The Business of iPhone and iPad App Development

Business coverFull disclosure: Apress asked me to review this book and sent me a free copy. I agreed with my usual condition of being able to really say what I thought about the book, good or bad. So here it is.


Great book for someone starting out on iOS development. You would be at a severe disadvantage if you don’t know about most practices described in the book. Single resource for lots of good practices you’d have to pick up from blogs or Twitter otherwise.

In More Detail…

Don’t be fooled by the title. The Business of iPhone and iPad App Development by Dave Wooldridge and Michael Schneider isn’t one of your boss’ stuffy business book. This is a practical, hands on, guide to making a successful iOS app. It assumes you already have an idea and know how to develop it, but it guides you through the steps of focusing the app, designing it so it can be profitable, and releasing it with the best possible chance of becoming a good seller.

You’ve probably heard a dozen stories of developers who create a great app, submit it to the App Store, and then wonder why they only sold a dozen copies. This is the book they need to go along with that great app.

The book roughly follows the development timeline of an app, from the initial concept, design, implementation, testing, and release. At each of the stages, it covers any aspects that can have a significant impact in the sales success of the app. Even though you can read the book cover to cover, the chapters are very well defined, so it’s easy to jump directly to the part that interests you the most.

With Casey’s Contraptions almost ready to submit to Apple, I read with particular interest the chapters on creating prerelease buzz and increasing awareness of the app. Lots of good advice there.

Don’t expect anything groundbreaking though. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, or you’ve been hanging out on Twitter with all the iOS developers, you will know most of what the book has to offer. It might still be worth it for a few pearls of wisdom here and there to fill some blind spot. However, the book should be required reading for any new iOS developer. Easily the best $20 you can spend as far as impact in the final app sales.

I usually have no patience for technical books with filler chapters and sections. This book is very good about getting to the point, although it has a few sections that feel a bit out of place in that they’re quite basic and technical (like details of generating provisioning profiles, did we really need that in this book?). All in all, that’s a pretty minor point and easy to get around them.

Delayed Release

Probably my main criticism is that the book doesn’t mention one release technique that I consider to be a requirement for any major launch these days: The delayed launch. As the authors mention several times in the last few chapters, once you submit your app, you have no control over when Apple approves it, so you have to play some guessing games.

Instead, you can delay the release of the app once it has been approved, and set it to a known, fixed date in the future (say, a week from approval). At that point, you can really kick in your PR in high gear, contact media outlets, and, most importantly, send them promo codes for your app, even though it’s not available for sale yet.

The goal is to have all the PR hit on launch day or shortly after. The more you can make that happen, the more successful any PR efforts will be, and the bigger the initial launch (and hopefully the following sales) will be.

All in all, The Business of iPhone and iPad App Development is an easy recommendation for the new iOS developer. Go read it right now before you even think of shipping another app.

All It Needs Is Love

The App Store today is a different beast from the one in early 2009, when iShoot ruled the charts. Look at the top paid games on the App Store today. Actually, don’t worry, I did all the leg work for you. Here they are:

Top paid
What can we tell by looking at those games? I see two clear categories: Games with a strong, established IP (Street Fighter, Sonic), or independent games with a huge amount of polish and style. Continue reading

Snappy Touch Picked As Top 50 Developer

Top 50Pocket Gamer just picked Snappy Touch as a top-50 developer for mobile and portable devices for the year. I’m really honored they counted me among the best 50 of the year, especially on a year with so many great games and new developers.

2010 was the year I was hoping to ship Casey’s Contraptions, but that didn’t happen. However, it’s great to see Pocket Gamer took notice of the ongoing work on Flower Garden. Every update feels like a small product release on its own, and there were many updates in 2010!

Flower Garden has come a long way since its initial release on April 2009 (almost two years ago!). There is so much more to the game now than the initial release! These are just some of the most important new features since then:

  • Multiple seed packs
  • Multiple garden locations
  • Day/night cycles
  • Fertilizer
  • Green Thumb Point awards
  • Game Center achievements and leaderboards
  • Sending bouquets through Facebook (and SMS in this next update)

Flower Garden also recently reached the milestone of 5 million bouquets sent. That’s a lot of flowers! Thanks to all the Flower Garden fans for making this possible!

Finding the Loose Change

I’m thrilled to present a guest post by Ian Marsh, 1/2 of the independent studio (and wildly successful) NimbleBit. They’re the creators of iPhone hits such as Pocket Frogs, Scoops, and Sky Burger, and they recently announced they reached 20 million downloads on the App Store!

One of the most important steps on the way to becoming a profitable independent iOS developer is diversifying your revenue stream.  While business lingo like that makes me throw up a little, all it really means is discovering all the ways you can earn money using the platform.  New developers sometimes pigeonhole themselves into a single App Store strategy: “Sell as many copies at 99 cents as possible”.  More savvy developers mix  multiple strategies: “Paid apps”, “In-App Purchases”, and “Advertising”.  I want to make sure all developers know about another additional option often overlooked: LinkShare.

LinkShare is a company which pairs publishers with retailers who pay said developers for driving clicks to their sites that result in sales.  How does this apply to iOS developers?  Luckily Apple (specifically iTunes) is one of the retailers which uses LinkShare.  A good FAQ page for the iTunes affiliate program can be found here, but the basic gist of it that you earn a 5% commission on items bought on the App Store from your affiliate links.  As an iOS developer you are probably already using links to your apps (and perhaps others) in lots of places, including “More Games” screens, twitter, newsletters, banner ads, or your web site.  Replacing all these existing (and future) links to the App Store with your affiliate links is a great start.  Retro Dreamer even wrote a nice quick guide to creating links that work seamlessly in iOS (there are some pros and cons to different link formats).

Now you might think the chances of someone actually buying an app you link to are relatively low, but that’s where things get interesting.  If you read the fine print it turns out affiliates get paid 5% of any purchases made within a 72 hours after following your link.  Lets say Joe clicks on a link to say, Pocket Frogs (our latest free game) which included your affiliate id, which even doesn’t result in a paid purchase even if the app is downloaded.  But perhaps Joe ends up buying Angry Birds ($0.99) an hour later earning you $0.05, or Real Racing 2 ($4.99) that night earning you $0.25, or just maybe the Beatles Box Set ($149.00) the next morning earning you $7.45!  The cool thing about the iTunes affiliate program is that it gives the affiliate 5% of any and all purchases made through iTunes within 72 hours including ring tones, songs, apps, in-app purchases, movies, tv shows, or rentals.

This of course means you can still earn revenue from linking to free apps,  which can end up being a powerful thing.  For example, in Pocket Frogs we run a promotion every week where we offer an in game item for downloading a certain free app (with a LinkShare link of course).  This not only keeps players checking back, but lets us promote apps we like (like Flower Garden) or even our own.  Like most other revenue sources LinkShare isn’t going to make you a whole lot of money if there aren’t that many people clicking your links, but it will certainly grow along with the number of users you have.  While the majority of revenue generated from Pocket Frogs (which fluctuates between 150k and 200k daily active users) comes from the IAP included in the game, it also generates a healthy amount of revenue from LinkShare (in conjunction with some links inside other apps) as seen below.



The great thing about LinkShare is that it gives you a lot of freedom on how you use it. It doesn’t use up any bandwidth or take up CPU cycles, and it doesn’t require you to shoehorn 3rd party code into your app. It is as invisible or invasive as you want it to be. So whether you’re a new iOS developer just starting out or an experienced dev, you owe it to yourself to take a look at using LinkShare if you’re not using it already.

Flower Garden Featured For Valentine’s Day!

Two years ago, when I was working on the first release of Flower Garden, Valentine’s Day was my target ship date. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), I missed it and rescheduled it for April. Last year I was eagerly awaiting the Valentine’s Day features hoping for a feature by Apple, but Flower Garden wasn’t one of the apps to be selected. It was disappointing but understandable given how many newer quality apps are out there.

Fast-forward another year, and this morning I woke up to a very pleasant and unexpected surprise: Flower Garden was featured on the App Store under Apps For Valentine’s Day!

Valentines apple feature

Flower Garden is still going strong, but I wasn’t expecting that at all. Thank you, Apple! Not only that, but this feature also appears on the device App Store. Flower Garden was featured twice before by Apple, but never before on a spot that appeared on the device. So that’s a first for Flower Garden!

Valentines apple feature iphone

To make things more interesting, I had been planning on doing a bit of promotion around Valentine’s Day like last year. So a few days ago I released a new update, and included another in-app purchase for the most asked-for feature: More pots in another garden space.

Secret Garden

Finally, to round things off, I planned on doing a similar promotion to what I did last year around Mother’s Day, and I set Flower Garden to be free from today until Valentine’s Day to encourage even more people to try it. To get the word out of the price drop, I got some promotion going from Pocket Frogs and a few other apps encouraging users try out the now free Flower Garden. I’m also hoping a few media outlets cover the sale to get the word out as much as possible.

Pf fg

As of this moment, Flower Garden is in the top 100 apps in the US and in the top 50 games, so the combination of everything seems to be working. We’ll see how things develop over this coming week. Until then, it’s going to be an exciting ride.

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