Look, I sympathize. I am one of you. I too rushed to ship an app to the App Store in 2008. I too have ridden the ups and downs of the Store. I too have a vaguely successful app if “vaguely successful” means it would provide an unbelievably good side income.
Unlike most of you, however, I’ve been at this a long time. I launched our current product in 1997 as a Palm OS application, have supported multiple platforms over the years, and at one time ran one of the largest mobile software companies. (That’s not bragging. The companies were actually that small back then.) I made the trial-and-purchase-for-a-fixed-price-plus-periodic-upgrades model work and work well for many many years.
But those days are dead, and, some tough love is needed here: THIS IS NOT APPLE’S PROBLEM.
Let’s say that together now: the dearth of many viable iOS indie dev businesses is not Apple’s problem.
Whether we like it or not, the game has changed. Trials are out. They’ve been out for six years now and we have no idea if they are ever coming back. Upgrades are out, too. Again, we have no idea if they will ever come back. Ask yourself, do you really want to sit here and wait another 10 months to find out if we will get trials and upgrades, and then wait another three months after that to see it available? Hell, no. I need to make a living now.
It’s time for us to adapt.
It’s time for us to take a hard look in the mirror and decide whether we want to be in business or not.
It’s time to look in the mirror and say, in our best Jack Handy voices, that it’s us, not them.
The sooner we can come to the conclusion that it’s our problem, not Apple’s, the sooner we can move on to something more useful, like re-thinking our approaches and making a living.
“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying,” said Andy to Red in Shawshank Redemption.
It’s time for us to get busy living.
I was particularly curious what Marco Arment would do with Overcast, his new podcast app. This category may be a hotbed for design but it sure as hell is not a hotbed for making money. Marco, for as many haters as he seems to attract, is no dummy. I am certain he knew this going in. What rabbit would he pull out of his hat, especially with some of the biggest brains in iOS development to discuss it with? No surprise, he tried something new for the category: freemium. Good for Marco.
This should be a lesson for all of us. What’s the old saw? Doing the same thing over and over with the same results is the definition of crazy.
Well, we are the crazy ones. We keep shipping paid up-front apps into the App Store and charging the same prices for them. How is that Apple’s fault?
It’s time for us to change and try something new. Would an app supported by ads work? How about free with in app purchase? Charge for individual features so power users can pay us more? Subscriptions? Or how about just raising prices? Multiple apps so you can cross promote? Move to multiple platforms? Build something useful on the website that people will pay for, too?
Can we take what makes these products unbelievable and get our biggest fans to pay us a little more, even pay us a little bit over time, so we can have a reason to keep devoting energy to these products we love?
Does this mean we may have to piss off a few of our existing customers to do it? Maybe. But losing an arm is better than dying. If we can’t make ends meet then we will all be exiting the iOS development game. We’ll be dead.
But it’s not like everyone has failed. The indie life isn’t dead yet. After all, if a few can make it work than a few more can make it work, too.
Personally, I’m not going quietly. We are working on a new mobile and web service, one that takes everything we learned about iOS and Android, about apps and our customers, about the way the app stores work, lessons from my many years developing our software, and I’m trying to fix two things: an even better product than the one my customers already love and a better business model that makes it feasible for me and a small team to support it full-time.
It took me a long time to get to this point. Frankly, too long. I would have gotten here a lot sooner if I would have stopped blaming Apple for my problems, stopped waiting for Apple to fix the App Store issues, and accepted the fact that there is incredible opportunity in front of me, one maybe unprecedented in the history of software development.
In order to capitalize I am the one who needs to change, not Apple.