Wednesday, December 8, 2010

iPhone App Piracy

Over 9 months after it's been gone from the App Store, one of our apps is being pirated more than it ever sold.

We released the first version of our iPhone "strip poker" app, Poker vs Girls in June of 2009 (really based on the App Store limitations, it would have been better described as bikini poker, but strip poker sounds better! Improved marketing for our poker games was the whole idea.) After a lot of tries, the 2.0 version was accepted in early December 2009.

Version 1.0 had an little banner ad spot at the top, so we could promote our other apps. Version 2.0 needed more space, so we removed it. No legitimate purchasers have gotten that version 1.0 since December 2009. In fact the entire app was removed from the App Store in February 2010 as part of Apple's big sexy-app-purge.

For the past 10 days, a year after the version with the ad was last available, that ad page got over 32,000 unique views according to Google Analytics. That is more than the total number of copies sold the entire time it was in the App Store--22,935. (And doing the past 3 months, it's over 280,000 unique views--more than 10x the total sold.)

All 100% piracy* (Yeah, a couple could be people who bought, never upgraded, and are still playing...but there can't be many of them--say 99.9% piracy.)

The good news...we can show ads to all those people pirating it. And the poker game itself is still there and better than before (bluetooth games, etc.) For iPhone. For iPad.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

iPad² & 1

There's a precedent:
* When the iPhone 3GS came out, Apple kept the 3G as an option to still buy, for a cheaper price.
* Same thing when the iPhone 4 arrived, you can still buy a 3GS for $100 less.
* And sometimes it's been done for the iPod touch--they kept one closer to the 2nd generation as the low end model when the 3rd came out.

I'm not sure how many people chose the lower end ones, especially for the iPhone. But it keeps real price pressure on competitors.

They could do the same for the iPad. When the iPad² comes out, presumably with cool new features like cameras, keep the current 16GB WiFi one as a lower end base model. And price that to kill competitors: $329, $349, $399, whatever. Most people will opt for the more expensive newer version--but it makes a really low price for competitors to beat (especially since they don't even really beat the current price without doing much smaller screens.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

iPhones everywhere

Apple makes one new iPhone a year. So they can spend a whole year advertising it, and building up its brand name and awareness--a name Apple already built up hugely.

All the Android companies come out with new models ever few weeks or months, gadget geeks pay attention, but none of them has nearly the same awareness from the average person since there is no one big phone that you see all the time.

Look when you see people using phones. Especially since 2 years of iPhones looked the same, you recognize them, and it seems like you see a lot. Android phones all look different, it never feels like you're seeing any one of them very much, even if some day (if not already) the total number passes the number of iPhones. So as you're seeing people with phones, it feels like there are more iPhones.

Same thing for laptops if you look in a coffee shop. All the others are a mix of styles and brands, so the Apple laptops stand out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


People keep saying Google/Android is the new Microsoft when comparing the smart phone OS battle to the computer OS battle back in the day.

But they keep missing the comparison for Microsoft Windows Phone 7--they're the new IBM OS/2.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

iPhone 360 predictions

AT&T has done a few changes that aren't so friendly for people (increasing the early-termination and changing the data plans.) Apple might have let them do it without objecting too loudly in return for "something".

My prediction is that like last year the "old" iPhone 3GS will drop in price to keep a low end model & keep putting pressure on all the other cell phone companies. But I think they may go REALLY low in return for those cell plan changes. Such as free (with a 2 year contract of couse.)

I've yet to be right, but who knows this time. We'll see next week.

(Update: so I'm 100% on my predictions! all wrong.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Lost in a Bar" App....denied

We were saddened to hear our "Lost in a Bar" app has been denied and will not be coming to the App Store. (Its icon is shown to the right.)

It would have let you create a custom wallpaper to use as your iPhone's "locked" screen that had contact information you chose. An email or phone number you provided would have been easily visible if your phone was found, even if a passcode lock is used.

It would have protected your privacy too--without it, even a good samaritan would have to search your contacts, email, or your apps to find where to return your lost iPhone. You even could have chosen from several built in backgrounds, picked any image from your photo library, or taken a photo right within the app.

While it is a shame, it's honestly not a surprise. We were hoping the reviewers might have a little sense of humor in this case--but it's probably a pretty touchy topic within Apple. When I saw "Apple Inc" on the caller ID, I figured that's what they were calling for :)

But there is good news! Thankfully, it is already in the App Store with the name "Reward for Return". It's been there since last June. If it had been used on a certain lost iPhone, it might have saved a lot of trouble for a lot of people.

As an aside to the finder of the lost iPhone...did it never occur to you that Apple (with billions of dollars at stake) might have given a pretty nice "thank you" to get their device back and to keep the whole thing quiet and private?

Friday, May 7, 2010

iPhone HD scaling on iPad

One thing I've not seen posted: Assuming the next iPhone is HD/higher resolution, and does double the current resolution in both directions (so 640x960) those iPhone apps should look much better on an iPad too.

Right now, when the iPad stretches a 320x480 iPhone app up to that double-size they look pixelated and blocky. But for those "HD" iPhone apps, stretching should display at their normal resolution--so they would look larger, but perfect, on the iPad.

(iPad apps have adopted the HD naming convention--not sure what we'll all call iPhone apps that are optimized for the next iPhone's screen.)

Update...well, they COULD have done it. But they haven't. Makes sense, forces us to really optimize for the iPad...

Monday, May 3, 2010

#2/#3 now

Slowly dropping, in the 2 & 3 position yesterday (Sunday May 2) and today. Still holding in the top 30 free apps, but dropping there. Crazy people wanting utilities...oh, wait, go get our utilities: FTP On The Go PRO, Camera for iPad.

Quite a drop in downloads downloads: 3,700. But the sales of the In-App upgrade were again very close to the day before! Compared to Friday's numbers, to get 40% as many downloads--but 95% as many purchase--that is awesome.

I think people must like it and keep the game; buying after playing a few times. So that's a really good sign it will keep going along once it drops out of the "What's Hot" Apple pick.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

#1/#2 free game; more updates

For May 1, 2010: Heads Up: Hold'em HD stayed the #1 game through most of yesterday, falling to #2 sometime in the afternoon (damn you, Solitaire!! but that does mean that card games are dominating the iPad right now at #1 & #2 free games) #2 game gets us to the #23 spot overall in the Free Apps. Pretty much the opposite of the iPhone where games and not utilities fill nearly all of the top 25 free apps.

More interesting stats. 5,800 downloads, so about a third less then the day before. But sales of the in-app Upgrade were a couple Higher. That's a really good sign that people are keeping the game, and upgrading after playing the free one awhile :)

The iPhone versions of the game have been getting a nice boost too--since the iPad version can play wireless games against the iPhone ones, that makes sense.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

#1 iPad free game, chart updates

For April 30, 2010, Heads Up: Hold'em HD was the #1 free iPad game again. Sweet! It's interesting that all the utilities and other free things have pushed us down to the #16 free app this morning. Everybody with a new 3G iPad is getting newspapers (WSJ, NY Times, USA Today, NPR), video (NetFlix, ABC), books (iBooks, Kindle), and other utilities. Only 2 games are in the top 20 free apps right now.

But it's the weekend today, so hopefully everybody will start looking for games too.

The number of downloads yesterday was 8,800; a little (6%) above the day before. Again, a small fraction of the number of downloads needed to reach the #1 iPhone free game. On a day when Knife Dancing got roughly the same number of downloads back in March, it was #119 in the free iPhone game list. (Ranking stats are thanks to our website.)

Even Better: While the downloads were only a few percent higher; the sales of the In-App purchase to upgrade were nearly 50% higher. Whether that's because people have played more and decided they do want more chips and opponents; or because we added a "Why Buy?" button in the top ad area, I don't know. Probably both :)

Our Other iPad Apps: Camera for iPad is floating around toward the bottom of the top 100 paid iPad apps. If you have an iPhone and an iPad--and if you have an iPad you do--go get it to use your iPhone as a wireless camera from the iPad :) It's only in the Business charts, but FTP On The Go PRO had its best day yet as well.

Friday, April 30, 2010

#1 iPad vs #1 iPhone: the numbers

Within the space of almost exactly two months, we (Headlight Software, Inc.) managed to get both the #1 iPhone free game, and the #1 iPad free game--with very different games. And by some amazing luck, we're the #1 game on a very big day: the iPad 3G Launch day.

The iPhone game was a fun gimmick sort, "Knife Dancing". That scene from Aliens with the Knife? It's an app for that.

With just some good ideas and icon, it got to #1. It never got any special selections by Apple, but there was some big help from some blog articles. The article on being the biggest; most of the others were reposts of that one.

At the peak on Feb 24 2010, when it got to the #1 free game and the #2 free app--it was about 165,000 downloads that single day.

The iPad game is one we've spent far more work on. "Heads Up: Hold'em HD" is the iPad version of our popular poker game. The iPhone version got 2nd in the 2009 "Best App Ever" awards for Casino Games. Poker vs a silly tapping game is much more replayable--we've got emails from people with the iPhone version, with 1000s of games played. With the bluetooth wireless games too, we hope this one sticks in the top of the charts better than Knife Dancing did.

This one definitely got help. We were slowly gaining in the games, until Apple made it a "What's Hot" selection and that really gave a huge boost. Within 2 days of that, we were #1. It's an awesome game and really looks great on the iPad screen; getting to #1 is fully justified :)

April 29 2010, it was the #1 free game and #4 free app--and got 8,300 downloads.

So according to those numbers, for a free game the iPad app store takes about 5% as many downloads to reach the top spot as in the iPhone app store--on the day before the 3G launch. I'll update with some stats on the 3G launch day. And unlike the iPhone, where the #1 game is usually the #1 app--on the iPad it only got us to #4.
{Updated post, to clarify since it's getting quoted places :) For our 2 free games to reach the #1 spot, it took 5% as many downloads on the iPad App Store as it took on the iPhone App Store. Paid apps would vary greatly from this small free game sampling. This evening, it's still the #1 game but is out of the top ten free apps--people seem to want Utilities on their iPads.}

Both apps included In-App purchases, so have good ways to make money. (I'm not going to share the actual dollar amounts.) They're harder to compare since Knife is a $0.99 little one and the Hold'em is a bigger $4.99 upgrade. Hold'em did make more than 10% as much money as Knife did, with 5% as many downloads--so we're happy.

Interestingly Knife Dancing's income was enough to get into the Top Grossing lists; the highest I saw was #27. Not bad for a free app! Some of the days, we were the only free app in the top 100 grossing. Hold'em I have not seen in the Top Grossing list on the iPad--I'm not surprised with all the more expensive tools and utilities.

PS: On that #1 day, Knife Dancing shattered our own personal dollars-per-day software sales record that was set by GetRight back in 1999; now we have to work to break the new one!

Monday, April 5, 2010

iPad compared to Kindle

I've been reading on the Kindle for over a year now, and just got an iPad. The iPad's screen is amazing, for picking or buying books, and absolutely everything else, it is better. There are quite a few devices you won't need anymore if you get an iPad. No portable DVD players, no digital picture frames, no more portable GPS, maybe not even a laptop. And as more apps come out, that list will grow.

But I'm not planning to do any reading on it. I will keep reading on the Kindle, for one reason that I'd not expected: Weight.

The iPad feels super solid and sturdy, the Kindle seems plastic and flimsy by comparison. (The Kindle may feel flimsy, but it is tough--both mine and the wife's have easily survived numerous drops onto the floor.) Because of all the solidity, the iPad feels heavy--much more so than I expected. It's nearly a pound more than the Kindle, and when sitting in bed reading every night, that will be a huge difference. Where the kindle starts to slip out of one hand as I'm dozing off--the iPad would fall.

After just the first day (doing lots of programming on iPad apps) the Kindle felt like nothing when I picked it up before bed. I may buy books via the Amazon website on the iPad, then read on the Kindle.

If you read a lot where the book is held in your hand, you want a Kindle for reading over an iPad. But for everything else, you want an iPad.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yeah, I'm a dork

and I watch various of the "How do they do that" shows. Watching them install an immense engine in a tanker ship, and wondered how it related to computers...

Years ago, you would have one supercomputer; now the supercomputers have been replaced by warehouses full of computers like a laptop minus the screen.

That huge many-million-dollar engine has the power of 100 car engines. So maybe put in 100 car engines instead? Each could generate electricity to power a big motor to turn the propeller. It could have individual engines turn on and off as needed as more or less power was needed.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

iPad / iPhone Video Chat Predictions

My prediction is the iPhone will get a video-chat camera in the next update. It's a very logical update that again steps ahead of most competitors. But the iPad won't for at least another generation or two.

My thinking why? Bandwidth vs Screen Size. The bigger the video, the more speed is needed.

On an iPhone, a video feed of 320x320 would fill the screen horizontally, still leaving space below for buttons. And an even smaller video window could be done if a thumbnail of your own video was displayed too in some sort of overlapping rectangles. With some eye-candy around the squares (and having them not overlap), it could likely get to a pretty small video dimension that needed to be sent over the Internet and it would still look good on the iPhone's screen.

AT&T and other cell phone providers might be able to handle that :)

A similar sized video rectangle would look not only look tiny on an iPad screen, it would look silly at that size. WiFi could handle the speeds needed to do a video size that would look reasonable (640x480 or something like that.) AT&T and other cell phone providers I think would struggle to do that.

So that's my predictions!

Friday, February 26, 2010

What a Week.

A week ago, we got the notice that both our Poker vs Girls and Poker vs Guys apps were removed from the App Store as part of the big purge of sexy apps. Definitely a bummer, they had been a good percent of our iPhone app income the past few months. (But not the biggest apps for us, the business tool FTP On The Go had that honor, and we still have the regular Heads Up: Hold'em poker game among many others.)

That led to an article on TechFlash. Which led this morning to an interview with KOMO4 TV News (in Seattle). I don't even know what might happen tomorrow. But silly things like people actually googling and finding this blog is one thing!

We also quickly did a new version of the poker games, Poker vs Strong Female Role Models. (pictures here) It's in review at Apple, we'll see what kind of splash that makes in the news when it arrives. {UPDATE: It got approved just fine. Get It Here}

That same day last week is when our little Knife Dancing game that had been lurking in the App Store for months finally decided to start growing..and growing...and growing.

We spent a few days watching in disbelief. Hardly able to post "we're at #20" on Facebook, before another one would post "And now #18". Posting on Facebook when our app passed the Facebook app was fun. And waking up on Wednesday to be the #1 free game and #2 free app.

So in the same week we've been sad to lose the strip poker apps, we've been amazed at how well Knife Dancing is doing--and how quickly it happened. And even more crazy, thanks to its In-App Purchase, it's been bouncing around on the Top Grossing lists as well. In the 30s to 40s. (At one point, I saw it at #27--above Grand Theft Auto at #28! Ridiculous.) We'll miss the income from the strip poker apps; but that's sure a huge consolation prize!

It's been a ride, seeing the downside of the App Store, where apps can be pulled with no notice...and the great side, where the right app can strike a chord and jump right to the top.

Friday, January 29, 2010

iPad vs Kindle

I've only seen pictures of the iPad; but I think for most people it will kill the idea of getting a Kindle.

There are people who read the occasional book--the new Stephan King or Harry Potter--and then there are people who Read books. My wife and I each got a Kindle about a year ago. Looking at the price savings on books, as well as bookcases to store them, a Kindle was a smart choice. I read a lot and over the past year have 35 books finished on the Kindle. My wife on the other hand is in another league--fast reader + insomnia = she has 201 books read! The savings has more than paid for buying the Kindles.

For people like us, the Kindle will probably win over the iPad for reading. For a decent percent of people like us, I'd bet they've already invested in a Kindle too. But we're a small minority--for everybody else, the ability of the iPad to do everything else too wins.

The big loser are bookstores. Barnes and Noble used to be a regular visit to get more books--not so much anymore.

For every category of device, there are the hardcore users, and then there is everybody else.

Photographers will have a great expensive camera with good lenses, but most of us will settle for the cell phone camera because it's convenient. Some people spend a ton on a great home theatre, many buy a TV at Walmart or Costco. Avid readers will choose a Kindle or other dedicated one, most will use an iPad or their phone.

There are always a lot more people in the second category--that's who Apple is targeting with the iPad.