App rock stars

It just crossed my mind that being an iOS app dev has a lot of similarities with being a musician.
My record company is Apple who makes it easy for me to launch my 'songs' internationally. No worries for me about sales and payment (the App Store), it's all handled by my 'label'. And if I'm lucky the'll even do some promotion (New & Noteworthy section).
I'm not familiar with record label deals but I assume that a 70/30 split is better than what U2 or Coldplay ever negotiated. I know from colleagues that the terms are similar for the other big labels (Google, Microsoft, RIM).

The genre I'm associated with is P&V (Photo & Video) but maybe I'll experiment with Pop (Games) or World Music (Travel) in the future.
So far I haven't scored an international hit, but GeoTagr, Scotty and PhotoMeta were received well by the critics and made it to some national top charts for a short period of time.
Although I initially made cover artwork myself, I now hire a designer for that. A good looking app icon is important.

Lately I joined the Everest band, but I also keep working on my solo career
So far I can publish my work without the need for a manager or producer. Let's keep it that way!


Dropbox photos integration

A major new feature in the latest PhotoMeta version is Dropbox integration. It's now easy to browse through your Dropbox photos while PhotoMeta extracts all possible metadata including focus points, histograms and GPS info. And although Dropbox has no native support for RAW photos, in PhotoMeta they work in the same way as JPEGs. In combination with the new full screen mode, it's now a breeze to scroll through your Dropbox RAW photos. 
In order to make the Dropbox browsing experience as smooth as possible, the metadata is extracted while the full image is downloaded.

While implementing Dropbox support I found out that there's a missing feature in the Dropbox app that a lot of photographers complain about. It's not possible to save a full res photo with the Dropbox app. The "Save" action imports a reduced size photo. It's comparable to what iTunes syncing does. And not only is the photo reduced in size, a lot of the metadata is stripped too.

Time for PhotoMeta to come to the rescue. When you browsing through your Dropbox photos, importing the full res photo is just 2 taps away.


I have to add though that this feature is limited to JPEG photos. Not that it's technically challenging to get the RAW photos, but for third party apps it's just not possible on iOS to import RAW photos. You can count on it that saving full res Dropbox RAW photos will be added as soon as a new iOS version allows it.


Accessibility (VoiceOver)

My freshly released PhotoMeta app is the first one that has decent accessiblity support. And to be honest, I'm quite embarrased about that. This feature has been on the todo list of all my apps for a very long time, but I always found other features to be more important. That was a mistake.

All my apps are photography related and I assumed that blind and visually impaired people were not into photography. Man, was I wrong. In April I was contacted by Susan Krieger with the request to follow the Apple guidelines regarding accessibility to make my PhotoMeta app work more completely with VoiceOver gestures. I promised her to add it in the next version and she became an enthousiastic beta tester.

It turned out that adding VoiceOver support was pretty easy. Accessibility support is now a top priority for all my other apps and I encourage other app developers to do the same.


App sales revisited

About a year ago I posted detailed app sales. Let's see how things evolved in the last 12 months.

GeoTagr (blue)

Spikes are no longer caused by major new releases. The biggest spike in the last months came from the Aperture Expert Live Training 017. It's too early to see where the downward trend after the April ad campaign will stop. But the slow decline in sales that lasted for about 18 months was stopped with a big spike. 

Scotty (green)

In the fall of last year the price went from $1.99 to $2.99, but probably the major cause of the downward trend from June 2011 until March 2012 was the announcement and introduction of the Photo Stream feature in iOS 5.
Just as in the past, Scotty sales are subject to huge spikes. Example: The latest mention on resulted in 100 downloads in just 2 days. Scotty seems to have the biggest potential but how do I give it traction? The fear I had that the introduction of Photo Stream in iOS 5 would make Scotty totally obsolete was wrong. Overall promotion and the ad campaign in March have given it some new oxygen.

WiiPhoto (yellow)

A sleeping app. I don't expect major sales bumps. But with approx. 1 download per day, it still makes a couple hundred dollars a year.

2 new apps introduced: PhotoMeta (red) and Visage (purple)

PhotoMeta was initially free with a $2.99 in-app purchase but became a paid app (also $2.99) in January. The graph shows the number of paid downloads (in-app purchases before January). The ad campaign in April certainly had its effect and May was even a better month. There is a pretty significant PhotoMeta update in the makes which will make the app interesting for a larger audience.

Visage sales numbers are very disappointing (32 downloads in 3 months), but hopefully this will change after today. Visage is part of the June 2012 AppEvent and is free just for today. Hopefully that will give it a significant boost.

Lessons learned

The lessons learned from my year-ago post are still valid, but there are some new ones.

Adding features is no longer enough. I worked full time on my apps for 4 months with several app updates going live. There was no impact on downloads whatsoever. That changed a lot once I started promoting the apps. The golden rule that you need a good app in the first place is still true. But promotion/marketing (in whatever form) is also essential.



My favorite iPhone and iPad apps

It would be rather silly to put my own apps or wildly popular apps in the list, so I limit my choice to third party apps I like a lot and that deserve a bit of extra attention.

Easy Calendar (iPhone) - $1.99

Without a doubt the most used app on my iPhone. A calendar app on steroids. The main focus of the app is to get a task done in as little taps as possible. Solid as a rock and regular useful updates. I can't imagine ever going back to the default Calendar app.

Articles (iPhone) - $2.99

Wikipedia in your pocket with a beautifully designed interface. The developer of this app won a well-deserved Apple Design Award for Articles. Haven't tried the iPad app yet, but it's probably as awesome as the iPhone one.

Snapseed (iPhone & iPad) - Currently free but be fast

There are a gazillion photo editing apps available, but Snapseed is certainly one of the most intuitive. It features a minimalistic, touch-oriented interface. Personally I favor the iPad version. In the first place because that's where I import my photos (via the Camera Connection Kit).

Trainyard (iPhone & iPad) - $0.99

The only game in the list. I'm not into gaming at all, but this one caught my attention when I saw my children play with it. It's a highly addictive puzzle app that does a great job in the learn-as-you-go section.

Shazam (iPhone) - Free

Amazing piece of technology that recognizes any song you hear on the radio in a couple of seconds. With a useful link to the iTunes Store if you're interested in buying the song. Free with ads. Also available for iPad, but I haven't used that version yet.

Lonely Planet Guides (iPhone) - $5.99 a piece

Not really one app, but a huge collection of apps. The perfect travel companion. If you are into traveling certainly check them out. 

FreezePaint (iPhone) - $0.99

Only available since a couple of weeks but I beta tested this app and had a lot of fun with it. It's hard to describe FreezePaint, you have to see it. It's a one of a kind app that's only limited by your imagination. 

Remote (iPhone & iPad) - Free

This one's made by Apple, but doesn't ship with an iPhone or iPad by default. If you hate cables like me, you're going to love Remote. Browse your iTunes library from anywhere in the house. With the built-in AirPlay support the possibilities are endless if you have an Apple TV or any other AirPlay enabled device.