Q&A: Should You Charge for Your App or Use Another Model to Generate Income?

As I speak at a variety of mobile conferences across the globe, and teach my training classes (iOS App Development for Non-Programmers) I get this question a lot. I’d like to share what has been a successful strategy for our company and has worked great for others too.

The Revenue Options
Usually, if you’re creating an App, you’re
hoping to make some money from it. Here are the models you can choose from:

  • Charge up front for the App
  • Make the App free, but include ads from which you generate revenue
  • Create a free App that includes ads, but offer a paid version without ads
  • Include in-App purchases or offer a subscription

For those who aren’t familiar with the mobile advertising model, when you opt to include ads in your App, you are basically creating an empty billboard on which Apple (or Google on Android) places advertisements. When a user taps the ad, you make money, Apple makes money, and the advertiser gets a potential buyer.

With the in-App purchase model, Apps are usually free to download, but the user is prompted to purchase additional functionality as they use the App. The subscription model can also be used for Apps that provide content such as magazines or streaming music.

Choosing the Right Model For Your App
One of the big factors in choosing a model is
the type of App you have created. There are two questions you need to answer:

  1. How often will the App be used?
  2. How long will the App be used over time?

Apps that are used over a long period of time are great candidates for generating revenue with in-App ads, subscriptions or in-App purchases. Obviously, the more frequently your App is used, the more potential for earning revenue through ads.

Apps that are used over a short period of time are
good candidates for up-front, one-time-only fees. They aren’t used long enough
or frequently enough to generate much in the way of ad income.

Using Statistics to Make a Smart Choice
So, how can you tell how frequently or how long
your Apps are used? There are several companies that offer free services you
can integrate with your App to capture these metrics. Two of the most popular
are Google Analytics and Flurry Analytics.

Even if you don’t include these analytic tools
in your own Apps, you can take advantage of the information gathered by these
services for other Apps. For example, the following image shows “Loyalty by
Application Category” statistics provided by Flurry Analytics (which is used in
over 230,000 Apps):

This matrix breaks out Apps by category, graphing
how frequently and for how long Apps in a particular category are used. The
vertical axis shows on a scale of 1 to 9 how often an App is used in a given
week, and the horizontal access shows the retention, or how long an App is used
over a 90-day period.

The App categories on the right side of the
matrix are used over a longer period of time and are usually better suited for
in-App advertisements, subscriptions or in-App purchases. The Apps on the left
side of the matrix are used for a shorter period of time and are usually better
suited for one-time download fees.

These statistics don’t provide a hard and fast
rule, but are a great tool in helping you decide how best to earn money on the
hard work you have put into your Apps!

Kevin McNeish
Author: iOS Apps For Non-Programmers Book Series
Twitter: @kjmcneish 

Q&A: What do iPhone/iPad Users See When they Share Your Web Site?

Statistically, about 65% of people surfing the web on a mobile device are doing so on an iPhone or iPad. Hopefully you’re getting a lot of this traffic on your web site. Apple makes it easy for iOS users to return to web sites they like by offering the option to Add an icon to their home screen.

As shown in the following image of the Netflix home page, the Safari browser on iOS devices has a Share button at the bottom center of the screen.

When the user taps this button, they see the following options:

Notice the Add to Home Screen option in the center of the screen. It displays a small screen shot of the Netflix home page which is very difficult to read (and pretty unimpressive). Contrast this with the following image that shows what iOS users see when they tap the Share button on the Macworld web site:

Rather than showing a small screen shot of the Macworld home page, a distinctive icon is displayed instead–far more impressive, and much easier to recognize on your iOS home screen. This is known as an Apple Touch Icon

How to Display an Apple Touch Icon for Your Web Site

Fortunately, it’s very easy to display an Apple Touch icon in the iOS Share screen for your web site. All you have to do is add a 57×57 image file named apple-touch-icon.png or apple-touch-icon-precomposed.png to the root folder of your web site. If you place the apple-touch-icon.png in your web site’s root folder, the standard glass button look will be applied to your icon when it’s added to the user’s home screen. If you place the apple-touch-icon-precomposed.png file in your site’s root folder, no visual effects will be added the icon and it will be displayed “as is”.

For example, I created the following icon for our iOS App Development for Non-Programmers book site. It’s a miniature of the first book in the series:

When you place one of these files in the root folder of your web site, the same icon is used for all web pages on your site. If you want to specify different Apple Touch icons for different pages, then you can add a link element on each page. For example:

<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/custom_icon.png"/>

If you want to go the extra mile, you can specify multiple Apple Touch icons for different device resolutions (standard, vs. Retina displays). To do this, just add link elements to your web page for each icon:

<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="touch-icon-iphone.png" />
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="72x72" href="touch-icon-ipad.png" />
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="114x114" href="touch-icon-iphone4.png" />

Providing an Apple Touch icon provides a better, more impressive experience for iOS visitors who visit your site. I recommend trying this on your web site to see what iOS users are seeing!

Kevin McNeish
Author: iOS App Development for Non-Programmers book series
Twitter: @kjmcneish 

iPad Users Win Out with Apple’s Improved iBookstore!

I mentioned in a previous post that Apple has made some improvements to the iBookstore. This post expands on that!

Amazon or the iBookstore?
When most people think about buying a book, they think Amazon. I’m a huge Apple fan, have been writing Apps since the iPhone was first released, and have just about every Apple device ever made (my iPad mini is on the way!), but my gut reaction is still to go to Amazon first, before I think of the iBookstore–and I know I’m not alone in this.

Apple recently made a change to iBooks and the iBookstore that I think will give the iBookstore a real boost–the ability to get an alert when an ebook is updated. For me, one of the great advantages of writing an e-Book is to provide updates for my readers, usually at no charge.

Getting Updated Versions of Books on the iBookstore
To show you how this works, I’ll use one of my iBookstore books as an example. I recently updated Book 1: Diving In in my iOS App Development for Non-Programmers series. Note that if you are an author updating your book, to take advantage of this new update feature you must:

1. Download the latest version of iBooks Author (version 2.0)

2. Download the latest version of iTunes Producer (2.8)

When you run iTunes Producer, it now has a “What’s New” section you can fill in so your readers know what has changes since the last version. 

After I uploaded my book to be reviewed by Apple, I waited 8 days (sigh) before they approved the update (an eternity when you compare it to Amazon’s 12 hr update cycle). ANYWAY, when I went to my iPad, and launched iBooks (you also need to update to the latest iBooks 3), I saw a number 1 appear in the Store button in the upper left corner of the iBooks App. This is the indicator that one of the books on my shelf has an update:

It would be nice if the badge appeared directly on the book that has been updated. Since it doesn’t, you have to click the Store button to find out more. When you tap this button it takes you on line to the iBookstore. Next, you need to tap the Purchased button at the bottom right of the screen:

This takes you to a list of books you have purchased. At the top of this screen, the Updates button shows the number of books you have purchased that have been updated:

If you tap the Updates button it shows you a list of the books that have updates:

To see what’s new in an updated book, you can tap the book in the book which displays the book details in a popup window. Just scroll down in the window until you can see the What’s New section:

After reviewing what’s new, just tap off the dialog to close it.

You can either tap UPDATE ALL to update all books or just tap the UPDATE button to update a particular book. When you tap the UPDATE button, the text of the button changes to DOWNLOADING:

After several seconds, you are taken back to the iBooks book shelf, and a progress indicator is displayed as the updated book is downloading:

When the book has finished downloading, the progress bar goes away and the Store button no longer shows an available update. 

And that’s how it’s done! Apple could improve this process by letting you tap directly on the book in the iBooks book shelf, but I have to say that they have one-upped Amazon by providing the ability to see a book has been updated!

Kevin McNeish
Author: iOS App Development for Non-Programmers
Twitter: @kjmcneish 

Q&A: How To Keep Up With Apple’s Constant Changes


It’s amazing (and sometimes unnerving) when you think about the new technologies and devices Apple has released in just the last TWO months. Here is a list that only includes the iOS-related items:
  • iPhone 5
  • iOS 6
  • iOS 6.01 (yes, already)
  • iPad 4th generation
  • iPod Touch 5th generation
  • iPod Nano 7th generation
  • iPad Mini
  • New EarPods
  • New Lightning connector
  • Xcode 4.5
  • Xcode 4.5.1
  • Xcode 4.5.2

And if you want to include changes to tools for those of us who write about iOS technologies, you can add these to the list:

  • iBooks 3 – This is the App you use to read iBooks on your iPad
  • iBooks Author 2.0 – This is the App used to create books in iBooks format
  • iTunes Producer 2.8 – This is the App used to upload and manage your books in the iBookstore

Shelves Full of Outdated Print Books
I have been working in the technology industry for over 20 years now. My library is full of technology books on Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sun technologies. Needless to say, I go through my bookshelves every once in a while and clean house, because the information in them is completely outdated. However, I’ve never seen changes come so frequently from a technology company as they have been coming from Apple over the past few years.

eBooks Let Me Provide Free Technology Updates!
If you have been following this blog, you know that I am the author of a new book series, iOS App Development for Non-Programmers. To date, we have produced the series both in Amazon Kindle format and iBook format for Apple’s iBookstore—but NOT in paperback. The reason is, we can provide free updates when technology changes—and when technology changes as often as it does with Apple, this is a good thing!

When writing a book series for non-programmers, you want to make sure the text and images in the book match the tools the reader is using, so it doesn’t throw them a curve. So, when Apple releases an update to iOS or Xcode (the tool for creating iOS Apps), we update our book series accordingly. I am enjoying being able to do this!

Apple iBooks Now Let You Know when a Book is Updated!
One of the new features of iBooks 3 is that you automatically receive notification when a book on your shelf has been updated–just as you currently do when an App is updated. A small badge appears next to the book on the shelf indicating you can get an updated version of the book for free! 

Book 1: Diving In – Updated to Apple’s Latest and Greatest!
Today, we released a new version of Book 1: Diving In that contains updates for Xcode 4.5.2 and iOS 6. The update took about three days from start to finish and included updating screenshots, text, AND the videos that come with the book. We don’t need to do this with every small update Apple makes, but it’s important to do so when the changes are significant enough. With a release of the iPhone 5 with its new 4-inch screen as well as changes in Xcode for iOS 6, the change was definitely necessary.

Should We Create Print Books?
This is always a question we wrestle with. We have a small percentage of readers asking for a print copy of the book, and we’re looking into providing that now. It requires a bit of formatting on our part, but some readers simply prefer having a book in hand (my wife is one of these types of readers). We’re actually heading down that path now for Book 1 to see how this works for us. I’d love to hear comments from you to see what your thoughts are on the subject!

Kevin McNeish
Author: iOS App Development for Non-Programmers series
Twitter: @kjmcneish

Apple releases new version of Xcode (for creating iOS / Mac OS X Apps) today!

Today, Apple released the latest version of Xcode (version 4.5.2) today. “Prolific” is the word that comes to mind.

This is great news, because as I am in then process of finishing up our new Xcode book (the third book in our iOS App Development for Non-Programmers series), I have run into several  stability issues on a regular basis.I could consistently get Xcode to “blow up” when laying out the user interface by setting certain attributes and when working with the new Autolayout feature introduced in Xcode 4.5.

Apple’s release notes indicate that most of the changes in this version resolve Xcode stability issues as well as auto layout and storyboard bugs.

The iPad Mini Simulator?
If you’re looking for a version of Xcode that has a simulator for the new iPad Mini, then you need to wait. It’s not in this version, but it’s a safe bet that Apple will introduce the iPad Mini Simulator soon!

Plan for Plenty of Disk Space!
The new version of Xcode is 1.56GB download, so make sure you have plenty of room on your hard drive for the download and the installation. If you don’t have adequate room on your hard drive, the Xcode installation can stop mid-way with a very vague error message, or no error message at all!

Happy App Writing!
Kevin McNeish
Author: iOS App Development for Non-Programmers book series 
Twitter: @kjmcneish