To Android or not to Android

Now and then I get a request from someone to make one of my apps available on Android. So far I never considered developing for non-iOS platforms (Android, WP7, BlackBerry) and I have no plans to change this any time soon. Why?

How it all started

Back in 2008 I was looking for a GPS dongle to geotag my photos, an iPod and a new mobile phone. Around that time, Apple launched the iPhone 3G (the first iPhone with a built-in GPS) and the App Store. I decided to buy an iPhone 3G and in my spare time, I made my own photo geotagging app that I also started selling through the App Store.

How it went on 

Developing iPhone apps for the App Store turned out to be a really fun and fascinating hobby. And a cheap one too compared to that other hobby of mine, photography. Besides buying the iPhone 3G, the only other cost was the yearly iPhone Dev Program fee (99$). Mid 2009 the cost of the iPhone 3G was totally compensated by the GeoTagr sales!

I discovered a new hobby that made me some money instead of costing me money. On top of that I got a lot of satisfaction from selling my own stuff worldwide. And I could do it at my own pace. Besides the regular app updates, I launched about one new app a year:

  • 12/2008: GeoTagr
  • 06/2009: Scotty
  • 08/2010: WiiPhoto
  • 04/2011: PhotoMeta
  • 03/2012: Visage

In 2010 the iPad was launched and in order to properly test my iPhone and iPad apps, I had to buy extra hardware. I currently have an iPod touch, iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, the original iPad and the new iPad. That's 6 devices to target an iOS audience of over 360 million users. And 5 of those 6 devices are used on a daily basis by my family members. They're not hidden in a drawer until I have to do some app testing. 

Also important to know is that I cover more than 99% of that huge iOS market by supporting just iOS 4.2 and iOS 5.

Add Android to the party?

In the past years I've followed Android very close. I'm not married to Apple and although I'm a long time Mac user, I don't consider myself an Apple fanboy. 

I constantly ask myself: What would change for me if I would start developing Android apps? With an installed base that exceeds iOS it looks tempting at first sight, but:  

  • None of the existing iOS code can be reused, so I have to build Android apps from scratch.
  • To cover more than 90% of the Android market I have to support 6 Android versions (2.2, 2.3, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2, 4.0)
  • I need to buy a lot of hardware to have a decent coverage when testing my apps. 400 devices is probably a bit over the top, but I'm not going to cut it with 6 devices either.
  • The total amount of money paid to Android devs is less than 10% of the total amount paid to iOS devs.

I don't see any good reason to start developing for Android. Supporting 6 OS versions and testing on a lot of hardware is not really my definition of fun. On top of that there's no guarantee that app sales will compensate for the hardware I have to buy. That could mean that I don't break even for Android.

I also keep reading stories of Android devs that confirm all the above. The latest one I read was from the guys at Avatron.

The future

There are no signs that the Android situation will change any time soon, so I won't bring my apps to Android in 2012.

If you're an Android dev I'm looking forward to your thoughts in the comments.


Ad impact

About 2 years ago I promoted my apps with ad banners on some websites and my conclusion was that it doesn't work that way. So why did I do it again?

In January, after working full time on my apps for about 4 months, app sales remained flat despite multiple major app upgrades. I decided to give online ads another try.

What did I do differently?
1. I carefully selected just 2 sites with a specific target audience in mind.
2. A friend of mine (a marketing guru) helped in determining the ad content
3. I hired a designer to make the ads
4. Each ad promoted 2 apps (using animated GIFs) instead of 1
5. Ads were only shown to people who own at least 1 iOS device

For a period of 6 months, Scotty and GeoTagr are promoted on iPhoneography, the no. 1 site for iPhone users interested in photography. In April, PhotoMeta and GeoTagr were promoted on Digital Photography School (DPS), a wildly popular site targeting advanced amateur photographers. Ads on DPS (250 000 impressions) were only displayed on iOS devices.
Both ads had a clear impact on app sales, but not the huge spike I was hoping for. I spent about 3000$ on the ads (that includes the designer) and that's roughly what I made on my apps the past 2 months. It's impossible to measure what percentage of those sales are a direct result of the ads, but I assume that in the long term the ads will have a slight positive effect on sales.



When I lost my job 6 months ago, I used that opportunity to become a full time iOS app developer. I executed my original plan and although I saw an increase in app revenue, it's not sufficient to make a living from it. In the first 5 months app sales remained more or less the same (~ 20€/day) although my apps made huge leaps forward in terms of functionality.
Mid march, I started an ad campaign on iPhoneography and spent 2 days doing nothing but contacting bloggers, magazines and photography experts to promote my apps. That resulted in a number of publications and a noticeable increase in app sales.

After a week, the upward trend stopped and sales went down again. The downward trend stabilized when a 30-day ad campaign went live on Digital Photography School. If sales stay stable for 30 days, that will be hardly sufficient to break even on the ad campaign costs. But I'll elaborate on that in a future blog post.

I consider the last 6 months a very valuable investment. I already had 3 years of experience with iOS development in my spare time, but those extra 6 months of full-time iOS development gave me the opportunity to dig deeper in certain areas of iOS.

I'm now available for freelance iOS work. Contact me if you're looking for an experienced iOS developer with a proven track record as overall software engineer.



Although I'm 100% behind each and every app I have in the App Store, it always feels good if someone else confirms that you did a good job. In that regard, I was spoiled the last couple of weeks with blog posts on CNET, macstories, iPhoneography, Pixiq, maclatino, taptaptap and an ApertureExpert training session where GeoTagr plays a main role.

What's new for me though is that Scotty and PhotoMeta are now also featured in an e-book and a printed magazine respectively.

Uwe and Bettina Steinmueller cover Scotty as one of the specialty apps in their e-book "Phone Artistry ~ The Art and Craft of iPhone Photography". They asked me to keep them up-to-date on new Scotty features as they will update their e-book as the app evolves over time. Cool.

Image & Nature is a different story. It's a printed magazine distributed in France, Switserland, Belgium and Luxemburg targeting nature photographers. They cover PhotoMeta in their latest edition that came out a couple of days ago.



Camera+ integration

The moment tap tap tap announced the availability of the Camera+ API, I knew that Scotty was a perfect app to integrate with Camera+. I'm using the Camera+ app myself and it always bothered me that I had to save the Lightbox photos to the Camera Roll before I could transfer them.

The Scotty workflow is a perfect fit for Camera+ integration. In the list of photo sources I just added an extra section for the Camera+ Lightbox, but only if the Camera+ app is installed on your device. If you're not a Camera+ user, the integration is completely invisible.



When you select "Lightbox", Scotty goes to the background and the Camera+ app becomes active. The contents of the Lightbox are presented and you just tap on the photo you want to transfer. Camera+ exports the photo to Scotty which in turn transfers the photo to the originally selected destination.

For the moment the Camera+ API has no support for selecting multiple photos, but they have plans to add that feature in a future Camera+ version.  

To celebrate this very special version, Scotty is on sale for a limited time for just 0.99$.

Spread the word!