next point, being that you’re all cheapskates. Yes you, I’m looking at you. Pocket Weather sales doubled, then tripled since we dropped the price. Now I realise some of that has to be all those shiny new xmas iPhones (which some of you naughty types must have either unwrapped before xmas, or just been buying apps in anticipation), but partly I’m fairly certain it’s just that $2.49 is a barrier in some peoples heads that they just don’t want to cross. Some people would happily pay $5 or $10 for our application, and I personally think it’s easily worth $5. I’m almost certain that had we charged $5 though, we would have seen perhaps only a tenth of the sales that we’ve had to date. A cup of coffee these days costs over $3 in most cases, which you enjoy for a moment before never, ever seeing it again (obvious toilet jokes aside). An application like Pocket Weather AU, you could use for a few years, enjoying free upgrades and extra functionality as the months roll by. Yet the app store has created an expectation that all apps should be cheap, if not free. A lot of app developers are all complaining about this too, so I’m not going to go on about it (I have for those interested, already layed the smack down on a poor mactalk forum user who suggested our application should be free).

The other curious (though perhaps not unexpected thing) is how much Pocket Sounds sales increased once it became free. It went from about 10 downloads a day, to over 3000. I guess what that speaks to more than anything else is that Apple should really provide a way to trial applications before buying them, because people are trying Pocket Sounds in droves, and only because it’s free of charge. I can’t say I blame them, I too only buy apps that I’m 100% sure I want, and pass on a whole range of apps that could be quite good, but that I don’t want to buy without trying. In a world where you could try any application for perhaps a day or two, I think both Apple and the Development Community would make a whole lot more money.

Finally I am both heartened and disappointed to see Oz Weather lingering in the top 10 list in iTunes. I will console myself with the fact that to date, it has never made #1 (like we did for 2 and a bit weeks *gloat* *gloat*), but I can see from Graham’s sales figures that he is catching up to our overall number at a fairly fast pace. As such I graciously retract my comments about being in the App Store second is akin to losing, since clearly all it means is that it will take you longer to make the same amount of sales as the first app did.

Russell

p.s. I have abandoned all hope that Phil (who wrote all the server code) and Nathan (who did all our design) will ever post on here, so it’s just me, myself and I you’ll have to put up with.

p.p.s. We are about to start ramping up on version 1.3 of Pocket Weather, which will feature some truly awesome interface changes, and tidal information.

22
Dec

On the 1st Day of Xmas

On the first day of christmas the Shifty Jelly Team gave to me, 2 discounted apps!

Until midnight on the 27th of December, Pocket Sounds is free, and Pocket Weather AU is $1.19. If you’ve held off buying either of them because of their enormous cost, or you know someone who should have one of those, grab them now! We have some big things planned for release 1.3 (tidal information, and some awesome UI changes) of Pocket Weather, which will be a free upgrade to anyone who has already bought it, including at the new discounted price.

All the best to all of you over the holiday period, have a safe, happy holidays :)

18
Nov

Shifty Economics

Graham, our main ‘competitor’ in the BOM weather space here in Australia has made public his figures for the last 2 weeks:

http://ajnaware.wordpress.com/2008/11/16/oz-weather-apponomics/

We don’t really consider him to be in direct competition with us, but not for the reasons you think. You see we mainly treat this as a hobby, and have already been overwhelmed by the amount of people that have thought our app worth paying $2.50 for. We thank you, as does Apple and the Australian Government, who have each kindly taken a chunk. My wife thanks you too, as she is finally getting the new kitchen she has always wanted (partly funded with your generosity). Graham has broken down the economics of this quite well, so there’s no need for us to explain it again ($2.50 == $1.58).

On to the point though, Graham posted a graph with full figures, which got me down a bit. You see we outsold him quite heavily, which the competitive side of me is very proud of. The more rational part of me is sad though, because like I said we do this as a hobby, and it is no fun to find out that coming second to market, with a very good app, means not getting anywhere near the sales of the first application that comes out. Especially since we plan to release a few applications that are already in the store, but do things better than the current crop of apps out there. Traditional sales people will tell you that there are three key factors to success: be the first, be the best, or be the cheapest. Our small sample set of 2 hasn’t really tested this theory, but my feeling is that in the app store you either have to be first, or just be lucky enough to get noticed, and propelled into the top 25.

One interesting thing to note, is that we are currently sitting at #25, while Graham’s app is at around #8. This is because iTunes top 50 stats are just like the music top 50 charts, in that it changes every day and it’s by recent purchases, not overall purchases. The downside of this process is that even the greatest of songs can never stay at #1, and the same is true of applications on the iTunes Store.

Finally, even though we are not as open as Graham (in that we don’t ever intend to post sales figures), we thought for interests sake we’d post the trend graph of the last two months or so worth of sales. What’s of interest is the way sales dip as the market gets saturated…slowly trended down. The app store is not all beer and skittles is all we’re saying. Pocket Weather is in red and Pocket Sounds in blue. The spike in Pocket Sounds sales was from when we updated the application icon, and it jumped to the top of the ‘Entertainment’ category for a short while.

graph

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