Monday, January 26, 2015

Sci-fi geekery

I've never seen it taken advantage of in any of the Sci-fi books I've read or TV shows or movies I've seen...

With faster than light travel, combined with adequate sensors or telescopes, nothing that happens in public--ever--is private or a mystery.

Want to see what happened during that battle 2 days ago?  Fly your ship 2 light-days away, turn around and with a telescope you can simply watch it happen in real time.

I suppose that does cut through all the discover-what-happened mystery plot devices and is why it's not used in Star Trek, etc.  But still could be a cool bit for a book :)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Long tail of rotten apps

While there are some I'm still working on, we have a bunch of dead apps.  Things that haven't been updated in years, and no plans to ever do more.  (With the new day job, even the actively developed ones get changes and updates much more slowly.)

We started the TopAppCharts.com website back in July 2009.  It doesn't have every app, but has all those that got into any of the US top 200 lists for any category since then.  The database says there are over 410,000 apps.  That's an interesting stat right there, there's way over a million apps, so well over half of the apps released never got into any US top list and were likely dead on arrival.


Apple's App Lookup does not include the "last updated" date, and I wanted to use Apple's public APIs and not scrape the iTunes site, so I had to look at the list of supported devices.   Any app that was compiled to support a newer iOS and take advantage of its new features (like those new-fangled Retina screens back in 2010) would lose support for older devices, which gives a rough idea of when the app last had any updates.

Original iPhone support ended with the release of iOS 4; June 2010
iPhone 3G support ended with the release of iOS 5; October 2011
iPhone 3GS support ended with the release of iOS 7; September 2013 (iOS7 required for submission Feb 2014)
iPhone 4 support ended with the release of iOS 8; September 2014

I can't find dates for some older things, when iOS 4/5/6 support was required for submission.


Stats

38,362 or 9% of the apps we know about still support the original iPhone, so haven't been updated since around 2010 and wouldn't support Retina screens.

20,320 or 4% still support the iPhone3G, so haven't been updated since 2011.

137,027 or 33% still support the iPhone 3GS, so haven't been updated since 2014.  These would look old-style on iOS 7 and definitely wouldn't take advantage of iPhone 6/6plus screens.


So 46% of all the apps tracked by our site haven't been updated since last year at the earliest.  And 13% haven't been updated in 3+ years.  The huge number of apps we don't have in the database never got into any top selling list since 2009, so I'm sure would be far higher percentage of "dead".

There's a good chance those old apps will have some problem with newer iOS versions, so probably won't work on your new iPhone 6 anyway.

Friday, January 2, 2015

More App Store sadness

Our Heads Up Hold'em got to the top 25 list in the iPhone Casino games category a couple weeks ago.




Surely that means it selling well?
Nope.  It sold 4 copies that day.  There isn't an easy way to see how many apps are in a category any more--but I know there are thousands of games in the paid Casino games.  All but 25 must be selling 4 or fewer copies a day.  Sad for everyone.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

The continuing problem with surviving in the App Store.

New iPhones came out!  10 Million people bought a new iPhone in the first weekend!  Wow, we must have sold a ton of apps.

Nope.

Here's a graph of three months worth of sales, including September 19th.  They weren't bad days when the new iPhones came out, but they don't stand out in the chart at all.  Just a regular old slightly better than average day (preceded by 3 worse than average days.)  

10 million new iPhones, everyone using their shiny new devices.  Negligible app sales.  WTF.




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Where are the Indie iOS developers you ask?

I've been an "Indie" developer since before it was a word.  Back when I started my company in 1997 it was "Shareware".

The company, Headlight Software, grew from a Windows program, GetRight, to a small team of my brother Pete, friend Shawn, and later my wife.  In 2008 we jumped to the App Store, and were among the first app developers.  FTP On The Go came out about a month after the store opened.

That was one of the big things we did right.  It wasn't a fad type app, but a pretty good niche business/website tool.  FTP clients have been around for 20 or 30 years, so aren't going anywhere.  For a good long time there weren't really any competitors either.  There can't be many apps that came out in the first month of the App Store that are still being developed.

Sales Data (FTP On The Go)


Here is a graph of the total App Store sales revenue since when FTP came out August 3, 2008.  I'm a few days early, but call it 6 years of sales data.


When the iPad first came out, we did a new FTP On The Go PRO version which is the big pink section starting in 2010; and at the tail end in 2013 the orange and purples are the Discounted Upgrade versions we did when changing to iOS 7.

As you can see, the party really ended the middle of 2012.

Sales Data (All Our Apps)


We did other apps, and had other more minor successes, but the business basically mirrors the sales of FTP.

The big peak in early 2010 was Knife Dancing's crazy ride to the #1 free game--it got into the 100 top grossing as well, back long enough ago, if you can imagine it, that there were only 1 or 2 other free apps in the top grossing charts at the time!


Unfortunately, there's another important line in that chart above.  That red line right across the chart.  That line has the label "Profitable".

Yeah, Fuck.  

You'll see that since early 2012 the income has been below that line (yes, it was below that line in the beginning too; GetRight has been on a similar trajectory--its declining revenues where higher back then.)  The business had built up a cushion in the bank, but nothing lasts forever.  We fought like crazy, and worked our asses off.  But nothing.  We had to cut salaries last year.  Finally, earlier this year I had to cut hours and we knew it was coming to an end.  

We all landed on our feet; but that means Headlight stuff only gets done on a weekend or occasional evening after a long day at work.

It has been a good long run, 17 years in business and counting.  Sales are still not $0.  At the current rate, it could have supported just me a bit longer (at a pretty low income, a fraction of what I'm making at a regular job as an iOS programmer) but the writing is on the wall.  I found something new rather than waiting 6 months or a year when things could be much more desperate.

Its crazy that even working somewhere else full time, and doing Headlight work in my spare hours, it is still likely one of the bigger Indie developers--which is a sad sign for all app developers.


That's where Indie app developers are.  Getting jobs.



And a year ago, but I bet this math is still close if not even worse.


Update1: Cool, you read this far, thanks!  Now the real question, will you help one of many struggling indie developers and go and spend $10 on an app?


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

1704 x 960

I'd read on one of the many Apple rumor sites that the next bigger iPhone might have that new resolution of 1704x960.

History stuff that developers can skip...
The original iPhones had a resolution of 480x320.  Going to the iPhone 4 got 4 times as many pixels, but kept the same "logical" resolution, just going to half sizes for a new physical resolution of 960x640.  Buttons and everything else would be the same sizes and positions, so apps didn't have to change to work.  Developers could give a  new image with a bigger size and @2x as part of the name, and everything magically worked to use the higher resolution image.
iPhone 5 got a little taller screen and has a logical size of 568x320, with a corresponding physical resolution of 1136x640.

The rumored 1704x960 continues Apple's retina trend and is 3 times the size of the iPhone 5's logical pixels of 568x320. Existing apps would be slightly stretched, but would all work exactly the same.  I'm sure developers can have new images named @3x to get extra sharpness at that new screen size.

If 1704x960 the new size, and I'd bet a lot that it is, I'm sure Apple will do all that.  Easy and straightforward, same sort of transition and image resolution updates everyone has gotten used to with Retina screens.  Everything works as-is.

But what if they also add a new option developers can set to say "I want a new Logical size of 852x480"?  

Instead of simply being stretched to use the new bigger screen, it would give a new logical size to work with. That seems it would be a cool additional way to take advantage of the new bigger screen.  Especially for things that deal with text like web browsers and especially web pages.

HTML, CSS, and Javascript seems much easier to update and format with a 1/2 point logical resolution than 1/3 point ones.  (Since those third point fractions are endless .333333333333 and 0.666666666 )

And has an additional advantage that an app wouldn't need 3 sized copies of the same image 1x, 2x, 3x.  Just 1x and 2x.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

APPocalypse: What an Awesome review gets you

Among the first in what I bet will be a bunch of posts about the sad state of selling Apps in the App Store.  Pete's excellent one here as well.

Our game bloc'd that came out the end of March got an awesome review, better than anything I could have written myself.

http://www.tuaw.com/2014/03/25/blocd-is-a-highly-addictive-riff-on-tetris-that-you-should-down/

Tuaw.com is one of the best known Apple blog websites, so we thought "Great!  Other sites will see it, maybe even somebody at Apple will see it and like the game."

Not so much. The blog article itself got ripped off linked to, but no other sites did a review.

But how did that really convert into sales?  Here's actual numbers from AppViz.

It had dropped from some higher peaks in the first day after it was released.  The blog post got a nice spike in downloads, but it only lasted a few days.

Counting the days of the post and a week after, we made $27.17 in that time.  Which while a pathetically sad number, does compare favorably to the TOTAL of $37.12 that the app has made as of today.  The green lines are the free download numbers.  The little blue bits on top are the In-App purchases that make some money.


Part of the Plan B was to do some other rule variations with the same gameplay.  We did that and released it as a separate game.  Bloc3d.  It's strictly a paid $1 game.  I'll post some stats for that one after it has been out for a bit longer...


Update:  Pete's Skype comments were worth adding:
Read your blog post in the middle of the night, more sad truths.  That one really shows the non-discoverability.  When you're promoted you get downloads.  When the promotion stops, the downloads stop immediately.  No long tail anymore, just switch off.