Monday, October 26, 2009

Interesting thing about iPhone apps

Today, I started looking at some of my older download reports from Apple. The number of people who have downloaded my free Bracket Man from the app store is amazing. Just a quick estimate would put the number at somewhere around 2,000 or so, since July, with NO advertising at all. However, that success hasn't translated into sales of Bracket Man Pro. I'm not sure exactly why this is yet, but I've started looking into this more. Looking at my server logs, I'm getting hits on my website for the pro version, looks like about 5 a day or so. However, This doesn't seem to be translating into sales. I'm also ranked top 5 on Google when searching for an iPhone Bracket Manager. So, now, the problem can't be Search Engine Optimization, since I'm ranked so highly (well, I suppose it could be, based on keywords used), but I suspect it's more on the look and feel of that website. So, over the next few days, I'm going to start looking at ways to tweak the website, perhaps adding a blog to it, and news to keep potential buyers up to date with what's keeping me busy on the bracket manager. I also intend to use this blog, and perhaps one on my iPhone homepage to announce new iPhone products as they go out. Hopefully those two steps will also help increase sales.
On the new apps front, I didn't work on the new "black ops" app too much today. I just had too many other things going on, but tomorrow looks promising that I'll be able to get some stuff done on it. It looks like there's only another week or so left of development on it, but if the bracket managers proved anything with Objective-C and iPhone Apps, at least in my world, that is probably pretty optimistic. I think I still have another 3 or 4 views to write, as well as wire in all the database stuff (Database CRUD code has been completed, but the views don't all write to, or read from the database, yet).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The next iphone app

I'm several weeks into my second iPhone app, one I'm not yet ready to share with the world. I will, however, say this about it. Currently, I don't see any competition for it in the iPhone App Store. That either tells me that there's no demand for it, OR, and I personally like to think this is the case, nobody's seen this niche yet, and it's been completely ignored ;)
However, this post isn't just about me telling you I'm working on a new app that I can't tell you about yet, but more importantly, it's me describing something I consider to be important when building any app, not just iPhone Apps, scope creep, feature creep and lack of accurate sizing.
Any developer can tell you what any of these can do to a project. As you start building, you start seeing all the "cool things" or things you didn't think about when you started that would make a product better. So, you start adding the new features, and pretty soon, your 2 or 3 week (or month) project takes 3 times as long to complete, and in that time frame, you've not built anything you can sell. I'm not an advocate of releasing broken software, and in fact, on the App Store, you can't release broken software, or at least there's a good chance it will get rejected by Apple before it gets to the store. What I am suggesting, is think out your projects before starting. If you have to, draw out all your screens, on something like notepods for an iPhone, or just simple wire frame drawings for other apps (web, mobile device and desktop). This will help you not only set some direction for your project, but also help you scope it out. Is it too big for one person to build in a reasonable length of time? Are you going to need help? Is it within your skill set and expertise? Can you build part of it, get it out and monetize it while continuing development?
All of these questions I think are relevant and crucial to answer before starting a new project.
Ok, now back to my current project, the one I can't tell you much about yet. I fell into this trap on this project. No, I haven't had any scope creep, or feature creep, although I do have a feature list of enhancements for future releases, thanks to a couple of friends who have seen the project. Where I think I failed on this one, is, thinking it was a smaller project than it really was. I figured this particular iPhone app was about 5 screens, all pretty simple, with 1 custom table cell view. Well, as I drew it out, and it made some sense, so I started coding. Unfortunately, I didn't do any kind of work flow management, how you go from screen one to screen "n". Therein lies the problem. Those 5 screens are currently about 10, with at least 4 more to go, with nearly all of those also having heavy development in table cells. If my full time job was iPhone development, I might say this still has 2 weeks of development left, but since it's not my full time job, this could be another 4 or 5 weeks. Looking back, I should have found someone to partner with on this app, and given them parts of it to build, which would have saved me a lot of time and headaches in the meantime.
Of course, now I'll have a framework for the next app like this, so I'm sure when I start the next one, I'll probably fall into the same trap again, given I have such a big base now, but time will tell. ;)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just when I thought they were never going to do it...

Apple finally released the new version of my Bracket Man "lite". Last night, I got the email from apple saying bracket man was now available on the app store. Of course, looking at the profile, I noticed the pictures are all messed up now, missing several pictures, so I'll have to update some of the apps pictures, but at least Apple did finally approve it for the App Store!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Still in review...

As you may remember from a previous post, Apple rejected my update to Bracket Man "lite" because it wasn't "Fully functional" as they put it, and it was upselling to Bracket Man Pro by not allowing double elimination brackets, and instead popping up a message telling the user to buy the pro version. Well, amazingly enough, that was close to two weeks ago, and I'm still waiting for the iPhone App Store approval on the new version. Hopefully it will get approved soon, and I'll be able to get this new version out soon, it fixed a lot of bugs.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lesson learned...

A few weeks ago, I released version 2 of Bracket Man, the free version of the bracket manger. I did this because after the huge success I had, over 1500 iPhone app downloads in the first 6 weeks, I realized I could do so much more with this iPhone app. So, when I embarked on creating a paid version of the iPhone App, Bracket Man Pro, I decided to make some changes to the free version as well, giving it a facelift to look like the pro version. Since the pro version has double elimination, I figured it best to make the free version single elimination only, but wanted to get exposure to pro by capitalizing on the success of the free version. To do this, I opted to have the same views, on both versions, with one difference. The free version, instead of creating a double elimination bracket, would simply give the user a message telling them double elimination brackets were only available in the Pro version. First time through the approval process, it went perfectly. No issues. Fast forward 2 weeks, when I tried to get version 2.1 out. Bracket Man Pro, the paid iPhone App, went through without a hitch. However, the "lite" version got rejected. Why? Because, it turns out, Apple doesn't like "upselling" in the products, and viewed that message as somehow breaking the app. So, to fix this, I quickly (within 8 hours) removed the bracket type switch from the lite version, and resubmitted it. That was well over 10 days ago, and I'm still waiting for approval. How long will it take? Your guess is as good as mine ;)

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Marketing Continues

Good Afternoon. Today, I thought I'd talk about a different topic regarding iPhone Apps, and the App Store. While Apple does a good job of helping you get your app out there, it's not the only way to market iPhone apps.
Here are some ways to get more exposure for your apps.
A web page is a great start, but if you look at my page, it kinda stinks. Why? After all, I'm a programmer, I should have the coolest site of all! Not quite. While I can build back ends, web pages are definitely not my strong point. It is optimized for Google, and in fact, using google to search for an iphone bracket manager, I'm 4th or 5th on the list.
Many review sites will index the app store, and publish results on their own pages. AppStoreHQ is an example of one of those sites. Only problem is, they don't always refresh when new versions are release. I'm not sure how often they refresh, but they do at some point.
Anyone have any great ideas how to market iphone apps? Anyone making money with their apps yet?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Hello, and welcome to my iPhone App blog. As you probably already know, if you just stumbled onto this blog, the iPhone is a big thing. Tens of millions of units sold. The iPhone App Store has over 75,000 applications on it. You probably know most, if not all of the capabilities of this amazing phone if you're reading this.
So, why am I writing this blog? The short answer, is I'm an iPhone enthusiast. The more complete answer is, not only am I an enthusiast, but I'm also a developer. An iPhone App developer. Well, not just iPhone Apps, I also do Java, and Enterprise Java solutions, along with a little PHP here and there. Right now, Java pays the bills (Usually. Yes, there's story there too, I may get into it later, I may not, it's not really important, at least not yet.)
If Java pays the bill, you may be wondering why I'm building iPhone Apps. Quite simply, because I enjoy it. I find playing with new and exciting technologies fun. I'd never done mobile device work in the past, never worked with a Mac, and wanted to try both. I thought about Android and Blackberry development, but neither of those really excited me. They didn't seem to have the cult application following the iPhone has, nor did the user base seem to be as app hungry as the iPhone users. So, I got a book on Objective-C and iPhone development, bought a MacBook, and jumped in with both feet. I intend to document how my apps are doing on the store, as well as anything I learn about getting them into the app store, and marketing those apps.
Enough introduction already! Let's get on to the fun stuff. The first app I wrote, was a simple tournament bracket manager. I called it, creatively enough, "Bracket Man". Bracket Man was only really intended to allow the guy in my bowling league who managed brackets to shuffle his paper brackets without cards (works great for that). It must have worked great for others too, because in 2 months, with NO marketing, I had around 1500 downloads. You may be wondering why that's important. Well, because, like a fool, I gave it away. I thought I'd only have 4 or 5 downloads because I didn't market it at all. After seeing over 500 downloads the first week, I figured I better figure out how to monetize this iPhone App. So, out of this, "Bracket Man Pro" (I know, real creative again) was born. Of course, just having a snappy name isn't enough to do anything, so I thought I might need some more features. Where do you look for features on an app for the app store? Reviews. My own reviews weren't much help. In fact, they were raving reviews. People loved it. At least the 8 or 9 who decided to take the time to talk about it loved it. So, I had an app that from my own reviews, looked great. So I looked for other bracket manager apps on the app store. With all those tens of thousands of apps, you'd think there would be a hundred of them. Wrong. There was one more (now I think there's just two or three besides mine). So, I looked at THAT apps reviews. The big thing people seemed to want was Double Elimination brackets. I thought, great, there's no way I can do that with how I wrote Bracket Man, so I'm going to have to rewrite the whole thing.
About six weeks later, Bracket Man became "Bracket Man Lite" and Bracket Man Pro was born.
The interface was 100% reworked, as was the way data was stored, and even how the brackets were drawn. Without getting into boring details, I changed everything but about 10 lines of code. After re-releasing the app, I was curious as to how I would be received by the paying public. The bottom line, I was received OK, but not like I hoped. The new version was released mid September, so it's been out about a month. In that time, it's sold a few copies, but not like the free version did the first time. The free version, now "lite" has had a couple hundred downloads, but the paid version I think is only at around 60. I guess that's not too bad, but I think I can do better.
So, now, I have Bracket Man Lite and Bracket Man Pro, both on the App Store