Friday, March 20, 2009

Lessons Learned From a Week in the Android Market

So spurred by the acquisition of a G1 Dev Phone and learning about the Android platform, I started developing my own apps. I've set up a website for my little enterprise, called Polyclef Software. Have a look and let me know what you think.

I released my first app, a simple tip calculator with a virtual number pad, a little over a week ago. I set the price at $0.99. So far no one has bought it. This could have something to do with the fact that there are a dozen other tip calculators already in the market, most of them free. Ah well.

Lesson #1: You're probably not going to make money off an app for which there are already many others just like it.

Since then I've released four more apps:
  • Where Am I? A simple app that pulls GPS data (latitude, longitude, altitude, bearing, and speed) and calculates your distance to the Prime Meridian and equator in km and mi (Price: free)
  • JoyBuzz A silly app with a big red virtual button. When you press it, your phone vibrates and it makes a buzzing sound (Price: free)
  • ConcretePal A simple calculator using the same virtual number pad as my tip calculator. You enter the dimensions of a slab to pour and it returns the volume in cubic feet and cubic yards, as well as estimating the number of either 60 lb. or 80 lb. bags of concrete you will need. (Price: $0.99)
  • DogWhistle An app that generates 5-second sounds at 7 different frequencies, most out of the range of human hearing, but within the range dogs can hear. (Price: $0.99)
Here are the stats so far:

Where Am I?
631 total
389 active installs (61%)

1607 total
974 active installs (60%)

19 total
18 active installs (94%)

4 total
3 active installs (75%)

I've actually got a bunch more numbers for DogWhistle, but the Google Developer Console hasn't updated them yet. I actually released the app last night. I had read about a popular app for the iPhone that was similar, and since I already had an app that generated sounds on the press of a button, I just swapped them out and put up the app. This was a mistake. I didn't extensively test the app, and as a result, I got an initial barrage of negative comments and cancellations of orders (Google gives you 24 hours to cancel your purchase of an app). So I reworked it, tested it a bit more, and re-released it today.

Lesson #2: Don't release apps impulsively. I was doubtful that the app would even have much interest, but I immediately got a flood of downloads. Which leads me to...

Lesson #3: Unique apps have much more potential for making money.

And another lesson...

Lesson #4: People will spend money for stuff related to their pets.

Now, back to the other paid app that's got sales, ConcretePal. So far this week I've sold 18 copies at 99 cents apiece. Google takes a cut of about 20%, so I'm going to see about $15 out of that. Not too bad for the first week. Although, yesterday I got a negative review from a user (which the developer can't respond to), which said that the calculations were wrong. The calculations are not wrong. This is a simple length x width x height, for frig's sake. The height is in inches, so I have to divide by 12, but the math is correct. I checked it several times, and checked the calculations against other on-line concrete calculators. Also, he said the bag estimates were too high. This may have some merit. Different on-line calculators and sites have slightly different estimates for bags per cubic foot of concrete, but I went with calculations with conservative estimates that take into consideration waste and spillage. I would think an overestimation would generally be better than an underestimation. Anyway, again, the market provides no way to directly address negative comments from users, which sucks. I had one other positive comment from a buyer of ConcretePal, and I hope this one dumb comment doesn't hurt the steady trickle of sales, but we'll see.

Lesson #5: You're stuck with what people say about your app.

I've also gotten several emails from people. Most of them have been about JoyBuzz. I'm kind of surprised it's gotten that many downloads. Some people want to be able to turn the vibrate feature off. Some people what another button that gives a "correct" ding. Who knows...I may throw those things in, but not right now. I basically wrote the app to learn how to make the phone vibrate and emit noise based on user input. Same with the GPS app, which I basically wrote to learn how to access the GPS information, in case I wanted to write a more complicated app that used the users location for some purpose.

Lesson #6: You can never tell what people might be interested in.

Anyway, my next app will be a card game. It's much more complicated than any of the apps I've done so far, so it will probably take another week or two. I'll post here about it when it's released.


Rob said...

I looked at your ConcretePal app and it really only has a practical application for very small jobs. Also I assume that the bags you are using are a pre-mixed concrete as opposed to full strength cement to which you add sand gravel and water. Mixing 130 bags of concrete mix is very labor intensive when you can order it "ready mixed" in a truck and avoid the back-breaking labor. Trucks usually have a 5 yard minimum and you still have to do the finishing work but you have that if you do it yourself. As to the validity of the calculation I didn't see anything wrong with it.

Kenny Wyland said...

This is really awesome, man. Great lessons and it looks like you are doing some great work! Tear it up!

Jeremy said...

The ConcretePal app is very practical for any concrete job big or small obviously for a big job you would have to order by the cubic yard via ready mix concrete company. For a small job having an estimate for the number of bags is helpful. I emplore the complainer to come up with a better way to calculate and if he can maybe he doesn't need ConcretePal because he can figure it out in his head.

Actually when I figure a job by hand, generally I only need to figure concrete for a driveway. Concrete for a slab I have never had to figure because the concrete company had a salesman that would go out to the job and figure how much concrete you would need not just square footage x depth for the volume, because footings are a lot thicker than the rest of the slab.

Generally driveways are poured 4 inches thick. The underlying ground may not be 4 inches deep in all places maybe some places it is 5 inches deep, thus more concrete would be needed. So I divide the total surface square footage by 70 (instead of 81). 70 seems to be a good number to get a pretty accurate count. Generally you want to order slightly more than you really need because if you mis-calculate it might be costly to have another truck deliver an additional yard of concrete(you can also place orders like 9.5 yards of concrete, doesn't have to be whole numbers you can order in half numbers too).

Now in an app the calcualtion should be more precise than actually needed. An any estimator would need to factor in about 10% more for waste.

Anonymous said...

2 silly ideas, but might sell:

bad hair day calculator

what am I hungry for?