For those developing apps: experience of a successful indie developer (spoiler - not great)

Takeaway points

  • The paid-up-front app market is smaller than it may appear.
  • Coverage from influential bloggers can drive more sales than an App Store feature.
  • Paid-up-front business models don’t generate sustainable revenues.
  • If you want to make “real money” from a paid-up-front app, your launch week has to be be a box-office smash.
  • Don’t launch your paid-up-front app at a reduced price. Demand for your app will likely never be higher again. Price it accordingly.
  • Sustainable revenue must come from other sources than the original app purchase, either from consumable in-app purchases, or from recurring subscriptions.

Yes, it is the sad truth. It’s tough!

So far, I have launched two apps which are both free with in-app purchases and ads. From my experience, things aren’t much better this way.

  • As he said/showed, sales taper off very quickly.
  • Very few people actually buy the in-app purchases (for my apps about 1 / 1500 people bought an iap)
  • iAds make very little. very little. so far I have made about $1.25 from ads.

Let’s also not forget that getting reviewed is very hard. Personally, I sent requests (some after launch, some ‘exclusive’ pre launch) to about 20 sites who all claim to look at every submission - not a single reply

Oh well. I still have hope that it is possible to make as an indie dev.

@Ignatz once again very good finding, thanks for sharing.

That’s the awful truth. And that’s why I usually get very disappointed when reading random customers’ review on the app store complaining that 1,29 is a too hih price for an app. If I’ll ever be able to publish my app, I’ll never underprice it on the store. The quality is not worthy of those few bucks? Ok, just don’t recommend it and review it accordingly, but please do not say 1,29 is a too high price. Sorry for the long rant.

@JakAttak apparently AdMob is far better than iAd

@JakAttak I have no experience with iAd, but maybe the reason you’re making minimal money is because the ads are only showing for a short amount of time on the main menu where people are for only about 5 seconds.

@Ignatz thanks for sharing, but this person charged their app $4.99, a lot of people will look at the price, and immediately close it without even considering the quality of the app.

@Doge, the ads also show at the top of the screen in game on iPhone and iPod Touch 5 (because the taller screen let’s this not interfere with the gameplay).

@Luatee, interesting. I might try switching and see how it affects the numbers.

Great read, thanks @Ignatz!

(what are your apps, @JakAttak?)

Good read and as others have said, sad truth…

Probably old-hat but you must have a decent website and press kit, I’ve followed these lines as we are launching in September:


I lucked into getting a single site to review one of my apps, and that app immediately shot up to several hundred downloads for the next week or so, while everything else was cruising along at a tenth that rate.

And of course, the biggest thing for getting an app downloaded seems to be the word “Free.” ChipBots has been downloaded so often I stopped looking.

@Mark is that the keyword “Free”? I’m thinking of releasing my game as free when I finally get round to it and have iAPs for model packs… I’m not sure what the best strategy is here as reading JakAttak’s comment puts me in a different spot.

What websites did you guys try for the press release?

@Luatee I only have a single example, and ChipBots attracted some attention from the FIRST Robotics crowd, so it may not be the best example, but it passed 25k downloads several months back, while none of the paid apps have gotten a fraction of those downloads.

BullPuckey, which I thought was particularly cute, and for which I spent a lot of time drawing graphics, has been downloaded only 16 times in the last six months. Sigh.