The Biz of Apps

I finally wrote an article that’s related to technology. You can read about it in the September 2010 issue of my online magazine (or e-zine if you prefer). Here are some excerpts:

It all started when a friend asked me, “Hey dude, you’re a programmer. Why don’t you create an iPhone app and sell it?” Something in my gut already told me it’s not a worthwhile investment of effort at that point in time. I trust my intuition a lot; it saves a lot of brain cycles spent deciding.

I wrote specifically about iPhone/iPad apps, but the concepts can be transplanted to other mobile devices. The app business appears to be increasingly lucrative, particularly when Apple is making their iPod/iPhone/iPad so attractive as a consumer device. It is popular because the mobile device (not just those from Apple) is ubiquitous. Practically everyone who has disposable income (and even those without…) has a mobile phone (is the word “mobile” even needed? Some of these Generation Y people (no offense if you’re one) might not even know what a dial-tone telephone is). And that is a lot of round brackets…

I explained some of the decisions I made for not developing an iPhone app. Here’s a terrible reason:

Developers wait an average of 4.78 days for app approval

Other (mobile) (phone) app markets probably have a quicker approval period.

I gave some suggestions for leveraging that app you have, because if you’re selling it at 99 cents per user, you’re not going to retire at the ripe old age of 23, lounge at the beach recliner staring at the softly lapping waves and sip piña coladas. I’m just saying… And raising the price is not the answer (not in the long term anyway).

With an investment of US$ 999 for the MacBook, and a yearly subscription of US$ 99, I’m out by US$ 1098. If I’m selling a 99 cent app, I need 1585 downloads to break even (remember that Apple takes a 30% cut). And then I need 143 downloads every year thereafter to break even for the yearly subscription cost. I will need to continue creating apps to alleviate that. And I’m not even making a profit, just trying to break even.

You can read the whole article in my magazine Singularity.

P.S. I don’t write a lot of technology articles because I’m not really interested in the latest gadgets and technology advancements. Another reason is I’m only one person, keeping up with all that there is, is tiring. I just feel my time can be put to a better use. That said, I will write them if they’re still relevant when Time washes a few months on the “latest and greatest”.

Mobile phone is now my video game platform of choice

I remember being glued to the television screen while barely surviving in most of the role playing video games I played when I was young. It didn’t matter that most of them were in Japanese, because I would still slog through the dialogue and snatch whatever I could understand. Ahh, those were the days…

As I grew up, I still played video games, but less often. I’ve always preferred to play on console machines rather than the computer. For some reason, game playing felt right on consoles. But game playing on consoles required switching on the television, switching on the console machine… yeah, I’m getting lazy, and selective about my games (you know, not enough time)… It just feels like a bit of an effort.

Then I started to use the computer more often, as a result of my university work and programming. Since the computer was already on, the notion of playing games on the computer started to be more appealing. But I only really play The Sims. Using the keyboard and mouse to play action games felt awkward for me, but the point-and-click-with-no-rush system of The Sims was ok.

But even that sort of died… the loading time was terrible, I had to save… starting up and ending the game still felt like effort…

Then I bought my iPhone.

Now, I own a handheld console (a DS since you asked), though I don’t play very often. The games aren’t “motivating” me enough. Plus the screen is small, and I still have to start it up to play games.

My iPhone, on the other hand, is different. I keep it switched on when I’m awake. That means, if I want to play a game, I just need to load up the game, which is fairly fast. I’m not isolating the iPhone here. Any mobile phone with gaming capabilities fit into the criteria (but I’m kinda invested with the Apple product… not a fanatic, but just reluctant to change phones in general. You know, I’m just obeying Newton’s first law).

When I want to play a game on my phone, I just start the game up. I don’t have to switch on the phone because it’s already switched on. The start up and closing times are (usually) fast. The games don’t need saving, or saves fast, or saves in a way you don’t notice (like on closing). My only concerns are the small screen, and whether I like the game.

I’m saying all this because applications are about the user. I’ve been looking at the top games from the Apple App Store. They seem to be the type of game where it’s easy to learn, easy to start up, easy to let go. Perfect for the attention-deficit and finicky modern mobile phone user. Compare this to the in-depth role playing games I’ve played in the past, burning through hours of playtime just to gain enough levels so I could at least survive the beginning attacks of the boss fight.

Times have changed…