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A mini therapy session for Dave Nott as he’s having trouble being found via the app store search.

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Transcript

 

Dave Wood

Welcome to Waiting For Review, a show about iOS development and the Apple ecosystem. From Wellington New Zealand I’m Dave Wood and joining me from Devon England is Dave Nott.

Dave Nott

At the moment Armchair is suffering, it seems, because it’s it’s buried in in the App Store search. And given the general opinion on App Store search, and given my experience with App Store search, I almost feel like it’s it’s not recoverable. To give you some context, if you search for the phrase “Kodi Remote”, I’m showing up at item number eighteen…nineteen…twenty.

 

Dave Wood

Wow okay

Dave Nott

This is on the UK store, I’m not sure how it would be for other,s but I’m guessing similar. I think I’ve been a reasonably good citizen in terms of ASO as in App Store optimization, where by I’ve got Kodi Remote in my title, it’s in the subtitle, I’ve got it in all my tags, I’ve tried to drop it into my description wherever I can, I’ve got videos, I’ve got all my screenshots, upgraded for iPhone 10 as well. I have an Apple watch app as wel,l which you might think would bump me up as well, because, you know… that would kind of be in Apple’s interest to promote apps that have Apple watch apps as well…

 

Dave Wood

So you’re taking up like all the boxes.

Dave Nott

I think so, yeah. Unless I’m doing something really bad that I’m not realizing that I’m getting penalized for. So, I started thinking, would it be beneficial to create like an “Armchair 2.0” in the App Store and then I’ve kind of got a fresh new App Store listing as well to go along with it and that kind of draws a line on Armchair where it currently is. And then, I can push forward on this new version, and continue from there and hopefully get the show back on the road, because it’s really killing me as it is, with search being where it is. The only thing I can think of that might have hurt me (and I don’t know if there’s any data to support this theory) is that I changed the title of my app when the new app store stuff came in with iOS 11 and the idea was that titles could be shorter and you don’t need to put loads of stuff in the title because you’ve got the subtitle to put more of a descriptive thing about your app. So whether just simply the change of that, sort of like “you’ve changed the name therefore you take a hit”…because changing the name of the app is frowned upon? I don’t know…

 

Dave Wood

That that would seem a little bit weird, but I could believe that it’s possible that it kind of resets something by doing that, rather than a you know penalizing. It’d be more like the situation where you update a new version and you used to lose all of your reviews.

Dave Nott

Yeah, well reviews is another thing to think about as well because,before I introduced my onboarding, I used to get a lot of people leaving one-star reviews because they couldn’t connect the app to Kodi. For the most, almost the entirety, I maintain that it wasn’t the apps fault, because within Kodi you need to flick some switches to make it possible for the app to connect, period. So if you don’t flick those switches within your Kodi installation, it’s just never going to work. So I made an onboarding process, like a wizard, to help people through that process, to make it clear. It’ll try and connect automatically if it can, and if it can’t, it’ll come up right and be like, right…okay so here’s what you need to do, this that and the other, then we’ll have another go and if that fails and it can’t do it automatically by auto-discovery, it will show you a manual connection screen and for all the fields that you need, it will show you where in Kodi you can find the information to punch into the app and get it connected.

 

Dave Wood

Gotcha, so you hold their hand now.

Dave Nott

Yeah, and the response has been really good, my reviews have been really good, which is great. But, I wonder whether to an extent, whether the damage has been done. I mean only released this version in November time, so barely three months. So I wonder whether all the one-star reviews of the past where it’s like “rubbish app won’t connect – one star”… I’ve had quite a lot of those. Even when I wrote to the people that got in touch with me via my support page and helped them out, it’s still like they’ve left a one-star review now, so that’s kind of sucks.

 

Dave Wood

Oh man…so I’m hearing this and I’m wondering, okay…if you’re that far down the search listings, that also means that you’ve got a lot of competition in that space?

Dave Nott

Well, not really because this is another thing about App Store search. Where it’s like, yeah fair enough some of the listings above me are genuine Kodi remotes, but then there’s random ones, there’s a kodak app that will appear and universal remote control apps that have nothing to do with Kodi, but you know, like maybe an app that might control and how you move the cursor on your mac, almost like using your phone as a touchpad, that kind of thing…stuff that might have the word “remote” in the title is coming above me, which again. weakens my expectations on what to expect from App Store search. I think that Kodak app, last time I checked, which is what you’d use to maybe order prints of your photos. that was like position number six!

 

Dave Wood

Right, you’ve got a bit of competition, but you’ve also got a very badly optimised end of the app store itself, you’re kind of seeing some of the glitches in its matrix here a little bit. So what’s the plan? Because to my mind you’re saying okay you’re going to pause Armchair where it is, almost kind of mothball it, but it’s kind of that is Armchair right now, let’s take that, and then fork it I guess? You’re going to make it a project that starts from Armchair but it’s essentially going to be reskin is that about right?

Dave Nott

Yeah, I think I’ll probably reskin it to a certain extent, just to make it feel like it’s just not the same thing. And when I say reskin, I mean lightly reskin it, because I’m happy with with the app for the most part. I’ve got some ideas for it that I want to try out, a lot of which are going to require some significant time on my part to do so. So I feel like I need to get it to a point where it’s justifying that level of development, at the moment, Armchair where it is. is fine. I think it’s a good app, the feedback I’ve had is good, so I don’t feel bad sort of leaving it where it is for now, you know…the version that’s in the App Store, just draw a line and be like that is what it is now and that’s fine. So yeah, I think as you say, fork what’s there, create a second app in the App Store, so then the question is do I call it Armchair 2…or something? Or do I just call it something way more generic in the hope that I can App Store optimize around that, do I call it Kodi Remote Pro or something like that?

 

Dave Wood

So my gut feel here is, yes you should go all out here if you’re going to do this. You should go all out and go for the mercenary kind of App Store optimized name that is just quite literally what it does you know Kodi Remote in one way or another.

Dave Nott

Yeah I mean, there is already an app called Kodi Remote, which oddly enough looks really familiar or looks really similar to the official Kodi remote that is put out by Kodi. I don’t know what’s going on there, but it’s got like it’s number two in the search rankings for “Kodi Remote” and the first result is obviously the official one. The second one’s got loads of reviews, like 900 odd reviews which is quite a lot of reviews, I would say. It’s more than I’ve ever had. So yeah, I I think possibly you might have a point with that, because it seems that that’s number two with a load of reviews, probably a pretty good reason in that it’s just called “Kodi Remote” and that’s what people tend to search for. That’s possibly a way to go. The next thing is paid or free or free with in-app purchase? You know, basically what business model do I choose? I’m leaning towards paid.

Dave Nott

Which is a little bit weird at one sense because you look at a lot the Kodi Remotes that are out there, most of them are free, albeit with in-app purchase in some cases. But I think that, and maybe this sounds weird as the developer saying it, but I think my app is, frankly, a little bit better than the ones that are out there. That’s kind of why I made it, because I wasn’t wasn’t happy with the ones that were out there in the first place. I’ve got an Apple watch app bundled in with it, so I think it’s probably worth some money just as an up front payment. Which then, opens up the conversation more about search ads as a way to potentially get that new version out there, because I found when I was running search ads on the current version of Armchair which is free with an in-app purchase, I couldn’t make the numbers work, so I would be losing money on search ads, which I can’t be affording to do. However if it was paid, that might shift the equation somewhat. To give you a little bit of background, my other app, Space Readers, which is a “helps kids learn to read” app, that is paid up front, and I do use search ads for that and they turn a profit, so I’ve kind of got a little inkling that maybe if I were to do the same of Armchair and run search ads, hopefully it would work and turn a profit, but also that would potentially sort out any app store optimization problems anyway, because even if your position number one, now you’re kind of position two anyway if there’s an ad above you. So I’m interested to kind of try that out a little bit, I may go free at the start in the hope that I can get a load of downloads and hopefully a load of reviews to kind of prop me up for when my free promotional period ends, because my fear is that if I was to go paid upfront on day one, you’d probably get like two downloads or something because it costs money and you’d fall down the search rankings because Apple probably thinks well no one is downloading this app because nobody seems to like it and down it goes, and then I’m back to where I am now, just with two apps in position 20. So I think maybe I’m going need to do some kind of period of freeness like a promo thing, and that also gives me a platform on which to promote the app, sort of like “hurry up get it now it’s free” and then get a load of people that’ll hopefully be using it and leaving (hopefully) good reviews which will stand me in good stead, I hope, for when it becomes a paid app.

 

Dave Wood

Yes, so I think you should totally do that, and I think you should do that with it being very obvious up front that they say a limited time offer.

Dave Nott

Yeah, I don’t want to be devious about it by making it free and then suddenly I “ha ha” and just turn it onto to being paid. No, I’ll be definitely upfront about that and try and promote it on that basis. Yeah I guess… I guess that’s a plan, but I feel like at the moment what I’ve got definitely isn’t working, so I kind of feel a little bit fearless about it. Almost like I’ve not got much to lose, because we’ve kind of discussed my plan for this year is to start making more sort of game apps, so I kind of feel like that’s where the future is, for me anyway, this year. So Armchair as it is isn’t really working in terms of it being sustainable in the long run so I kind of feel fearless about making changes, because I need to change something, so it’s not like I’ve I’ve got something that’s doing quite well and I’m thinking well you know if I change it it could ruin it all. It’s like that’s kind of already ruined if I’m in position 20 on the App Store for what I vsn drr id not really much of a good reason.

 

Dave Wood

So you may as well give it a try and it kind of to my mind this sort of feels like the the most drastic of A/B test you could do. You know, you are literally going to put another copy of the app side-by-side that is then potentially in competition with the original one. But if your numbers are where they are, then it’s really not going to be a damaging thing and, either it’s sink or swim. And if it if it swims, if it goes well, then you can get quietly sunset Armchair or do something where you know, maybe Armchair becomes a light version of the app or something like that, even if the paid-up is doing well could take that sort of direction as well.

Dave Nott

Yeah, the only thing I would feel bad for there is the people that have unlocked the version that’s currently in the App Store. So I’d need to do something…basically I don’t want to give them an app that they paid for and it locks it all down, unless it becomes like a super light version by default and those I have unlocked, it kind of unlocks to where it is now.

 

Dave Wood

Yep, which if the code base is the same, give or take, then it might not be that hard to keep the door open for those people.

Dave Nott

Yeah, well are you talking about the app that’s already in the App Store now?

 

Dave Wood

Yes, yeah.

Dave Nott

So basically I would kind of roll that back to be a super light version and then in the settings somewhere have a restore purchase, and then that kind of brings it all back to life – it turns it back into the app that they paid for. I don’t wanna be kind of like screwing people over is essentially what I’m trying to say.

 

Dave Wood

Yeah and what I’m saying is if the code base is essentially, you know the, same, that’s probably within your power to keep around.

Dave Nott

Yeah I think it would be a case of making it more restrictive before the in-app purchase, and I could even keep the in-app purchase around, that’s another question I suppose isn’t it… Do I have the in-app purchase in the lite version to unlock it or do I just not sell anymore in-app purchases and just allow people that have bought to restore the ones from long ago if you’re following?

 

Dave Wood

Yeah I think that’s really going to depend on how well the sort of “pro version” is it’s doing as a paid upfront app, and whether you think you can kind of bring people from the the free version to that version. But, if you’re only talking you know tiny numbers still on that side of things, then that is probably not worth bothering to have the unlock. It’ll depend on where your numbers are and depends on how things look sort of at that time. I guess I’m just sort of thinking that if you see some success for doing this, then you may have these sort of other options. I’d I would be interested to sort of see if if your optimization on the new app is really good and it’s ranking really well, but then Armchair is still there and essentially shows up if they click through “developers other apps” would you see a sort of halo effect of people then sort of going “Oh… I see this one that’s number three or four but I’m not going to spend that right now” and they click through will they give Armchair a try if you see what I mean.

Dave Nott

Yeah that’s true, yeah. I think the drop off is going to be quite high though isn’t it. Those that actually do click through and then do see the next one and the next one, but yeah you might have a point. it’s a lot to think about but it’s something I feel more comfortable about – being paid upfront, just in general. I just wish we had free trials. If I had free trials that would solve everthing for me right now. I think we’re going to get one sooner or later, I’m sure there’s going to be like some kind of announcement that’s going put on free trials for just paid up front. It seems like it’s the last the last thing that we need and then it’s it’s kind of no matter what business model you choose like there’s ways to make money.

 

Dave Wood

Yeah and I think it would sort of stop people from kind of having to do really wriggly things to just sort of get free trials in, but they’re not really. You know they’re like free free and app purchases and that sort of thing. I’d rather have a proper route for it than to have to try and do things sort of a hacky way.

Dave Nott

Yeah it just seems… I don’t know, When I look at the App Store through the eyes of a consumer, so I’m not looking at it as a developer, I’m looking at it as a customer. Whenever I see a free app I’m kind of like “well yeah you say it’s free, but…” and then you see other ones where it’s like “yeah it’s free but then there’s a subscription” so it’s kind of like I almost I almost feel glad when I see a paid app, it’s like actually, if I just pay them five dollars or five pounds or whatever, I’m buying the app and then they’re going to leave me alone, hopefully and then I yeah it kind of feels like a nicer way to do business. Although I’m sure most people probably don’t thinking like this that’s, certainly how I feel about it.

 

Dave Wood

I feel very similar to be fair. If I see something with the subscription then it’s like this extra level of friction, because I sort of think well okay, I do want to use the app and I do want to support the developer but I don’t necessarily want to have to think about canceling this if I’m not using it.

Dave Nott

Yeah exactly. Weren’t you saying something the other day, or was it last night? About features that unlock as your subscription and new like that rolls over to another year or something like that…

 

Dave Wood

So there was a blog post I saw a few days ago where this this company has a Mac app and what they’ve done with it is, they’ve got this model where you pay an in-app purchase which is for the next 12 months worth of updates, so you get the full app as it is now and then any new features that are added over the next twelve months you will also get those, and then, I believe 12 months time from now, if you don’t buy the in-app purchase again, then you’re left with the app and that 12 months of features.

 

Dave Wood

So, essentailly you just dont get any of the new stuff if you don’t keep paying.

Dave Nott

So if you let your subscription lapse, you don’t get the new sort of next year’s worth of features ?

 

Dave Wood

Which makes it a little bit closer to an annual upgrade.

Dave Nott

It does feel like that doesn’t it. It’s like when Mac OS used to come out with a new version, you’d go and pay your money and get the new version. I suppose it’s a way to ensure that subscriptions hang around but I think I think the biggest problem when I think about subscriptions is that I’m not sure, for a lot of apps that I care enough about them to warrant subscribing. You see, to me subscribing is more of a decision than an initial purchase of like three or four pounds. Because a subscription kind of means that you’re committing to it and you’re gonna pay on a regular basis for it, because presumably you’re really into it. Whereas I downloaded an AeroPress timer app the other day and it cost me like four pounds, and it was like a total impulse thing, but that’s fine, because it is four pounds once. But if they said ok, now you need to subscribe to get different coffee recipes every month, I’d be like…well, I’m not sure I really care that much, it was a nice idea for a couple of minutes but in the scheme of things, life will carry on without this app.

 

Dave Wood

Yeah and for me it becomes a friction point where I kind of go, you know what… I just want won’t have anything then.

Dave Nott

Exactly. I think subscriptions have forced me to ask myself how badly do I want this, and quite often the case is, well, not really that much. I don’t really want it that badly, it’s a nice idea, but if you were to say to me “just give me like three or four dollars now and we’ll call it even”, I’d be like yeah sure have three or four dollars I’m happy to support you, it looks like a good app, have some money. But when it turns into this subscription thing… I don’t know. There are very few apps that I would consider. If Twitter came out and said you need to subscribe to use Twitter on the iPhone, I’ll be like, well sure… of course I will because I really want to use it. Althought I’d probably move to a third party Twitter client, but you get what I’m trying to say. Apps I use very very frequently, I would do it. But when it when it comes to a random like app in the App Store, that I can live without, it’s got to be really, really compelling for me, for the subscription thing to work.

 

Dave Wood

I’m very, very similar. Because for me it’s just too much of a commitment, as well I have the other thing of I have a joint bank account, and yeah we do our budgets and accounts together as a family, and I may want that app right now, and I may want to give it a try and I may want to support the developer, and a one-off purchase is great. You know because it’s just that thing of oh, yes, I bought an app, cool. But if it takes over in a month’s time or if it’s a six-month one or whatever, and it’s like “okay but why are you still paying for that app?” and that then becomes a conversation that we have to have a family budgeting level, because the amount being paid out to Apple is different than it should be, and a subscription kind of becomes this sort of unaccounted for balance, that is ticking away each month. Which you know for something that I’m genuinely using a lot, is not a problem,it’s not a case of not spending money on these things or supporting the things I use, it’s just that, it has to be something that I’m really getting a lot of value out of in order for it to be on the family budget every month, whereas like you say something that’s a nominal fee is easier to just say yep I bought an app, and you know family sharing means everybody else gets it as well so, bonus. So I find myself increasingly dubious about subscription models are sort of really working, certainly not in all circumstances. I think there are a lot of different types of customer and I guess I’m just personally one of the ones that doesn’t really like that sort of model.

Dave Nott

Yeah I mean when I think about subscriptions properly, like, when would I really consider a subscription it would be like if say Final Cut were to come out and say if you pay $40 a year you could have Final Cut, I’d be like yeah, I’ll go for that because at the moment it’s like (I don’t know what that actually number is) $400 to buy it. I’d be like, yeah I’ll pay $40 a year to get it because that represents value.

 

Dave Wood

Yeah and it means that when you sit down to edit a video you’re using, pretty much the best software that you could be using.

Dave Nott

The best thing for the job, yeah. But when it comes to something like, I’d even like to use Overcast as an example, I love Overcast, it’s really good. But you know at the end of the day I can use something else, I don’t need to buy a subscription to that, not really. I suppose it does the voice boost and the silence shortening but there’s the purist part of me that doesn’t like it because I’m not listening to it as the podcaster designed it… anyway aside from that, I don’t know I just I just feel like it’s not really enough of an app to warrant a subscription, like I’ll happily chuck a developer yeah five bucks for something, that’s not a problem, but a subscription… it’s like if I do this really sustainable for all of my apps it’s instantly not really sustainable.

 

Dave Wood

No, whereas upgrade pricing would to my mind actually be much more appropriate, so I’d be happy to sort of say okay, there’s, using Overcast as an example, if I had to pay an upgrade price for every major version, but otherwise I’m left with the one that I’d bought previously, I’d be happy with that because you know, chances are that’s still going to be able to run on my device for quite a while, until for whatever reason it’s no longer supported by by the latest OS. And then it’s my choice when to upgrade it, you know, I’m stuck with this older version that’s potentially going crufty and may have one or two issues, but you know as long as it basically still still keeps working then it’s up to me when I want switchover. I’m not going to begrudge paying for the upgrade price at the time that I really have to upgrade, or you know, at a time where I’m like okay I want to try version four…there’s there’s something over there that I now want to be able to do, so you know what here’s my nominal fee again to upgrade. Yeah I think it’s about a level of, kind of control. So it’s about choosing when I make that purchase and choosing when that money comes out whereas the subscription really doesn’t give you that control at all.

Dave Nott

It’s almost like it relies on people impulsing into it and ever forgetting about it, I don’t really like that, that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

 

Dave Wood

Yeah it’s it doesn’t really breed trust and loyalty when it when it’s done that way, whereas I think a subscription should kind of be all about the fact that you really trust and love the thing you’re subscribing to.

Dave Nott

And it’s almost like the subscription in itself should yield value for the user, it should be like you’re getting something. And if you read the App Atore guidelines. it’s like, you can have a subscription but you need to be providing regular value or regular updates that you know are valuable updates regularly, you can’t just have subscription and just be like now I have money for life and I’ll just keep the same app and your app store indefinitely. And I suppose you could say I’ve updated this and I’ve updated that but it’s like yeah but is that really value? I don’t know…

 

Dave Wood

It is development effort that if you use the application you should be sort of be prepared to pay towards. But like I say, I feel like upgrade pricing really is the model that reflects the behavior, certainly for me, it’s the model that gives me back control as the customer to when I kind of want to buy into that and reward that development. Whereas subscriptions, they take away that level of control. But hey… at the moment we don’t have that as developers to use, I hope that we do, and I hope that’s something that is forthcoming over this next year and I think as developers ourselves I guess we just have to look at the the types of business models that we really want to run for our apps from a perspective in terms of how we want to be remunerated and also in terms of how we would like to treat our customers and be treated ourselves. So for for me with my own applications I have done paid upfront and I’m not sure if that’s always working as well as it might do but it’s been a much easier kind of thing to do, certainly for the video mixing up where it’s is a niche product and people in that niche are going to be more likely to pay upfront anyway. So that’s been easier to do I guess, but I’ve also felt more comfortable with it, it’s not really the sort of subscription model in there application where I could have a sort of subscription model in there.

Dave Nott

No I don’t think a subscription would be right for for Armchair to be quite honest, the only way I could get away with it is if I just really went at it and kept developing new features, but then, part of my plan is to sort of move on to other new apps, so I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable doing that if my intention is to get it to a point and then leg it.

 

Dave Wood

That’s the other side of it though, is that there’s a limit. If you keep bolting on features for the sake of meeting the sort of definitions and requirements of being a subscribable app, you know it does this now, it’s got this now. There is a limit, some apps, they don’t need lots and lots of features, they just need to do what they do very well.

Dave Nott

Part of me thinks that whole thing from Apple is is like almost like where it says you can’t have the devices in screenshots, but everyone does it anyway and no one really cares.

 

Dave Wood

Yeah but thay feels like that’s the market leveling itself out at the moment, and you know people are doing what works and then kind of finding out where the line is drawn sort of really by Apple. I think maybe that is actually sort of fuel towards proper upgrade pricing and that end of things because if people are kind of doing this by default but it’s not really meeting what the subscription is and I can imagine Apple maybe taking a look at that and sort of thinking, well… either this is how subscriptions work, or we need to do this other thing and that other thing is you know (whether they call it out great pricing or not is another thing) they might choose to market it in some other other fashion, give it some other sort of name, you know maybe the behavior with subscriptions and and those guidelines not really being followed all the time, would actually lead them towards bring it in, and that sort of thing beginning upgrades.

Dave Nott

Yeah I think you might be right.

 

Dave Wood

I might just be being hopeful!

Dave Nott

No I really hope we can get some free trials and upgrade pricing and then it’s like App Store fixed as far as I’m concerned.

 

Dave Wood

Yep and I think that that would be fantastic preparation for unification between iOS and Mac OS apps and that side of things too.

Dave Nott

Yeah I think that would lend into marzipan really, really well because like we were saying last week, we looked it at the point of view that you know iOS apps can come to the Mac but actually, you know…maybe the Mac can push iOS forward it’s it’d be really quite cool if that were the case that you could maybe get some pretty hardcore apps on iOS, but then you know, chances are developers are going to want to be paid more and maybe free trials would be sort of made necessary by that to facilitate it.

 

Dave Wood

Yeah certainly for iPad apps.

Dave Nott

Okay we’ll call that a wrap, if you’ve enjoyed today’s show it’d be great if you could leave us a review on iTunes or if you could and leave us a recommendation in Overcast by hitting that star button that will help us reach even more like-minded people. Also we have our Slack channel we’d love to invite you to join, our hope is it can be a really great place for fellow developers to come and hang, out if you’d like to join just leave us a message on twitter @WFRPodcast and we’ll get you signed up. So, Dave before we run off, where can people find you?

 

Dave Wood

You can find me on twitter @DWroboheadz that’s Roboheadz spelt with the “Z” and you can find my apps at roboheadz.com, again that’s Roboheadz spelt with a “Z”. How about you Dave?

Dave Nott

Yeah you can find my remote control for Kodi at armchair-remote.com, my latest app to help kids learn to read you can find a spacereaders.com and on twitter i am @_davenott