Aug 252014

Some of you have on occasion written to me to ask about what it takes to become a top notch, first rate, highly sought after, app developer.  I don’t have any idea.  But I can relate how things are going with my little spot on the app store.  And it ain’t pretty.

The wifi is back up to full power now and while the service is spotty sometimes, and it was before the lightning, it is serviceable.  You may find this as a complete surprise but one of the keys to making money on the internet as an app developer is a reliable and fast internet connection.  Who knew?  Anyways, I was finally able to complete an app project that had been delayed lo these many weeks and it should be online very soon.  I’ll let you know when.  But as for everything else, the apps that I do have for sale are pretty much dead in the water.  There has not been enough downloads to pay out and from what I have been reading lately, that may not change.

Many experts seem to think that the app store is full to the brim with mostly useless apps, which I agree, and because there are so many, now over a million, everyone gets lost in the shuffle.  Only the very top tier apps are making any revenue.  Nearly 50% of app developers are making next to nothing for their efforts.  I would be in that group.  In order to get your app to stand out you either have to have something that people will use, or to hit on some cool feature, or hope that your flappy whatever goes viral.  If you can get your app into the top few hundred based on downloads your app can take off quickly.  Getting there is the hard part.  The larger app developer companies have the resources to advertise whilst us bottom feeders can only rely on what we do with our websites, social media, and word of mouth.  Rumor is some companies offer a service where they have huge staffs of worker bees who do nothing but download apps all day and night.  And for a price, you can have them download yours.  I get those spam emails just about everyday.  No thanks.

The other way to get some notice is to have apps in a narrow niche market, which is where I am constipating at the moment.  Key West, the Florida Keys, travel to these little islands is a bit more narrowed down.  If you do a search in the app store using those key words, chances are pretty damn good you are going to find my handiwork lurking about.  And in fact, my free apps do get downloaded daily.  Rare are the times where I get no downloads at all, but rare do I hit double figures either.  And my free apps don’t generate any income.   Where I make the money on those is when I build said apps for the businesses that want them.  I make way more better money up front as opposed to making anything from app sales later on.  At least so far.

The hard part about getting paid to build an app is convincing a business to do so.  Most business owners have not caught on to how big the mobile market is quite yet.  They are the people who bitch about their employees and customers sitting around staring at their iPhones all day.  It has not occurred to them that it could be their own app that people could be looking at.  I’ve maintained ever since I got into the app development business that apps are where websites were back about 20 years ago.  Everyone was told that they needed a website to do business but only the smart ones understood it.  Other businesses refused to go with the flow thinking this whole inter web thingie was just a fad.  Imagine trying to run a business today without a website.  Few businesses out there don’t have one, and those who do, are not making a whole lot of money.

That is the point that I feel where apps are today.  Yes, you can do fine without one, but sooner or later, you are going to notice that your competition, who is cleaning your clock business wise, has a right damn fancy iPhone app that everyone seems to be downloading and using.  Maybe then the lightbulb in your head thingy will go on and you’ll understand where all this app and iPhone business is going.

Many people refuse to embrace a technology because they don’t understand it or are afraid of it.  Perhaps they think that if there is an app out there with their name on it, somebody will come in and hack it, steal their social security number, empty their bank accounts, and take over their business.  Well, yes, all developers can do that.  Why do you think I learned all this stuff?  At any rate, fear of the unknown is no reason not to take advantage of new technology.  If you get off your ass and learn you would be surprised what is out there.

The mobile market is huge.  Really fucking huge.  Like hundreds of millions of huge.  Look at the numbers Apple posts every quarter on iPhone and iPad sales.  Billions in dollars every 3 months.  It boggles the mind especially considering the iPhone has only been out for 8 years now.  Even more incredible considering the iPad tablet market did not even exist 4 years ago.  Now every hospital, nearly every school, and nearly every airline pilot uses them.

Still think it’s all a fad?

Well, that is what a developer faces in trying to drum up business for new app projects.

Learning to code and build apps has been one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted.  And I’m still learning.  I took no formal classes so it’s been a lot of hit or miss.  Were it not for the inter web and all the resources out there, I would still be working a retail counter somewhere.  Learning how to navigate through Xcode, the platform which Apple uses, running working code, and getting the finished product on the app store are all complicated endeavors that take a lot of time and patience.  Some issues I was able to solve in minutes.  Others took weeks.  Others still, I haven’t figgered out yet.  But I have been competent enough to put up 14 or so apps on the app store and pull in a few dollars.  But challenges lie ahead.

With every year come changes.  Upgrades to the code, a new coding language is out called Swift which I will need to learn.  New products with different screen sizes and characteristics, like the rumored iWatch make things interesting to say the least.  But if nothing else, it keeps me busy and out of the bars at night.

The current lineup of apps that I have are pretty simple.  They use very basic code that most any beginning coder should be able to handle.  With each new app or update I try to add in some new feature.  It may be something simple as an enhancement to a map, or something a little more advanced.  But it does keep the lineup fresh and up to date.

I try to follow the trends and see what is working and what is not out there in app land.  If you are quick sometimes you can catch on to a hot idea and clone off it.  Think flappy birds or Yo.  And yes, I have begun playing around with game code.  At first I thought it would be not something I wanted to do, but with what I know now, it’s doable and maybe you might see some useless game out there.  Think flappy fritter and you get the idea.

So while the pundits say this and that about the crowded app store.   While it does get a bit disheartening when you see no sales for yet another day.  I’m not about to give up.  I do believe that having the skills to code apps is something that will be in demand for a long time and there will always be room for the independent developer like myself to bring in a few dollars here and there.

If indeed you are kicking around the idea of taking up the fast paced and exciting profession of app development…go for it.  Just remember what I wrote here and take into account it’s a crowded field with new developers coming up every year.  Chances are your kids are learning in kindergarten the skills that took me the better part of three years to pick up.  For them, code will be a second language.  Little bastards.  But no matter, if nothing else, if you can get good enough to get a few apps online, and enjoy the process, it’s worth it.  Makes a better hobby than watching television all evening.

Capt. Fritter

If I could steal your social security number, I still wouldn’t have a clue what to do with it.