I realized early on that being featured by Apple was unlikely, and have adopted a sustainable pricing model (a term I was unfamiliar with before reading this piece) to fund my development. I'm certain that by charging $14.99, I stay out of the bottom 47% of developers that make less than $100 a month from the app store. I do not rely on the app store for anything. From visibility to app discovery, I feel that Apple has failed me. When I get support emails, I cannot even refund a single paying user, which means I have to send $14.99 back to the user using PayPal and eat Apple's $4.50 fee for that transaction. It's immensely frustrating and a main reason why I allow users to sign up concurrently on my website using a card (Stripe).
Every part of developing for Apple leads me to this conclusion: I do not matter. My app does not matter.
Twenty years ago when I was in high school, I worked at CompUSA. They sold a lot of software in their day... in my region of the country, 40% of software sold passed through our store's door. To sell software at CompUSA or similar retailers, you needed to interface with a publisher, who would then try to sell your software to a buyer at the store. Then you'd need to print collateral, get an attractive box, duplicate physical media in quantities sufficient to stock 500 stores. At your expense.
And for all that, you'd be a box on a bottom shelf somewhere.
If you wanted to actually sell software, you'd need to pay for premium placement on an endcap or display. I recall one vendor who paid over $2M for premium endcaps at each store for a handwriting recognition app.
When customers were dissatisfied, or returned your software that wasn't supposed to be returnable, the store would withhold payment for your software (which was running 60-90 days late in most cases) and mail you back the resealed box at your expense, which may have contained a rock instead of your software.
Fast forward to 2015, and you're paying $99 to sell software for $15 that nets you $10, which is paid promptly every month. Apple treats you like cattle, because you are in effect a cow to them... there are thousands of people like you!
So, selling software was a PITA full of inefficiencies and middlemen. Everyone hated it.
Now, 20 years later, we live on the open web, a level playing field where anyone can experiment to their heart's content and sell what they want, how they want it.
And you wonder why people complain about Apple adding restrictions? And your answer is "tough luck, we have the possibility to do things better, but things were even worse 20 years ago so just suck it up"?
> Your experience is the price of admission to gain access to a global audience
This Hacker News comment has access to a global audience. There are fart noise videos on YouTube with access to a global audience. That means nothing anymore.
Apple also do a piss-poor job of giving that access. It's already easier to find our app via Google than searching for the literal exact app name on the App Store. Whenever you release an update theres a 1-12 hour window where people will get random error messages since there's massive CDN sync lag.
Apple isn't just giving you a place on a shelf either. You have a half dozen ways that consumers are earning credits to buy your stuff (credit cards, kid allowances, supermarket gift cards, credit card rewards, etc), millions spent marketing the platform, etc.
As long as there is a gatekeeper, that gatekeeper will collect a toll. Free/open is going to come from new players like Firefox & Ubuntu, and traction there will give Apple and Google incentives to behave more
Nothing they said was inherent to the process of getting a global audience. Apple has created all of their problems they mentioned; we know this because Apple could make them all go away.
The developers' gripes seem to be about actual problems for them, but potential problems for Apple.
Similar things happen with Google and AdSense publishers.
Comparing the App Store with 20 years old methods is a fallacy. To be realistic you should compare using the Android/Mozilla/Windows/Web distribution methods.
Only it has the ability to sideload applications which let's be honest as primarily been used for installing pirated applications.
 Ironically, I think the pervasive sideloading third-party app stores on Android require is a bug, not a feature. I'd much rather see an official way to add "known sources" so that, after the initial install, you didn't need to leave sideloading enabled in order to use them.
ha. that's a good one. I've had apps on both iOS and Android with < 10% of the installs being legit.
The signature check makes sure 'the developer has paid Apple', and not 'the user has paid for this app'.
Sideloading of apps allows for apps that Google may not care for, and that Apple actively prohibits (eg bitcoin), the difference being that you can still run them on Android if you really want to.
(1) installing the resulting unsigned app on a jailbroken phone, or
(2) re-signing it with a developer or enterprise distribution key, which Apple can revoke.
Both of these are done regularly, but it's not like Apple hasn't tried to stop it.
By the way, Apple no longer forbids Bitcoin apps, although this doesn't defeat the general point about forbidden categories.
Paradoxically, I think the power of the tools, resulting in the ease of development, and the democracy of the Apple Store is a major contributor to the difficulty of competing for user mindshare, and the resulting low prices.
I'd even add that this was what the internet promised. A reduction of the barriers between creator and consumer. No more would those pesky publishers/editors/distributors get in the way. Sadly I think we forgot that Sturgeons law still holds.
Unless it's a service website, the monetization for web apps just isn't up to par.
Compared to what? I thought Stripe was famous for offering competitive fees.
your argument is the same as saying "i can only fill my gas tank at BP stations, oh well, that is the price i pay to be able to fill up at BP stations since they are the most common around here"
then you proceed to an example, which does not work. because you wrongly confuse apple store with some convenience to reach users. which it is not. 99.9% of non-block buster purchases come from the developer website. the post you are replying to (probably without reading :( even mention that he has no hope of being discovered by users on the app store or being promoted there.
so, physical store or something that advertises or facilitate your sale == ok. apple store is none of those. they actually make it harder for both things to happen.
And how is that okay?
A time of fewer but higher quality apps may be coming - but then there'll be complains about the selection system. Curation is hard.
The real complaint I hear most often is simply 'I thought I was going to make an app, publish it and make money! I haven't made money. I think the app store it broken'
Most businesses fail, there was a false impression that the app store is somehow different - it'll solve the reasons most businesses fail. It won't.
Your conclusion is correct - unless you've got great product-market fit (your product fits the need of many people today), you do not matter, to many people. Your app does not matter to many people unless it has got great product-market fit. Products that have great fit - do well despite some of the challenges, mostly through word of mouth. Just like most other small businesses.
They just don't care.
Take Steam for instance, I have a thousand times better experience finding new games on there than I have on any mobile app store.
I get recommendations from my friends, according to what Steam thinks I would enjoy playing, and they even have curators for apps so people whose reviews I can enjoy can list games with a short review. And those are just a few ways of discovering new games, there are a ton of others.
Neither Apple nor Google are even trying. That's the problem. They don't give a shit.
Valve barely gives a shit about improving Steam — since it'll print more money than they can ever spend regardless — and still they've surpassed both Google and Apple.
Steam is very visibly and actively trying to improve curation, and despite being very poor at it previously, they have very much improved rather quickly.
I would argue that point is kind of moot, since many of the ways I discover games on Steam would work without any friends or a social graph.
The sales (holiday, weekly and daily), curators, user tags etc, etc. They would all still work.
I'm not sure what exactly that would suggest if true, but I think it would be interesting.
Firstly, the app model is pure genius. It means Apple gets an army of developers producing software for Apple with zero health/unemployment/other benefits, no up-front advance payments, and a limited curation cost.
The risks are entirely on the developer side. There is no downside for Apple.
Secondly momentum creates the usual extreme power law, with most of the benefits going to a small minority of developers.
What makes an app sell is some random combination of luck, faddiness, and marketing muscle.
It certainly isn't inherent quality or "fit". In fact you seem to be using "fit" as a rationalisation for app successes, not as a useful description of the processes that make an app successful - some of which seem to random.
Finally, there's the bottom line: devs like to that puts on a stage routine about having the right stuff, it's not unreasonable to expect it to do stuff right.
The point: the benefits of keeping devs onside and treating them with more respect would be immense, and probably economically incalculable.
Apple would have an instant army of fanboys/girls talking up the company to anyone who would listen. App quality would go way up to the point where iOS could potentially totally kill Android. App and hardware sales would increase further, and you'd get a classic virtuous cycle.
Unfortunately when you have a war chest heading towards $1tn you probably don't feel any need to care about the little people, and "eh - whatever" is good enough for you.
But that doesn't mean the opportunity wasn't real, or that it hasn't been squandered.
It was and it has. And that's been a bad thing for everyone - including Apple.
How is that different than say, people writing for the Commodore 64 or Windows and selling it with no connection to the company? Do you mean the alternative would be for apple write all of the software available on iOS? I don't see how third parties writing software for an operating system or device would be considered an amazing new idea.
To be fair, Apple handles a lot for that 30%. Accounting/Tax records, payment, bandwidth and storage etc.
They could probably afford to take less, but they do take care of a fare bit of hassle from app distribution and selling.
I think people would have a better opinion on that deal if it were optional.
Apple offers to take care of billing/bandwidth/storage on iOS for 30% of revenue? Neat!
Apple demands to take care of billing/bandwidth/storage on iOS for 30% of revenue? Lame.
There are 'work arounds' that involve being enrolled in the Enterprise Developer Program, but you're still at Apple's mercy. If they believe you're not sticking 'to the spirit of the program' (e.g. using it just to get around the App Store) they'll terminate.
Do you have a source for that that you can link me to? Because from this, I get the impression that is not the case: https://support.stripe.com/questions/apple-and-stripe-tos-an...
Basically, your app is not allowed to have any links to sign up, or to your website, and you can do this for eg a SaaS app.
The idea is that then you're not using the app store for marketing, it's only for servicing your existing users.
 To be precise we should also take out Apple's incremental (not fixed) costs for delivering apps, but I suspect those are negligible on a per-app basis.
How many Windows developers make enough from their one-off piece of software that they can quit their job and work full time on it? Hardly any. How many Linux developers? An even smaller amount, closer to zero (you want to talk about a platform where people expect to get free-as-in-beer software, when was the last time you paid money for any non-enterprise Linux software?). Now look at the difference between a PC and an iPhone. On a PC, you can have meaningful, long-term engagements with software. I've put hundreds of hours into each Civilization and Elder Scrolls games, thousands of hours between the entire series of each. And iPhone games advertise a huge game at under 10 hours of gameplay. I spend $50 to play a game for 500 hours. If I want that kind of return from an iPhone game, even 99 cents is way too much to spend.
I'm not arguing that the apps need to be more engaging. It's just the platform doesn't lend itself to that. It's about small bits and bites and sporadic usage. And for that, apps are even massively over-priced. And you want to argue about discoverability? How is the discoverability on Windows? And the discoverability on Linux... on Debian the package is apache2, on RHEL it's httpd. Same package. That's poor discoverability.
I'll go against the article: I'm not an Apple fanatic, I don't own a Mac, I have an iPhone as one of the many phones I use, I don't have an iPad, I've never published to the store, and I have no relationship with Apple. But is there anything wrong with the App Store? If there is, it's in developer expectations. I've written Windows and Linux software and put it up for free on my website. You know how many views it gets, let alone downloads? Zero. I get around that lack of income by having a job and developing as a hobby, like most software (except, I guess, the App Store). The App Store is an incredible thing for developers, but many developers see it as nothing more than a gold mine that they can exploit, then get upset when they only make $100/mo, even though they put in all that effort. Effort doesn't guarantee success anywhere in life.
If you feel Apple owes you anything, that's your own damn fault. There has never been a better time to be an independent developer than there is right now. But if you go in expecting people to throw money at you then blame Apple when they don't... well just because you play guitar doesn't mean your band is going to get a recording contract.
Where have you heard that most often?
Then don't curate. Simple, elegant and effective. Make side loading possible, give root to the devices that people own and make the app store optional. Nobody loses.
For ever alleged power user who wants to do something different there are probably 100 users for will be burnt because they don't understand that your root enabled device and other app source is a massive attack vector.
We're years into the iPhone, you knew what you were buying. Apple have spent years selling the iPhone as safe, what you propose is turning all the marketing into misconceptions for users when they think Vlad's warez site can't ruin their device.
The amount of non payment, uncharged downloads, operator/distribution backhanders and outright fraud was striking. With Apple we get paid on time, I trust the download reports and it is ‘quite’ clear what the submission rules are.
The Apple (and Android) appstore just reminds me of a very pure form of business in which the barriers are low, not everyone can be a 'winner' , and Surgeon’s law applies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_law)
I do however agree with your conclusion - neither you nor your app matter to Apple but that isn't unique to you/your app - it is just business.
As a consumer you've failed me. The store is full of useless apps, lazy clones, and fad garbage that does me no good. Write the next Dropbox and people will come pounding at your door. I'm really getting sick of all the Apple/Google bashing. We live in a time where you can trivially publish software to hundreds of millions people dying for new apps without a publisher, without cutting deals with dozens of stores, and little to no investment out of pocket.
What's so wonderful about your app? Go on, tell us. Why should it be the next success? Who exactly are you being wronged here other than the typical gen-y whining about not being a millionaire by 22.
The App Store feels opaque and like a black box where I
submit builds with little to no feedback or control. I
get paid when Apple decides, and could be eradicated from
the App Store at a moment's notice.
Every part of developing for Apple leads me to this
conclusion: I do not matter. My app does not matter.
We recently had our iOS Developer Program terminated, for what I can only assume was a gross misunderstanding on Apple's behalf. And I can only assume because Apple won't actually tell us why they terminated our account. We just got a standard form reply with zero detail. Whenever we call Developer Support, they can't/won't tell us anything. We have absolutely zero information on why they permanently expelled us from the App Store.
It's not infuriating, its soul crushing.
(sitenote: if anyone within Apple developer relations or anyone else can help us out, PLEASE email me - details are in my bio)
But they're only suspicions - we can't talk to anyone within Apple to at least get a reason, let alone explain things.
Of course I am biased, but I am 100% confident in that we were not actually doing anything wrong, and especially did not deserve termination of our developer account.
You and your app technically don't matter to Apple. The 30% feels high, but overall it's really a good deal. I've made several hundred thousand dollars on the app store without almost any marketing spend. That's a good deal.
That being said, it's far from being all roses. My sales have been down some the last few years despite continuing to update (some of the apps, not all) and making new apps. There is a ton of competition and there are definitely things I'd wish Apple would change.
Mostly though you have to think of it as any other business. It's not Apple's job to sell my apps any more than it's Wal-mart or Lowe's job to sell your products. Being in the store is the only thing any of them promise, and that is a huge boost for lots of products. If you get featured (on the app store, or maybe end cap at walmart) it's gravy. I have to work to make a great product, I have to get the word out as much as possible, and I have to do a good job of ASO (or SEO if you prefer).
Send them over to https://reportaproblem.apple.com - there they can claim a refund.
Customer service is lacking this basic functionality, so this developer is providing it on the side at an increased cost.
I have no idea why the developer isn't just asking them to go to apple for a refund.
I'm not this developer, but if so many users are reaching out to them for refunds, then there is a definitive gap in store functionality.
It may not seem right, but a very common customer behaviour.
When you buy a Sony-branded consumer good from SomeCo, you haven't done business with Sony, you've done it with SomeCo. If SomeCo isn't willing to back the quality of the products they stock, they should. not. stock. those products.
If you that argument does not sway whoever takes returns at SomeCo, get your credit card company to issue a chargeback. <-- USA-specific; Unfortunately I don't know what protections are available to consumers in most of the world.
I've been pushing apps on the appstore form day one, there's a lot of room for improvements, but saying that you get no feedback is plain false. When an app is rejected the reasoning behind the refusal is always explained, and you have a chance to talk through the issue (sometimes I had the reviewer calling me on the phone). In the end it's just a matter of following the guidelines.
> Every part of developing for Apple leads me to this conclusion: I do not matter. My app does not matter.
We all like to think we're special, millions of developers do, that's true for the appstore, and the same goes for the open web.
For the price of that we are all sharecroppers in a feudal market where Apple is the King.
Well, it's not any different for any other marketplace, including the general internet.
There are millions of apps and millions of developers out there. Of course they don't matter...
Then you probably committed fraud when creating your Developer account. Apple requires you to certify that you are at least 18 years old in order to join the developer program. So does every other means of receiving USD payment on the internet (Paypal, Stripe, BTC exchanges, etc). I hesitate to say it's impossible, but the system is set up in such a way that if you are an Internet entrepreneur under the age of 18 you are probably breaking the law.
I've never heard of Apple doing this, but PayPal is known to freeze accounts it discovers are held by minors and walk away with their money. You probably don't want to advertise the fact that you're 17.
I did this when I was 14. Except, technically, my dad was the developer. It's really easy to make that work, and it's completely legal.
An old example of this: