What Does Having the #6 App in a Mac App Store Category Get You? $15.42

That’s less than I would have guessed.
I’ve got an app on the Mac App Store called ‘BetaBuilder for iOS Apps’ (it was called ‘iOS BetaBuilder’ but Apple freaked out about the iOS in the front instead of at the end and asked me to change it). It’s a developer focused tool that’s designed to make it easier to do over-the-air beta distributions for iPhone and iPad apps. Yes, kinda like TestflightApp.com (great service, BTW). The main difference is that BetaBuilder is designed to be self-hosted, in the event that’s important for your biz. BetaBuilder actually slightly pre-dates TestFlight but they’re built on the same iOS 4.0 improvements.
I recently did some advertising on a popular podcast that is listened to many in the ‘Apple community’. I was thinking it would be a good way to boost BetaBuilder out of the gate and while I’ve never really thought of BB as being a real product, I was assuming that I could at least cover the cost of the advertising and raise the profile a bit (more on the difficulty of making back the investment of an advertising buy with a $2 app in another post).
The host of the show did a great job and things seemed to be going well that first day – I watched the app climb in it’s category, ‘Developer Tools’ all afternoon. It passed apps like BBEdit and Coda on the ‘Top Paid’ chart (based on number of sales, not revenue). Holy crap! BareBones and Panic are pretty much the top of the Cocoa pyramid. The only thing that would have been more thrilling would have been to pass Apple’s Xcode (not likely).
At the end of that Monday, I couldn’t wait to see the AppFigures.com report in the morning. I was excited enough that it was a little hard to sleep. When the report came in the next day, I was surprised. 11 copies had sold. Eleven. I had made enough money to buy a pizza… as long as it was a small one.
This was the first app I’d put into the Mac App Store. As an Apple developer all of my experience was on iOS where I’ve been lucky to see some success. I had done custom WebObjects work around 2005-ish but when but when it came to commercial apps, I was used to the massive numbers we see on iPhone and iPad. A similar sales position in many of the iOS store categories would be at least a few hundred bucks and for the more competitive categories, in the thousands if not more. There’s massive volume on the iOS App Store.
I’m sure there are lots of reasons why my advertising investment wasn’t a net positive: niche product with a limited developer audience, another competing product that’s quite well done… or maybe a lack of a developer track record on the Mac platform. I’m not really upset about shelling out for advertising that didn’t have a big impact – that’s just the way it goes sometimes and this post isn’t about that.
What I think is interesting is the low sales volume, at least in this category on the Mac App Store. Products like Coda and BBEdit are selling fewer than 11 copies per day through this channel? Even at their higher prices ($99.99/each or $69.99 after Apple’s cut), that means they’re raking in less than $300k per year. Nothing to sneeze at but these are high-profile products from shops with multiple employees – they’re not single developer outfits.
Apple hasn’t released any stats on the Mac App Store since it opened. Maybe that’s because they’re not that great. As a user, I love the convenience of the Mac App Store – I setup a new machine and for the apps purchased through that channel, it was super easy to get it going.
That said, if this is the future of Mac app distribution, based on my experience it feels like it has a long way to go.

That’s a smaller number than I would have guessed… Also, hi Spanish people!

I’ve got a simple, fairly niche app on the Mac App Store called ‘BetaBuilder for iOS Apps‘ (it was called ‘iOS BetaBuilder’ but Apple freaked out about the iOS in the front instead of at the end and asked me to change it). It’s a developer focused tool that’s designed to make it easier to do over-the-air beta distributions for iPhone and iPad apps. Yes, kinda like TestflightApp.com (great service, BTW). The main difference is that BetaBuilder is designed to be self-hosted, in the event that’s important for your biz. BetaBuilder actually slightly pre-dates TestFlight but they’re built on the same iOS 4.0 improvements.

I recently did some advertising on a popular podcast that is listened to by many in the Mac and iOS developer communities. I was thinking it would be a good way to boost BetaBuilder out of the gate and while I’ve never really thought of BB as being a real product, I was assuming that I could at least cover the cost of the advertising and raise the profile a bit (more on the difficulty of making back the investment of an advertising buy with a $2 app in another post).

The host of the show did a great job and things seemed to be going well that first day – I watched the app climb in it’s category, ‘Developer Tools’ all afternoon. It passed apps like BBEdit and Coda on the ‘Top Paid’ chart (supposedly based on number of sales, not revenue, though we don’t know for sure what the algorithm is). Holy crap! BareBones and Panic are pretty much the top of the Cocoa pyramid – their success is inspirational for all of us trying to make useful products for users. The only thing that would have been more thrilling would have been to pass Apple’s Xcode (not likely and didn’t happen).

At the end of that Monday, I couldn’t wait to see the AppFigures.com report in the morning. I was excited enough that it was a little hard to sleep that night. When the report came in the next day, I was surprised: 11 copies had sold. Eleven. I had made enough money to buy a pizza… as long as it was a small one… without toppings (the screenshot says #7 but it actually peaked at #6 during that afternoon).

This was the first app I’d put into the Mac App Store. As a developer on Apple platforms, all of my experience was on iOS where I’ve been fortunate enough to see some success. I had done custom WebObjects work back around 2005-ish but when but when it came to commercial apps, my only real experience was the massive volume we see on iPhone and iPad side. A similar sales position in many of the iOS store categories would be at least a few hundred bucks per day and for the more competitive categories, in the thousands if not more. There’s massive volume on the iOS App Store. Massive.

I’m sure there are lots of reasons why my advertising investment wasn’t a net positive: niche product with a limited developer audience, another competing product that’s quite well done… or maybe the lack of a developer track record on the Mac platform. I’m not really upset about shelling out for advertising that didn’t have a big impact – that’s just the way it goes sometimes and this post isn’t about that.

What I think is interesting is the low volume, at least in this category on the Mac App Store. Apps like Coda and BBEdit are selling fewer than 11 copies per day through this channel? Even at their far higher prices ($99.99/each or ~$69.99 after Apple’s cut), that means they’re raking in less than $300k per year? Certainly nothing to sneeze at but if correct, these are high-profile products from shops with multiple employees – they’re not single developer outfits.

As far as I know, Apple hasn’t released any stats on the Mac App Store since the day after it opened. Maybe that’s because they’re not that all that great. As a user, I love the convenience of the Mac App Store – I setup a new machine recently and for the apps purchased through that channel, it was super easy to get going. I hope all my software is delivered this way in the future.

That said, if this is the future of Mac apps, based on my experience it seems like it has a ways to go.

Comments

4 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. craig,

    Hey man, interesting write up. I think the people scare the mac app store because it’s pricey, the same software, listed 30% cheaper on author website, why should they pay more?

  2. Hunter,
    Just wanted to drop you a note and give you a huge resounding THANK YOU for creating such a great little app. I’m sorry to hear sales have been less than stellar, I am proud however that I’m one of your elite few customers!

    I do custom mobile app development and your app is great for setting up the initial OTA deployment directory on our public facing web server for our client demos. I make a few changes to the resulting index file (mainly I strip out the second download link, add some php code to grab the filetime attributes from the ipa file so it dynamically updates the “Last Updated” line and I remove the “created with beta builder” line…) I’m sure I’ll eventually download the source and make it do everything I want it to do with a single click through the GUI, but like every other developer, there just aren’t enough hours in the day… And besides, if I had started with source I wouldn’t have ponied up the dough to try and support another dev. (as insignificant an amount as it may be)

    P.S. I notice your apple dev account is “Vegas Media Group” and you’re above successful app example is for….. Vegas…. do you live in the area? If so I’ll buy a you a beer some time!

    • Hunter,

      Thanks Mark.

      Beta Builder is not a barn burner when it comes to sales but people seem to find it useful so that’s gratifying.

      It’s not really documented but you can customize the HTML template that BB uses… It’s in ~/Library/Application Support/BetaBuilder for iOS Apps and if you change it, you won’t have to adjust the HTML each time.

      I’m actually in SoCal but yup, I do have a travel app, Vegas Mate. I’ve been doing Vegas tourism stuff for a long time ; on the Web before iOS.

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