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January 1, 2009

There’s a hole in my app store

by shiftyjelly

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.


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.

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