Archive for March 25, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Commoditized Complements and Fear of Apple

Michael Burford:

So for iPhone Productivity apps, any app that is out of the top 200 is selling single digit copies a day at best. So of the thousands and thousands of productivity apps, most are making virtually nothing. With a very large percent making absolutely nothing.

But the lucky 10 or so at the top are likely selling hundreds or thousands of copies a day.

Eli Schiff (Hacker News, Slashdot):

Arment understood then why the session went this way, and why still to this day close to nothing has been done to make the App Store more hospitable to developers—Apple has not perceived any incentive make it so: “Apple thinks this is good enough. And that’s the scariest part of all.”


According to reporting, “1.6 percent of developers earn more than the other 98.4 percent combined. And the bottom 47 percent of engineers earn less than $100 per month.” Yet somehow, independent app development has often been described as a ‘gold rush’ despite it being quietly understood by developers, even as early as 2009, that this was hardly the case.


It is clear that the recent influx of independent app developers into larger organizations and venture-backed startups coincides with independent development for the App Store being ever more exposed as an unprofitable venture. Developers who would otherwise be quite comfortable coding apps on their own now feel compelled to turn to large organizations in order to find gainful work.


The reason for the obscurity of most independent apps is that Apple’s rejections and consistent featuring of free and cheap apps have incentivized a race to the bottom that makes developing for the App Store an unsustainable venture. It is not only indie developers feeling this squeeze, large companies also feel they have to appease Apple. They recognize that if they do not get featured by Apple, they will get buried.


For developers today, there is actually disincentive to providing support for their apps in order to make them dependable. Every time a developer release bug fixes in an app update, prior reviews are wiped and the reviews are left blank for the new version. Instead the best option for developers is to create ‘free’ viral apps with casino-like in-app purchases.


Things went south In 2012, when Ivanovic launched a new version of the Pocket Casts app on the Android Play Store first, rather than Apple’s App Store. The launch was a real success, and he publicly shared the good news. Before he knew it, his Apple Developer Relations representative stopped all contact. The representative would not even answer his emails. Ivanovic had been completely shut out.


We recently had our iOS Developer Program terminated, for what I can only assume was a gross misunderstanding on Apple’s behalf. And I can only assume because Apple won’t actually tell us why they terminated our account. We just got a standard form reply with zero detail. Whenever we call Developer Support, they can’t/won’t tell us anything. We have absolutely zero information on why they permanently expelled us from the App Store.

Update (2015-03-25): Responses from Marco Arment, Russell Ivanovic, Matthew Drayton, and Daniel Jalkut.

Update (2015-03-28): Follow-up from Eli Schiff and a response from Nick Heer.

Update (2015-04-03): Allen Pike (via iOS Dev Weekly):

A critical article about some Apple technology or policy is like a kind of thought virus. If you make a compelling argument, you can seed it on the open internet, and by its nature the article will spread among people who care about Apple and its success or failure. Naturally, this includes Apple employees. While it may be impossible from the outside to discern who is responsible for a particular iOS 8 usability issue, a thoughtful critique of the problem has a decent chance of making its way to that team and driving change for the better.

Fantastical 2 for Mac

Fantastical 2 (App Store) is a big update, though the change list doesn’t seem to be documented yet.

Update (2015-03-25): It looks like Fantastical 2 uses YapDatabase and SQLite’s FTS module for searching. I expect this means it will be immune to the many searching problems that I experienced with Apple Calendar, which I think relied on Spotlight. It also now supports axis searches, e.g. “title:foo location:bar notes:baz”.

Update (2015-03-28): Joe Cieplinski:

I always watch Michael Simmons very closely when he’s launching a new product. The guy never fails to get great press coverage. And it’s not by chance.


It’s brilliant. And it obviously works. But only because it’s genuine. And only because he’s willing to put in that time. That incredible amount of time. Not coding. Not designing. (That’s all getting done, too.) But good old-fashioned marketing.