iPhones Devs Sanity-Check Analyst App-ocalypse


Developers Bjango posted an interesting -- and informed -- reply today to Newsweek's sensationalist scoop on the iPhone App Store goldrush, and how the "rushies" might not be finding them much gold any more.

Could it be, the era of the fart-app fortune is... over?

Um, yeah. Anyone (other than the few who first staked their claims) banking -- literally -- on an everlasting gold rush to make their app fortune, rather than a clear, calculated business plan, is playing the lottery. And we all know the odds of winning those. So what's the alternative model for the iTunes App Store? The same as it is anywhere, and with anything, else -- focused effort and luck, with those who have better focus and more effort finding themselves luckier on average.

Countering Newsweek's assertion that it takes six months, full time, and costs between $20K and $150K to make an iPhone app, Bjango and indie developers who shared their own stats averaged only a few months, a couple developers, and a mix of full and part time work. Moreover they point out that good ideas are a dime a dozen, and that people passionate about their projects, realistic about their potential, and smart about controlling the bottom line, may just fare better. The best advice, however, is at the end:

There is a mid-point between overnight hit and disastrous failure. However, if money is your primary motivator, then you’ve probably already lost the battle.

Users -- the people who buy the apps -- don't care a hoot about some pseudo-devs get-rich-quick crApps. They care about great apps, and developers who make great apps probably want great apps themselves, not lottery tickets. If a great developer gets hugely successful along the way, everyone benefits.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhones Devs Sanity-Check Analyst App-ocalypse


On the one hand, it is humorous to listen to the woes of aspiring millionaires quibble in the Newsweek piece that: A) There is no free lunch: B) It takes time, resources and repeated success to build sustainable wealth in the App Store model; C) Apple makes the approval process "hard," despite the fact that 85K apps have gotten through in 18 mos.
On the other, there is a valid argument that Apple's push to drive volume via cheap comes at the potential cost of cultivating breakout, transformational apps that cost more, require a longer sales cycle and more evangelizing to find their beachhead.
Mind you, this is independent of the argument that Apple has democratized the process of achieving global distribution/reach, and monetizing same vis-a-vis its awesome platform.
The argument here is that a successful platform is defined by it's developers, and one reason that Microsoft, with an arguably inferior platform thrived for so long was that they could show an ecosystem of third party entrepreneurs getting VERY RICH off of it. This includes hardware OEMs, software developers, VARs, integrators, etc.
At some point, I believe that Apple will need to figure that one out, as the "born-on" date for the Demeter reference is pretty tired, yet there aren't obvious other breakout examples that come to mind, something that I blogged about in:
Is the iPhone Platform Destined to Disrupt the Packaged Software Industry?http://bit.ly/MZ7To
Check it out, if interested.

While the Top Paid and Top Free app listings have unfortunately encouraged ruthless price cutting as the way for developers to gain visibility in the listings, a glance at the Top Grossing list is somewhat encouraging in that the biggest money makers aren't the bargain basement $0.99 apps.
In the Top 10 Grossing, only Tap Tap Revenge 3 is $0.99 (An incredible bargain) and the second highest grossing app cost $89.99! If we exclude Navigon's MobileNavigator, the average selling price for the other 9 top grossing apps comes out to $4.21.
The one thing that does stand out among the Top 10 grossing is that it's full of brand names (Electronic Arts, Gameloft, CNN, Navigon and even Tapulous and Smule have become semi-recognizable brands in the app store). This isn't exactly shocking that users are more likely to trust a name they recognize than a indy developer.
What all this Newsweek article shows is that the App Store is not a gold mine where any person who thinks up a clever gimmick or works really hard on their passion app will make a fortune. It's a business like any other where you need business sense (predicting expected revenue and expected costs) a good product, some brand building and yes, luck to succeed.

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