Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Photosmith Development Ends

Chris Horne (October 2015):

Nearly 5 years ago, two intrepid guys took their photography hobby and years of development background to the relatively new world of the iPad. The iPad was only 8 months old, iOS 3.2 was the latest and greatest, and Lightroom 3 was just released. It was the gold rush era of apps.


However, we struggled with app crashes—nearly all due to iOS itself. To tap into the Camera Connection Kit, we had to use the built-in photo library tools, and thus Apple’s official photo management library: ALAssets. ALAssets was a poorly designed library, and lamented by developers across the web. Nearly all functions require stopping activity that controls the user interface (a design unique to ALAssets), and even if the function works, it still has a tendency to just crash the app randomly. We were never able to wrangle ALAssets enough to have a usable app.


It was difficult to constantly keep up with ever-changing Lightroom versions, Facebook and Dropbox API’s and other changes. But to have the main operating system make such drastic changes was devastating to morale, and ultimately, the project; it’s demoralizing to constantly re-write the same parts to try to keep up with Apple’s random changes. Especially when we wanted to focus on features, stability, and other app-related features – not just chasing to keep up with what we had.

Chris Horne:

Undoubtedly, that is a lot of money and most iOS developers would gladly disassemble themselves for such a haul. But consider that that total is spread over four years and has to pay contractors, advertising, cloud services, software licenses, and hardware devices it actually doesn’t go that far. After all expenses the developers took home under $20,000 a year before taxes. A nice sum to be sure, but far short of a full-time wage especially considering we were working 40+ hours/week routinely.


Over and over we were told to drop the price and make it up in volume. We did experiment with that a few times and always found that the support load of higher volume overwhelmed any positive revenue changes.


One interesting thing that we did find testing pricing is that Photosmith has an unexpected demand curve and was actually more successful at high price points. The following chart does not show the associated support costs but they were directly correlated with volume and thus dropped as we increased price so our net revenues were far higher at $20 than they were at $10.

Via Michael Yacavone:

Apple might want to consider what it takes to make an app with 24K downloads (over four years) successful.

Update (2016-05-05): ALAsset was deprecated in iOS 9. There is now a completely new PHAsset framework.

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