10 000 App Store Downloads

As of the latest available weekly sales report on iTunes Connect, the number of downloads for my three iPhone applications have passed 10 000!

The apps are Hiragana Lite (free), Hiragana ($2.99) and Katakana ($2.99).

I am amazed at the success of these admittedly simple applications and would like to extend my sincerest thanks to my customers, especially those who have left feedback and pushed me to improve the apps.

The numbers

(click to view large version)

(click to view large version)

The vast majority of downloads have naturally been for the free version Hiragana Lite. However with just under 10% of the total downloads, the paid apps have together been able to edge over the 1 000 downloads line. This is way beyond my wildest hopes.

The explosion of Hiragana Lite downloads makes the sales lines for the paid applications look almost flat. But if we disregard the Hiragana Lite downloads and look closer at the sales of the paid apps, combining their numbers, we notice something interesting.

Don't let the changed scale on the y-axis in the following graph confuse you, it goes to 1000 instead of the 9000 shown in the graph above.

Before the release of the free version the sales trend had been declining after the first few weeks. It looks like it was about to go flat right around 500 sales. However since Hiragana Lite has been available sales have picked up and have held remarkably steady.

My conclusion to this is that it is a very good idea to make a free version of your app available, letting potential customers try before they buy.

A second conclusion is that I should probably set aside some time to develop a few more apps.

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*Note that these numbers do not include updates, only new customer downloads are counted.

Analyzing App Store sales for 2008

Way back in October I wrote a post analyzing the sales data from the first three weeks of my applications in the App Store. Things were looking good, with over 250 sales in those three weeks.

Now that we're a little bit into 2009, it's time to take a look at how the sales performance evolved over the rest of 2008. Interestingly the combined sales of the 13 weeks since my previous report have failed to even equal those of the three initial weeks.

Click the images for higher resolution.

Sales Growth

All in all my two apps, Hiragana and Katakana, racked up a total of 467 sales during 2008. As can be seen the sales have leveled off to just a few per week, it will be interesting to see if the release of the free Hiragana Lite has any effect going forward.

Biggest Markets

Like before just under half the sales were generated through the US App Store, with Germany coming in second.

Payout

So far the sales have generated the following payouts:

$ 609

€ 207

¥ 5690

It seems Apple don't strictly follow the $250 minimum revenue per region rule before paying out. The Japanese amount above is way less than $250, and the dollar amount actually includes three separate payouts of $430, $91 and $88 respectively.

Announcing Hiragana Lite

I have decided to make a free version of my japanese study aid application, Hiragana available on the iPhone App Store.

This free version is exactly like the paid version except for 3 small differences:

  1. It's called Hiragana Lite.
  2. It contains the 46 basic hiragana characters, as opposed to the full set of 104 hiragana caracters available in the full version.
  3. Buttons on the info screen which open the App Store using the technique described in my earlier post Launching the App Store from within your iPhone application.

I'd be very happy if you gave it a try and leave me your feedback.

Hiragana Lite (App Store link).

I have also decided to mark the occasion by lowering the prices for the full versions of Hiragana and Katakana to $2.99.

Launching the App Store from within your iPhone application

Today I decided to figure out how to launch the App Store application from within an iPhone application using the SDK.

It turns out this is pretty simple, but you have to beware of a few issues.
  • First and foremost, it doesn't work from the iPhone Simulator, in all probability since the App Store application is not available on the simulator.
  • Second you need to provide a valid URL to an application in the App Store. You can access the URL to an application by simply right clicking the Application in iTunes and selecting the "Copy iTunes Store URL" menu item.

Here is the core code needed.

[[UIApplication sharedApplication]
 openURL:[NSURL
  URLWithString:@"http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=291170459&mt=8"]];

The above URL points to my Hiragana application.

I then chose to store the App Store URL in the info.plist file under a key named TEBAppStoreLink, so that I can use the same code for any future applications.

I ended up with this method for launching the App Store with the URL in the info.plist file.

- (void)goToAppStore
{
  UIApplication *app = [UIApplication sharedApplication];

  // Get the url from info.plist.
  NSString *appStoreLink = [[[NSBundle mainBundle] infoDictionary] objectForKey:@"TEBAppStoreLink"];

  // Open the url if it was available.
  if(appStoreLink){
  [app openURL:[NSURL URLWithString:appStoreLink]];
  }
}


What really happens is that Mobile Safari is launched with the provided URL, and upon realizing that the link is an App Store link it in turn launches the App Store application.

Of course, if you provide any other URL it just opens in Safari as usual. I haven't tested what happens if a YouTube URL is used, but I imagine the YouTube app would launch. That, however,  is not the problem i set out to solve today.

Japanese navy flag and the App Store reviewer backlash, an apology

As you may remember from my previous post Analyzing App Store sales data, the vast majority of sales I've seen for my iPhone applications have been in the US market. 

My applications have been available for well over a month now and I had been wondering why I barely saw any reviews in the store. As it turns out, reviews are not combined worldwide but instead tied to the store the reviewer is in. This makes sense I suppose, avoiding any language problems. Sadly there is no way for a developer, as far as I can see, to get a summary of the reviews left worldwide. Instead you have to go into each and every store to see if any reviews have been written for the specific markets.

I just realized this fact the other day when I switched over to the US iTunes store to see what movies are available for rental there. I then did a search for my app Hiragana and noticed that all of a sudden there were a couple of reviews that I hadn't seen before. Almost none of them positive!

My applications are marketed towards students of the Japanese language, and apparently people were taking offense with the Japanese navy flag that I was using both for my icon graphics and as a background image for the flash cards in my applications.

Version 1.0 look

Version 1.0 look

Some review excerpts:

"I don't know if you know what it means but it is like using Nazi flag for learning German application icon."
"Are you even aware of the gross political incorrectness of that imperial military flag you're using as an icon and background? People don't even dare fly that thing in Japan anymore."

Read more reviews here (App Store link, make sure you are in the US iTunes store)

The second review above hits it on the spot. I was not at all aware that the flag I was using is considered politically incorrect. In my eyes it is a very neat design, I even bought a jacket featuring it as a design element when visiting China last year. I guess now I know not to bring that jacket when going across the Atlantic to Aaron Hillegass' Cocoa Bootcamp at the Big Nerd Ranch this winter (more about this in a later blog post). 

I did know the flag was/is used by the Japanese navy and i know that the Japanese committed a bunch load of horrible war crimes during WWII, but it never crossed my mind that people may equate it to the nazi flag. Is this really true? Wouldn't the App Store staff have considered this before clearing the applications for release? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section, I would really appreciate it.

Measures taken

Of course I could not let the current state stand, so here are the measures I have taken to try to rectify the situation.

  • Redesigned icon
  • Removed card background
  • Half price during the full month of November!

Also I would like to express my apologies here to everyone offended by my using that flag in my applications.

Shameless plug

Introducing version 1.1 of my Hiragana and Katakana apps.

Now containing:

  • 100% less Japanese navy flags
  • Refined transition animations
  • Other minor fixes
Version 1.1 look

Version 1.1 look

These have already been available for a couple of days, and a few more positive reviews have trickled in. If you own the previous versions i recommend getting them updated via the App Store, unless you really want to hang on to that navy flag of course.

If you have avoided purchasing these applications for any reason, now is your chance to get them at a discount; $1.99 as opposed to the regular price of $3.99. Get them at the App Store.

Oh, and don't forget to leave a review in the store if you feel like it. Thanks!

Analyzing App Store sales data

I am currently selling two applications on the iTunes App Store. Hiragana and Katakana are educational applications aimed at the novice students of the Japanese language. Hiragana and Katakana are also the names of the two Japanese character alphabets my applications focus on.

Apple provides sales data for applications sold via the App Store, but the data is presented in the most unintuitive way possible, as plain data tables. This makes it extremely hard to get a view of sales performance, so I dropped the data files for my first three weeks of sales into my favorite data analysis application and ended up with the following insights. Click the images for higher resolution.

Sales Growth

Hiragana was first available for download from the App Store on 20th of September, with Katakana following on the 27th. In less than three weeks 266 units have been sold with Hiragana representing the majority of sales. The last week had the highest sales with a combined 126 units, 71 of which were Hiragana and 55 were Katakana.

Biggest Markets

Close to half of the sales were in the US market (122) with Germany, Canada, Japan and Australia being the other regions with more than ten sales each. The long tail of stores selling less than ten units represents 85 sold units, with 11 stores clocking in at one sold unit each. I doubt I'll ever see any profits from those markets as I need to sell approximately 100 units in a store to reach Apples minimum amount of $250 for royalty payout.

The information above is based on the weekly stats reported by Apple. Apple also provide daily statistics, but you have to grab them while they're fresh, only the last 7 days are available. I was out of town for a little over a week and forgot to download a few days worth of data. Going forward I'll try to store every day and return with a more detailed analysis. It should be interesting to se the daily trends. I would expect weekends to lead the sales since that's when people may have the extra time to play around with their iPods and iPhones. We'll see.

Published on the App Store: Hiragana

My first iPhone/iPod Touch application, Hiragana, has been published on the App Store. Apple's review of it took less than a week from submission to publication which did catch me off guard, as I was hoping to have more time to prepare a webpage for its launch.

HiraganaPrimaryScreenshot.png

Hiragana is a flash card application which helps me, and hopefully others as well, take advantage of occasional down time during the day to study the Japanese hiragana characters. 

You can slide the cards left/right to flip through them. There are 104 character cards in all, plus one information card which functions as the application manual.

Sliding the card upwards reveals the pronunciation of the character.

A double tap zooms the card out to fit the whole card on screen, and presents a card removal button similar to the ones in Mobile Safari's tab view.

The cards can either be studied in order or in randomized order. This is toggled by tapping the crossed arrows in the lower left corner.

The i-button in the lower right flips the view around and allows the customer full control over which characters to include in the card set. 

The application makes use of Core Animation to provide a very smooth and pleasant user experience.

Hiragana is available now for $3.99, all feedback is appreciated.

A version of the application focusing on the Katakana characters has also been submitted, but it is still in review.