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Thoughts on mobile app development.

iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7

One of the first iPhone apps I ever created as an independent developer was PhotoCaddy, a quick reference guide for photographers. Essentially it contains a big list of photography subjects, with each item containing a few tips and bits of advice on how to take good photos of that subject. Users can also read and share tips with other photographers around the world.

Sales of PhotoCaddy have always been decent, and I’ve been very fortunate that an app I created for fun whilst learning about both photography and iOS development, has helped to give me the freedom to pursue an independent lifestyle. The natural thing to do with any product that sells well is to try and make it available to more people (does Angry Birds have Commodore 64 support yet?). So, over time I’ve ported the iPhone version of PhotoCaddy to iPad, OS X, Android, and Windows Phone 7. Today, I’d like to share some numbers with you, in the hope that this might help you decide what other platforms interest you.

So, here’s the sales for the month of August (with all dollar values in US dollars):

Platform Price Rating Sales Revenue
iPhone $3.99 4 stars 448 $1228
iPad $4.99 4 stars 120 $414
OS X $4.99 - 84 $294
Android $3.99 4.5 stars 131 $387
Windows Phone 7 $3.99 - 12 $0

I’m not going to go into a deep analysis of those numbers, but I do have some random tidbits which I think will be of interest:

  • Many people like to claim that Android users don’t buy apps, but in my experience this is not the case. An interesting thing to note is that I often receive emails from ex-iPhone users telling me how glad they are that the app is available for their new Android phone. Even if it turns out that all my Android sales can be attributed to ex-iPhone users, I think that’s irrelevant – Android users do buy apps.
  • The OS X, Android and Windows Phone 7 ports were carried out by freelancers, cost roughly US$1000 each and required about 5 hours of my time.
  • Revenue for Windows Phone 7 is $0, as several months later they still claim I haven’t submitted my tax details, and I can’t find any actual sales figures in the portal. I may pursue it one day, but for now I have better things to do.
  • The design is pretty much the same across all platforms. Android users consistently say how much they love the UI, whilst at least a few iPhone reviews have mentioned that the content is great but the design is lacking.
  • On all platforms I’ve seen a decent boost in sales once the star ratings appear. I know Apple doesn’t like us including “Rate This App” style prompts, but I think you’re crazy not to.
  • In the month of August, I also had 29 additional cancellations or refunds of Android sales. I used to get emails from Google every single time this happened, which was really annoying. Now I only get emails sometimes…and it’s still annoying. I don’t need to be told when I haven’t made a sale.
  • I never had big hopes for the Windows Phone 7 port, but I think as an actual platform, it’s much better than Android. I really hope the Nokia deal brings some love.

So, in summary, would I port an iPhone app to another platform again? Actually, I’m in the middle of porting another app (Photo Academy) right now. As a more general answer though, it really depends. If the original app sells well, then I see no reason why you shouldn’t port to iPad or Android, or even OS X if it suits your app. There are plenty of freelancers who can do the work for you if you’re that way inclined, at a cost that will allow your app to become profitable fairly quickly. Unfortunately, Windows Phone 7 is off my list for now. It was a good experiment which I’m glad I ran, but I won’t be going there again anytime soon.

6 Comments

  1. Hi Ben,

    I’m just preparing to speak at an iOS developer conference on the subject of developing for other platforms, and saw your post in my iDevBlogADay feed. Thanks so much for sharing — your post has given me some great things to talk about! :)

    Luke

    Reply
    • Great Luke! Glad you enjoyed it. Feel free to use whatever content you like for your talk :-)

      Reply
  2. Has apple officially said they don’t like the rate my app prompts? I can see why they may not like them, but I hadn’t heard that they officially said anything on that.

    Reply
    • Nothing official as far as I know. If you’re a developer though, there is some discussion over it in a recent WWDC video. The basic vibe is that no, they don’t like them.

      Reply
  3. I think the percentage of users who use Android is small and just starting to creep slowly. Thus the demand for Apps will be slow as compared to iPhone. The question is how you can beat a giant who occupies 70% of the market. For a developer, it is very difficult to put their eggs in the Android basket.

    Reply
    • I wouldn’t say the percentage of Android users is small, but Apple has done an excellent job of making the App Store easy to understand and accessible. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend putting all your eggs in the Android basket, I think at this point in time a well made app has a good chance of making a reasonable number of Android sales, as the competition is so poor.

      Reply

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