Developing Perspective

#93: Universal and Lite.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective.

00:00:03   Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing news of note in iOS development, Apple, and

00:00:07   the like.

00:00:08   I'm your host, David Smith.

00:00:09   I'm an independent iOS and Mac developer based in Herndon, Virginia.

00:00:11   This is show number 93, and today is Thursday, November 1st.

00:00:16   Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:19   All right, so this is going to probably be a one-episode week, just in case you were

00:00:23   wondering why I'm doing the first episode this week on Thursday.

00:00:27   As you may know, there was a hurricane that blew through the East Coast, and while, thankfully,

00:00:31   I'm fine, it was certainly something that knocked my schedule out of whack for a little

00:00:37   bit, being hunkered down for the better part of Monday and Tuesday.

00:00:42   So anyway, that's why everything's going on, everything's good, but we'll be just one show

00:00:48   this week.

00:00:49   And this week, I think it's probably the last in the Weather App series.

00:00:54   There may be one more, but this is probably

00:00:57   going to be the last one.

00:00:58   And so what I'm going to talk about

00:00:59   is kind of the road from here.

00:01:01   There may be one more about sort of planning

00:01:04   for big future releases.

00:01:05   But what I want to talk about today

00:01:07   is about things like Universal Apps

00:01:09   and talking about making light versions

00:01:13   and those types of considerations

00:01:15   as you have a established code base, an existing application.

00:01:20   And what do you do with that?

00:01:21   With that brand, with that presence, with that code,

00:01:24   once you have it in the store for a little bit.

00:01:29   So if you've been following along,

00:01:32   I've been working on a weather app.

00:01:34   It's called Check the Weather.

00:01:36   It's in the App Store.

00:01:37   And it's been doing fairly well,

00:01:38   fairly well received.

00:01:40   I'm pretty happy with how it's gone.

00:01:41   And now I'm in that funny phase.

00:01:43   I've just got out version 1.1,

00:01:45   which was actually created before the app launched, I think.

00:01:47   And it was submitted back then,

00:01:52   but that's just the way these things go.

00:01:51   version 1.2 is already on its way in review.

00:01:55   And I'm kind of in that funny phase where you start to get through

00:01:59   all the little bugs, nagging problems, things that you didn't really expect

00:02:03   or know about, and you kind of get those knocked out. I mean it's great when I go through

00:02:07   Help Desk now, because rather than having to

00:02:11   actually answer a lot of questions, most of the questions either have sort of an established

00:02:15   answer for, like coming in the next version, or no I'm not going to do that,

00:02:19   or whatever, those types of questions.

00:02:24   So it's nice to settle down.

00:02:27   There's not a lot of new problems, new issues,

00:02:28   new questions, things starting to settle down,

00:02:30   which is great.

00:02:33   And it creates this interesting thing

00:02:34   of what do you do next?

00:02:37   And specifically for me, there's a couple, two questions

00:02:39   that I needed to ask myself, and I was going to walk

00:02:41   through my thought process on the show,

00:02:43   because I thought that would be helpful.

00:02:45   So first and foremost was, do I make an iPad version of it?

00:02:46   now the app's iPhone oriented?" and the answer is yes.

00:02:49   And sort of, spoiler alert, the next version at 1.2 when it comes out will be universal.

00:02:55   So it'll be a universal app.

00:02:58   And that was a very tricky thing for me.

00:03:01   Not whether or not to make an iPad version, because the iPad is definitely a big market,

00:03:05   especially from the App Store.

00:03:06   I feel like in the paid area, the iPad seems to be a little bit stronger, that there's

00:03:10   There's a bit more tolerance for price on the iPad side.

00:03:16   And so it's nice to be in that market.

00:03:18   But the reality is I wanted to have an iPad app because I

00:03:24   feel like it's useful there.

00:03:27   And it was an opportunity for me to leverage a lot of what

00:03:29   I've already done in a way to create value for my customers.

00:03:34   Probably as simple as that.

00:03:36   I really struggle with it.

00:03:37   The hardest part of this is when you say, OK, I'm going to

00:03:40   make an iPad app, there's customers that could do something cool and interesting on it.

00:03:44   Do you make it a universal app, which would be essentially free

00:03:48   for people who bought your iPhone app, or alternatively people who bought your iPad app

00:03:52   get your iPhone app free. It's got two apps for the price of one. Or do you split them up

00:03:56   and have the Check the Weather HD version?

00:04:00   And I wrestled back and forth with this a lot. It was something that I

00:04:04   ran into with a lot of, talked to a lot of my friends, talked to a lot of

00:04:08   kind of people that you have business conversations with and things.

00:04:13   And it's a tricky thing.

00:04:16   And the reality is, if you split the apps up,

00:04:18   you gain a couple of things.

00:04:22   You gain probably, at least in the near term, more revenue,

00:04:24   because your group of people who like the current version

00:04:27   are likely to buy the new version, the HD version.

00:04:31   And so you get a little bit of extra money from that.

00:04:34   You also benefit from potentially having the ability to offset release schedules.

00:04:41   So you can release the iPad individually independent of the iPhone.

00:04:45   You can add features to one but not the other in a way that is a bit more complicated with the Universal app

00:04:50   because people have different expectations.

00:04:52   You also have the ability to have differentiated pricing,

00:04:55   that you could have the iPad version be more expensive than the iPhone version.

00:04:58   And those are all definitely good pluses.

00:05:01   On the downside, you have two apps which doesn't necessarily benefit you from combined things,

00:05:08   like combined sales ranking or search ranks or things which seem to be often volume driven,

00:05:14   and so it's nice to have those all bundled into one app.

00:05:17   It's a little bit simpler in the sense that you have a single app that you are supporting,

00:05:22   maintaining, and focused on rather than having two different things that you're splitting your time between.

00:05:30   You also have the benefit, I think, of having just an easier time explaining what the app is and does to the user, to the customer.

00:05:42   It's like, here's the app, go buy it. It's not, if you have an iPad, go buy this.

00:05:47   What do you link to? It's always a little complicated if you have two versions.

00:05:52   for something like this where it's not, the apps are very fundamentally similar.

00:05:56   It's not like the iPad app necessarily does a lot of different things than the iPhone

00:05:59   version.

00:06:00   But in the end, I decided to do, make it a universal app for one reason, and that's pretty

00:06:05   straightforward is it's an, I think it's an opportunity to create the light and surprising

00:06:14   happiness or hopefully a little bit of

00:06:20   to make my customer happy that they bought the app in the first place.

00:06:25   And it's one of these things that is not necessarily the best for monetarily, at least in the short term.

00:06:29   But I feel like long term is the kind of business I want to do.

00:06:36   Where by making it a universal app, which is what I decided to do, everybody who's bought my app, all the people who are in there from day one,

00:06:41   Everybody who's bought my app, all the people who are in there from day one, are going to get essentially a free bonus.

00:06:48   They bought it not necessarily expecting it to be an iPad app, and now they just one day will hopefully, probably next week, they'll get a notification in the app store, they'll open it up, and it's like, boom.

00:07:00   Check the weather, it's now universal. It's optimized to work on your iPhone or iPad.

00:07:05   And hopefully that's a big positive.

00:07:10   That's like, wow, that's pretty cool.

00:07:12   I bought this app a couple of weeks ago,

00:07:14   and now I got this other app for free.

00:07:15   And that's one of those things that you can't,

00:07:18   it's like money can't really buy you

00:07:23   that amount of goodwill, I think.

00:07:24   Or it's one of the easiest way you can demonstrate

00:07:26   the kind of app developer you are to your customer

00:07:30   by not trying to nickel and dime them

00:07:30   and feel like you're always asking for more money.

00:07:34   It's one of those things if at the end of the day

00:07:39   I'm in this business because I like making apps

00:07:42   and I'm not in it necessarily to make money.

00:07:45   I need to make enough money to have a sustainable business

00:07:48   that I can pay for my living expenses and things.

00:07:50   But I like making apps, this is what I do.

00:07:52   And so what I want to do is to make,

00:07:55   I'd rather have a smaller group of people

00:07:58   feel like they are getting absolutely huge value from the applications I make and are

00:08:03   very loyal to them.

00:08:04   And then if I ever need to tap into that well, if I hit a bad spot and I do something in

00:08:13   the app that I'm going to be asking for more money from, then they're going to feel like

00:08:17   I'm building up this storehouse of value with those customers that I can tap into later

00:08:25   rather than always breaking even with them of every time I

00:08:29   do anything interesting or cool, I'm

00:08:30   opening up my hand and saying, hey, give me some money.

00:08:33   Give me some money.

00:08:34   And that's where I fall in this thing.

00:08:37   And it seems-- I think it just feels like the kind of business

00:08:41   I want to be in.

00:08:42   So I'm making it universal.

00:08:44   I'm essentially giving something away for free.

00:08:47   But it's not that much work.

00:08:49   It's not like I've spent another six weeks working on this app

00:08:54   and now it's the iPad version.

00:08:56   You know, my universal version is very similar to the iPhone version.

00:08:59   Interestingly, by adapting an app that is adaptable to iPhone 5,

00:09:05   the 16 by 9 resolution, as well as the traditional one,

00:09:08   makes it really easy to make an iPad app,

00:09:09   because everything is already flexible and fluid.

00:09:11   So it wasn't too bad.

00:09:13   And I think it's just the right choice to make.

00:09:15   If there are certain instances where maybe it wouldn't make sense,

00:09:20   but generally speaking, I'm always going

00:09:23   to choose a decision that makes my customer happy over a decision that makes me a little

00:09:28   more money.

00:09:30   And that's just the kind of business I want to be in.

00:09:31   As long as I can make a living doing this, I'm happy.

00:09:34   And I'd rather make more people happy as a result.

00:09:37   Any time I've seen people who do their thing where they split it up, it's like you'll always

00:09:41   get a series of one-star reviews and angry people who are saying, "Oh man, why didn't

00:09:48   you just make it universal?

00:09:49   Now I've got to buy it again?"

00:09:52   And fair enough, maybe those users are a bit entitled, maybe those customers are having

00:09:57   unrealistic expectations, but the reality is they're my customers.

00:10:01   Whether their expectations are reasonable or not, whether they're entitled or not, doesn't

00:10:05   really matter.

00:10:06   They're still my customers, and my job is to make them happy.

00:10:09   That's what I'm trying to do.

00:10:11   All right, so that's on the universal side.

00:10:13   And then on the flip side of that is I'm talking a little bit about a light version of Check

00:10:18   the Weather.

00:10:19   And this is something that I think is slightly different.

00:10:22   It's similar to the universal discussion, but very different,

00:10:25   in that the purpose of making a light version, which I have

00:10:28   plans to do in a rough-- almost finished--

00:10:31   is to take the existing code base

00:10:34   and to allow people who don't buy apps to still use it,

00:10:40   to still benefit from it, and for me

00:10:41   to make a little money from them.

00:10:43   And in general in the App Store, free apps do very well.

00:10:45   There's a lot of volume for free apps.

00:10:48   And so what I'm working on right now

00:10:49   is check the weather light.

00:10:51   And essentially this will be ad supported with an in-app purchase to unlock additional functionality.

00:10:57   And the advantage of taking this approach, one, is making a light version is by definition very easy,

00:11:05   because you are taking away functionality rather than adding new functionality.

00:11:09   The only new stuff I had to do was the ads and the in-app purchase, which I've done before and isn't too hard.

00:11:15   But the core functionality is all still there.

00:11:17   And so by creating a light version,

00:11:19   and check the weather light, if you're

00:11:21   someone who's never going to buy an app,

00:11:24   you can still use what I'm making,

00:11:26   and I can still make a few pennies off you.

00:11:28   If you're just going to look at the ads,

00:11:30   or maybe a certain percentage of people

00:11:32   will likely upgrade to the full version that

00:11:34   unlocks the additional functionality and features

00:11:36   that-- it's never going to be better than the main app.

00:11:40   It's just a way that you can-- it's almost like a trial

00:11:42   for those people.

00:11:43   So essentially it's shareware or adware, I guess, but not adware in the negative malware connotation.

00:11:52   But that's essentially the approach I take.

00:11:57   And I think it makes a lot of sense for a lot of applications to have a free ad-supported version of it

00:12:03   that lets you just tap into this whole other market.

00:12:08   A lot of my income comes from advertising, and a lot of it comes from free apps,

00:12:11   because I think there are a lot of people.

00:12:16   I mean, I remember when I first made this weather app,

00:12:18   there was a friend of mine who, you know,

00:12:20   I showed her the app, she looked at it, and it's cool.

00:12:23   And she's like, "But what does it do that the free apps don't?"

00:12:25   And that's just the way she, you know,

00:12:29   the way her mind works is she looks at an application

00:12:30   and her comparison is to something else that's free,

00:12:34   not is this worth $2 or is this worth $3

00:12:38   or whatever the cost I'm putting on it.

00:12:39   It's how is this better than what's free?

00:12:41   And often that's a very hard calculus to come out ahead in.

00:12:45   Because a lot of the free apps do a lot of things.

00:12:48   The things they're buying with, hopefully with this app,

00:12:50   is performance and thoughtfulness

00:12:51   and streamlined functionality.

00:12:54   And those types of things that aren't necessarily

00:12:57   checkmark, checklist features.

00:12:59   That if you're doing one of the product matrix things

00:13:01   that Apple loves doing, or sorry,

00:13:03   that Microsoft loves doing in trying to lampooning Apple.

00:13:09   It's one of those things that you're just not going to win on, but I can put my app

00:13:15   in front of those people and just cut down on a few functionality.

00:13:18   The key with the liked version, I think, is having the additional functionality be compelling enough

00:13:23   that a reasonable number of people will buy it.

00:13:26   And exactly how you do that will depend.

00:13:28   In this case, I'm still working on exactly where I draw the lines,

00:13:31   but the goal is that the app is useful without the in-app purchase,

00:13:35   and with the in-app purchase, it feels compelling.

00:13:38   It feels like you're missing out.

00:13:39   Or if you're a frequent user of the application,

00:13:43   you're really going to want to pony up the extra couple bucks

00:13:47   and unlock it.

00:13:48   And hopefully at that point, that person

00:13:52   is already invested in the app.

00:13:54   That if they've spent enough time playing with it and using it,

00:13:57   and they like it, at that point, if you go and ask them

00:13:59   for a couple bucks, they're going

00:14:01   to be far more open-handed with it than if you're just

00:14:03   coming at them from a couple screenshots and a description

00:14:05   in the App Store.

00:14:07   So anyway, that's a couple of thoughts I have about Universal Apps and Light.

00:14:10   I'm probably winding down this weather app series and trying to talk about other topics thereafter.

00:14:17   But anyway, I hope you've enjoyed that, and I hope you enjoyed today's show.

00:14:20   And as always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns, I'm on Twitter @_davidsmith.

00:14:25   I'm on AppNet @davidsmith.

00:14:27   The Twitter feed for the show is @devperspective, which is where just basically I post either updates about the show

00:14:34   the show and whenever a new episode is available, in case you're curious about that.

00:14:37   Otherwise, I hope you guys have a great week, a great weekend.

00:14:41   Happy coding, and enjoy your iPad minis, which I imagine for many of us will be arriving

00:14:45   tomorrow.

00:14:46   Bye.

00:14:46   Bye.