I don’t know about you, but sometimes, and the end of an exhausting day, I find the prospect of filling out yet another form almost frightening. At the very least intimidating. Some days, I’m just not in the mood to be bothered. Even with tracking open loops meticulously, this opens up the potential to let things stay undone for far too long.
In case you’re prone to behave like that, I don’t want you to fall into this trap for your indie app business. So here’s good news. I checked out Apple’s App Store Small Business Program enrollment.
The App Store Small Business Program is literally just a handful of checkboxes to tick. That’s it. I completed it in 2 minutes, most of it spent in the login form, I guess.
If you earn less than 1mio USD in revenue per year and want to see your App Store fees halved from 30% to 15%, apply as soon as possible.
If you apply before Dec 18th (this Friday!), your enrollment is expected to be done in time for January 2021.
It takes a handful of deep breaths to get through that. And I totally get why some of us at the moment absolutely need some breathing room as 2020 draws to a close. If yet another form to fill out is not your cup of tea, give this checkbox-based form a chance. You’ll not regret it.
If your customers get this message when downloading your app from the Mac App Store: XYZ is damaged, remove it and download again from App Store. … it might be because you’re parsing the App Store receipt dates wrong! Apparently, Apple began to change Mac App Store receipt date formats recently: When you parse receipt dates, account for both variants. To make things easier for you, strongly consider to use
NSISO8601DateFormatter in Objective-C) which should (!) handle multiple variants of ISO-8601 dates for you.
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The situation was resolved, but it took 1/4 of a year for Guilherme and Apple to resolve the issue. Read Guilherme’s post about the incident.
I don’t want to blame Apple here. I just want to make sure that we all stay aware of the fact that part of our livelihood depends on a company than can, and will, make mistakes eventually. These mistakes can become fatal for your business.
If you do a simple exercise in Antifragility 1 training, you’ll see that having all your eggs in one basket where you do neither own the basket, nor the eggs, puts you in a pretty bad situation.
This is an affiliate link. I get a small kickback from any purchase from amazon.com without any additional cost to you. ↩
Berlin-based company ExactCODE, makers of ExactScan and OCRKit, experiences trouble with Catalina and a rather short time to submit bug fixes for their app before the public release of Catalina earlier this month. They decided to leave the Mac App Store behind:
- each manual update review by Apple causes delay and drama
- AppStore does not support paid upgrades, only new App, in-App purchase or subscriptions
- Apple takes 30% and that is not sustainable to run a company and pay salleries
- it is not provide to provide free updates forever
- if you purchased our application this year we provide a direct license, if you had it significantly longer, we think a paid upgrade is fair for continuously developing, improvements, and support
There is mostly only one benefit [of using the MAS] for users: one central place for purchasee and updates. However, there are many negatives, such as: […]
I don’t know if they could’ve done more to prepare for the macOS upgrade. Recently, folks on Slack shared screenshots, and it turns out that as a serious Mac developer you apparently have external hard drives full of previous and future macOS versions, plus a stack of different Xcode versions (that are no longer available for download by Apple!) – that’s required by virtually everyone in order to support multiple OS versions and fix bugs. The Catalina beta also was very flaky.
After releasing the Catalina Golden Master build to developers on October the 3rd, we immediately finished fixing any new crash or issue we could find over the weekend. In our opinion, leaving developer just four (4!) days over a weekend with a public release on October the 7th is not very helpful nor professional.
They have a point here. But could they have fixed the same bugs earlier in preparation of the Golden Master release?
The call for App Store submissions went live on October 3rd, too, at the day of the Golden Master release. So even if they fixed all the bugs early, Apple would have had only 4 days to review all App Store submissions, which sounds like a bad idea nevertheless.
- Piezo Leaving the MAS
- Pros and Cons of the MAS
- The bias of Search Ads
- Dan Counsell’s Mac App Store wishlist from 2016
Shameless plug: I also wrote a book on selling outside the Mac App Store in case you want to leave the App Store, too, or make your company more resilient through availability in multiple stores.
The large update and rewrite of “Make Money Outside the Mac App Store” is finished. I have published an update of the book to Leanpub edition and the one you can get directly from my website. The print edition is still work-in-progress, but I should have something available later this month.
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The following I decided to cut from the update to my book, Make Money Outside the Mac App Store. I came up with a list of arguments that you can apply to your business model and app if you haven’t decided if you want to embrace or ditch the Mac App Store.
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While I was working on the update of my book, Make Money Outside the Mac App Store, I compiled a comparison of popular e-commerce solutions. My first test reader Sascha found this to be distracting from the books technical objective, so I cut it out.
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I found an interesting connection between two articles about paid up front apps, and how this paywall can work to your advantage in two ways by separating the ap user’s population into two groups, prospects and paying custoemrs: I never thought about the effect of paywalls on support email volume until Jordan Morgan launched his app Spend Stack the other day and now published an interesting argument pro paid up front pricing. Paid up front will limit your user base a lot compared to free-to-download/freemium, that’s true, but you’ll have a far lower volume of support emails, and you will only get emails from paying customers. Jordan receives 10–15 emails/day at 500 downloads/day right after launch. If you think freemium will increase downloads tenfold to 5000/day, he would also have to deal with hundreds of emails!
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Here’s some more background info for indie devs. To follow up the release of TableFlip on the Mac App Store and me noticing that yes, people buy the app without any marketing, I wanted to share sales origin stats today: according to the available data collected by the App Store, 100% of purchases were made after a search inside the Mac App Store so far.
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Brent Simmons wrote about imposing sanctions by making apps unavailable in certain countries (in his case: Saudi Arabia) in November 2018. I never thought about the mere possibility of doing so. It’s an intriguing thought: even when politics don’t result in whatever you want, you can always be picky about who you do custom with. It’s a power we have, a power every producer and craftsperson has. Turn down a business for moral reasons.
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WWDC people noticed that Panic Inc. are coming back to the Mac App Store with their beloved file transfer app, Transmit. This puzzled a lot of people because they moved away from the MAS starting with Coda 2.5 in 2014. Sandboxing was just too restrictive. But now, it seems, the new Mac App Store’s Sandboxing rules will be different enough for Transmit to work. See Panic’s tweets on the topic. The details:
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Ladies and gentlemen, I have finished updating my e-book about ditching the app store and selling your apps with the help of FastSpring for Swift 3! I also got annoyed by “$x.99” prices and lowered the price from $24.99 to $22. The Indie Mac Developer Book Bundle is now just $27, too.
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I will be hosting a webinar about distributing your app outside the Mac App Store next week. It’s free, and you’re very welcome to attend!
Wednesday, February 15th, 2017 @ 10:00 AM PST (will run 1 hour)
→ Register Now
- Ditching the Mac App Store – Why, and what it means.
- Is There Life After the Mac App Store? – Choosing an e-commerce provider.
- Getting Back to Development – How you change your code to work outside the Mac App Store.
Plus you’ll see me live. That alone should be motivation for you to visit, no matter the topic :)
Disclaimer, aka Code of Honesty and Transparency
Maybe you just arrived on my blog and don’t know how I do things around here, yet, and how much I value morality over profit anytime. So let me erase your doubts about this webinar cooperation.
I use FastSpring to sell my stuff. I really like their service, so I wrote a guide in 2015. FastSpring in turn was impressed by my initiative and helped me spread the word a bit and provide background info whenever I needed anything. I am not getting paid by FastSpring for the book. It’s my own creative work. I maintain it because I think it helps you, fellow developer, to set up your own indie business.
Then late 2016, FastSpring approached me as their go-to expert for Mac app development. They plan to show how easy it is to use FastSpring to distribute Mac apps. In other words, they want to own part of the good news for obvious marketing reasons.
With the recent Out-of-App-Store Success Stories by Rogue Amoeba and Kapeli, it may even be a growing market.
I was skeptical at first. I will not violate my strong ethics; teaching people the One True Way™ is more important than easy money. But I came to find FastSpring values delivering useful content over running a 60-minute ad show. From the get go, FastSpring wanted me to create the content. Not even once did they suggest I add something to my slides. They totally risk I go live on Wednesday and tell people to use a competing service. But I won’t, because I know no better service provider. I liked the concept, so I agreed. I am getting paid by FastSpring for this webinar gig. But it’s 100% my webinar.
To stay true to myself, I will give genuinely helpful advice to empower the attendees to become independent. Of course I’ll show FastSpring’s features, just like the screenshots I put in my book. All because I believe in their service, not because they bought my loyalty with the speaker fee.
In short, this is not an advertisement for FastSpring. I haven’t sold my soul. It’s a cooperation out of mutual respect.
Hope to be seeing you around on Wednesday!
These wishes by Dan I can easily get behind:
- Eliminate or relax the sandboxing guidelines
- Revamped pricing models
- Emphasize quality over quantity
- Get rid of in-app purchases
- Streamline the approval process
The picture Dan is painting is dim, but it’s also spot-on. Wishes don’t always come true, and you probably know that some people on the web simply complain and write open letters to Apple instead of wishing for a better future.
Dan’s stance is more productive than complaints, though: Because when you complain, you’re adopting the mentality of a deserving victim. Change the status quo instead.
It’s your turn to do what’s right: if you don’t believe in what’s going on, make something better. On the Mac, you have the power to do so. As an indie app developer, you can distribute your software outside the Mac App Store. Or you can try new business models like Setapp is doing (which I presume to be subscription based for unlimited access to a wide range of apps).
Bitching doesn’t help. It doesn’t improve your own mental state, and it doesn’t make the world a better place. Only doing something will bring change.
Drawing from Dan’s list of wishes, a controversial topic is In-App Purchases. Some people say IAP are the future of making business, that paid up front is dead, and that developers should deal with the reality and adapt. Instead of finding out the truth, think about what you want to make, and which future you want to help bring about. Then act accordingly and never falter.
Dash was removed from the macOS and iOS App Stores: Apple terminated the developer’s account without further notice and does not provide additional information.
This is a very sad thing to happen to Bogdan Popescu, sole developer of Dash: as far as I can tell, Dash is the only app he is selling at the moment, and now the exclusive iOS store was taken from him. The macOS App Store was probably more lucrative for Bogdan than selling licences on his own – at least that’s what other developers consistently report when they sell on both platforms.
So here’s another reason why Apple’s App Stores are risky for developers. Not only will search ads skew the results. And not only do you have to make up for the 30% cut by Apple. Developers have no way to defend themselves against giants like Apple (or Amazon in the realm of books, for that matter). There’s no separation of powers. The companies own these channels. It feels weird that they can do as they please, but there’s nothing to complain, really.
The power of the customer is limited, too. Do you know anybody who doesn’t have a strong opinion why his smartphone is better than someone else’s? Anybody who would switch platforms at will? Who won’t lose anything in the process or find it painful? – I don’t, and so there’s no real pressure for Apple in the long run. Not paying for the next iPhone and using Android instead is not an option for most iPhone users. It’s probably even worse with Macs. I wouldn’t want to use a Windows or a Linux PC if I can help it.
So now you can place ads for your app to pop up in search results.
I don’t like this move. Because it changes the chances of developers to make it in the list of search results. The App Store’s aren’t a great place to discover a fitting solution. Now, the search results aren’t even guaranteed to be 100% relevant.
If I had the money, I’d use Search Ads to try to increase my revenue. Without money, you’re screwed, though.
At least the pricing sounds good: you pay for a tap and you can put a daily cap on your ad budget. So literally everyone can try to use Search Ads to increase the odds. The thing is that each tap is priced according to the market, though. If your competitors are willing to spend a lot more than you, chances are a limited budget will not make it:
You determine the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a tap on your ad. Using a second price auction, Search Ads calculates the actual cost of a tap based on what your nearest competitor is willing to pay for a tap on their ad, up to your maximum cost-per-tap bid, so you’ll always pay a fair market price. (Source)
Apart from the amount of fairness of pricing and other technical details, I find the very move to place Search Ads in the App Stores troubling in itself.
Joe Allen posted on Reddit how selling Soundboard Studio for $29.99 helps him sustain a business. You’ll find more details on his indie business blog where the latest posts circle around similar topics.
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Rogue Amoeba develop lots of popular software. Now Piezo 1.5 exits the Mac App Store.
While the App Store has many shortcomings, it’s the onerous rules and restrictions Apple has for selling through the Mac App Store which pose the biggest problem. The type of software we make is precluded from being sold through the store, particularly now that sandboxing is a requirement, and Apple has shown no signs of relaxing those restrictions. Fortunately, unlike iOS, the Mac platform is still open. We’re able to distribute and sell direct to our customers, right from our site. We’ve got almost 15 years of experience and success doing just that, and we have no plans to stop.
Their apps that work on the App Store stay there.
Shameless self promotion: Are you worried about the recent trend of abandoning the MAS? I wrote a book about publishing apps outside the Mac App Store. There’s nothing you have to fear. It’s fun.
My e-book about creating and selling apps for Mac without the Mac App Store is now available on amazon.com if you prefer a print edition!
- Why does print cost less?
- The digital edition will be updated regularly with the latest Swift syntax. Further editions and major revisions are free for customers, too. I can’t do that with a print edition on your bookshelf, obviously. That’s why.
It feels weird, I know, because paper costs money and print book feel more precious. I’m making about 50% less with each sale, so there’s quite some cost involved printing the book. The feeling of physical good in your hand is part of the perceived value, and everyone would tell me I should factor that in, but I’m a bad businessman. It’s the right thing to do. Why should you pay more for something with less long-term value only because my costs are higher?
Today I’m proud to announce the release of my e-book Make Money Outside the Mac App Store!
Get it for
$25 until Dec 24th from my store!
Shaving off VAT and then again 30% for Apple for every purchase of your app in the Mac App Store can be madness: the only real benefit is that people know how to operate the store. But if you’re just starting to run your business, discoverability is hardly a feature.
Instead of drowning in the warehouse that the app store is, put your software in your own store. You have to build an audience anyway to get started. So stay in touch with them. Know your customers. And stop giving away 30% for a promise that doesn’t hold.
- Save days of research and implement the techniques today
- Copy & paste Swift 2.0 code to integrate into your app in <1 hour
- Utilize in-app purchase of licenses for a higher conversion instantly
- 2 fully functional sample applications, including a time-based trial app
- Secure license code generation and verification included
Take a look at the details page for more info.
This book will save you hours of research and days of fiddling with SDKs. It shows you how to set up products for sale on FastSpring including automatic license code generation and then guides you through the process of adding license verification to your app.
Don’t need all the explanations? Just follow the setup steps and copy the code into your project and you’re ready to roll in half an hour!
I’m not affiliated with FastSpring. I just think their service is awesome.
Here’s what FastSpring’s CTO Mike Smith has to say about the book:
We appreciate Christian’s efforts in creating a guide that enables Mac developers to sell applications through FastSpring’s award-winning e-commerce platform. He has provided detailed instructions to help developers configure key elements of their online sales process. The spirit of community captured in his book reflects FastSpring’s mission to connect people globally in the digital economy.
I truly believe in the spirit of community and I believe you can make it as a developer without the App Store. This book is here to empower you so you don’t have to figure out all the scary details.
So many other indies rely on FastSpring, too, including:
- Smile Software (TextExpander, PDFpen)
- Realmac Software (Clear, RapidWeaver)
- Tyler Hall (VirtualHostX)
- Ironic Software (Yep, Leap)
- Bohemian Coding (Sketch)
- toketaWare (iThoughtsX)
- well, and me, obviously :)
Get to know their stories from this book. Be inspired and take the leap.
Because I think it’s so worth your time as a Mac developer, get it for 25% off until Christmas when you buy from my store.
I have written a book about releasing apps outside the Mac App Store. It comes with two fully working sample applications to cover checkout from within the app, licensing, and locking the app after a trial period.
Make Money Outside the Mac App Store: How to Sell Your Mac App with FastSpring, Secure It With License Codes Against Piracy, and Offer Time-Based Trial Downloads.
I’d love to have feedback on this.
If you want to help out, just shoot me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S.: The secret Leanpub page is here.
Freemium is said to be a popular way out of the iOS App Store underground. Make your app freemium and skyrocket your downloads. Then sell cool stuff from within the app to unlock more features or buy expendable contents and services.
This doesn’t work for all things on the market, of course.
Shuveb Hussain wrote about his own freemium experiments and that he considers it a failure in his case.
Why did Shuveb’s app make less money with freemium than with a paid-up-front sales model? That’s hard to find out without more experiments, but unlike in science, I guess you can only have that many trials in the App Store before users stop to trust you.
Shuveb himself said multiple times that his app is really really niche-specific. His freemium model allows people to convert one article to Kindle per day for free; more cost money. Maybe his users need no more than one article per day, maybe often times even less. That’s possible but hard to say without analytics about usage patterns from within the app.
Even with app analytics, how can you find out usage patterns if people know they have only one shot per day and probably don’t open the app more often than that?
You can only compare to data from the less limited intro phase. Do users stop opening the app regularly after they converted their first 3 articles?
Read Stuart Hall’s experiments with the vastly more successful 7-Minutes workout app. He switched to In-App Purchases and people loved it. He found folks liked buying features less than buying additional content. I try to keep that in mind because it makes sense, but then again, I’m probably biased towards the good story.
Finding out how to make money with iOS apps is pretty hard. Actually making money is easier if you have a huge following of people you can market to. It’s easier with a network of bloggers and journalists. It’s easy when your app doesn’t actually suck.
Well, of course it’s easier if it isn’t hard.
I believe in value of the craft. I have to in order to stay sane. But crafting alone doesn’t feed hungry mouths. It merely keeps me happy. We need a market, and we need to reach it, and we need to deliver timely. There’s a lot of uncertainty and pressure. Making apps freemium from the get-go might not solve any of our problems. We have to think twice about it, you and I and all the other indie app devs. And maybe hope for a niche of professionals who are willing to pay more. (Which is the other popular promise how to become successful.)