Mobile Links for week ending April 5, 2014

An analysis of apps in the Apple App store by price, ratings, etc. Some interesting insights, including that 60% of the apps in the app store have no ratings.

WWDC 2014 tickets will be offered via a lottery You have until 10am PDT April 7 to register for a chance to attend, and people will be notified that evening. Given the limited size of the conference, which has maxed out at 5000 attendees to maintain a 5 attendees-per-Apple-engineer ratio, this is my first chance to go in years.

This analysis of Apple’s Arm processor micro architecture suggests that there is a lot of untapped power that iOS apps aren’t using yet.

This new tool provides a quick way to generate code to animate iOS transitions.

With Amazon’s new Fire TV and a rumored new offering from Google soon, this may very well be the year that iOS apps move to the Apple TV. The LA Times compares the current crop of TV boxes here.

Clearly the streaming media race is heating up: Amazon is rumored to be going after Spotify with a new streaming subscription service soon.

Speaking of Spotify, their newest version on iOS is beautifully designed, and very in-line with the iOS 7 aesthetic, with a content-forward look-and-feel. I haven’t had time to completely explore it, but really like what I see so far.

Microsoft has announced Cortana, their answer to Siri and Google Now. While the reference to the character from Halo probably resonates with the Xbox crowd, it seems like an obscure choice to pick for an already underdog mobile platform. I had no idea who Cortana was myself, having never played Halo. The interesting thing about the feature is that it’s powered by Bing — this may be the time for Bing to actually shine, the Bing team has some great technology that has been largely ignored, but maybe mobile is the right venue.
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Mystery “magic trackpad” could signal something big

Apple has gotten a Bluetooth trackpad approved by the FCC. So, what would you possibly do with this? You don’t need it for one of their laptops, they already have a trackpad. Potentially you could use it with an iMac or Mac Pro, but why bother with Bluetooth?

I’m picturing this as a remote for an iOS-based Apple TV, or an HD version of the iPod Touch that has a TV cable. Either combination would let you run iOS apps on a TV and control them from your couch.

All the rumors about a new AppleTV with limited storage based on iOS sound more and more like an iPod Touch with an AppleTV app. It actually makes some sense — you could buy or rent the movies you want, put them on this device, and actually take your movies over to a friend’s house to watch on their TV by plugging in an adapter cable. A 16GB iPod Touch could hold 4 or 5 feature films in about a third the space of a Blu-Ray movie box, and of course the chips are out there for higher capacity. Even better, the WiFi connection could let you serve streamed content as well, like the tons of podcasts and YouTube already available, or cloud-based iTunes video. It’s not a stretch to think of an iPod Touch HD that could play full 1080p over HDMI.

This Apple TV app could just run on an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, too. You just bring the remote and the adapter cable for your friend’s TV, and it’s Movie Night.

Now all Apple needs to do is get content owners to get real about TV and movie pricing on iTunes, and they could have a real business instead of a hobby. The technology for these and even cooler services is not the challenge, it’s getting content owners to agree to reasonable terms for the selling of content that is still often available for free on broadcast TV, or can be rented for $1 from RedBox.

Mobile links for March 11, 2010

On Android, Myspace is the number one social networking app. Seems that the facebook client on Android doesn’t measure up to the slickness of their Blackberry and iPhone versions.

Apparently 80 million Farmville users is not enough.Facebook games head Gareth Davis thinks that the ‘Mario’ of social gaming is still out there waiting to be discovered.

Uh-oh. More App Store approval drama. Really, though, there’s a lot of shovelware on the App Store, and asking developers to at least tryisn’t so heinous. Templated apps aren’t all bad, but if you are going to just hook up some RSS feeds, why not just use Dashcode to make a web app and avoid Apple’s approval process entirely?

The wi-fi only iPad may be a back door to drive sales of MiFi devices at Verizon and Sprint. So far prices aren’t so hot, compared to AT&T’s new no-contract plan; even though the wi-fi iPad is $130 cheaper, these plans more than make up the difference, and all require contracts.

You’re doing it wrong. I can see AT&T hedging their bets by offering an Android phone, but removing Google search and locking the phone down pretty much misses the point, doesn’t it? Even Verizon got this one right by letting their Android phones be.

We know Android is going to be significant, but when? Android’s growth is still building, doubling over the last quarter. Is it inevitable, or will there be a ceiling, as fragmentation and carrier interference (see above) take the luster off of the open-source OS?

On the eve of the Apple event…

It’s the night before the Big Announcement, or for many no doubt the Big Disappointment when it turns out not to meet everyone’s fanciful expectations.   I fully expect that the hype has gotten so big that whatever is announced will cause a drop in Apple’s stock price.   It is the way of things.

I’m pretty sure the device won’t:

  1. Be made of gold
  2. Have an OLED screen
  3. Run Windows 7  (though I wouldn’t bet against it entirely)
  4. Run on AT&T exclusively.  Apple has made it clear they aren’t completely pleased with them as a partner.
  5. Be called iSlate.   I’m expecting iPad, myself, but it could just be called iPod Tablet or something like that.

Other than those things, all bets are off.

I’m hoping the device has:

  1. Front-facing camera, and a mobile implementation of iChat.
  2. Some form of iPhone OS — tablet PCs have been around for years, but a touch device has to work differently from a mouse device.  Gestures and touch, not mouseover and click and drag.    I’d hope there are a few new UI constructs that use the real estate better, but the current iPhone OS really has a lot of elements that will absolutely *sing* on the new device.
  3. No carrier tie-in.  I’ll gladly forgo a carrier subsidy for a device that can be used with any carrier or even just wi-fi for now.  The ideal would be for the device to accept some sort of wireless card in an SD card form factor, using the case as an antenna.   Then, let the carriers compete to offer deals on the cards and plans.
  4. Really good reading software.
  5. Don’t make me sign up for a new developer program,  sandwich this device into the current iPhone program.
  6. Inexpensive.
  7. Color calibration — don’t make a device that screams to be used by artists and photographers, then fail to put color management in it.  I still don’t know if there is any color management on the iPhone.
  8. An implementation of Apple TV on it.
  9. Support for Bluetooth peripherals, like a portable keyboard.

No matter what the device is, however, if it indeed is meant to be a game-changer for magazines, newspapers, and textbooks,  this release has got to be accompanied by a major retooling of iTunes.  iTunes has had so many types of content and commerce grafted onto it, it needs to be overhauled with a classification scheme that lets the individual consumer browse content efficiently,  do well-targeted searches,  bookmark or compare products, and support additional business models like subscriptions, gifting,  etc.    Don’t staple e-books and magazines onto the current thing, it’s gotten downright Byzantine.

Let’s see what it does, and hope that people judge it by what it does rather than what it doesn’t.  This type of device is still the product of a lot of engineering compromises.  People don’t seem to understand the hurdles that were overcome to bring the iPhone to market — the iPhone is a far more powerful computing device under the hood than its accessible exterior would suggest.   I expect the new device to be no less.   I do have to say that I still haven’t used cut-and-paste on my iPhone, even after Apple did put a very nice implementation in place.  They generally have some sound thinking behind their feature priorities, based on what will serve the majority of users best.  This sometimes leaves out your pet feature, but more often then not these features are worked around in an elegant way.

Advertising an iPhone comic app — some lessons learned

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Just completed our first advertising campaign this weekend, and definitely learned a lot. Started on the day after Thanksgiving, and ran for a little more than a week.

We used Project Wonderful, which seemed like a good choice due to its large number of webcomic publishers.   I figured we’d reach people who read comics, and were especially used to reading them on a screen.   What I didn’t know was how many of these eyeballs also had iPhones.     We were able to purchase over three million impressions to this audience, and got well over a thousand click-throughs.    This did result in a small increase in sales over the campaign on both apps I promoted (iBuddha and Watchmensch).

I haven’t calculated the exact average cost per click yet, but depending on the ad, the CPC ranged from .02 per click to .18 per click.  This is substantially lower than the CPC for some other ad networks.   Since a click is not necessarily an order, you want to make sure you aren’t paying more for the traffic than you stand to gain in sales.  This is a tough call for a 99 cent iPhone app, and indeed we didn’t come even close to seeing an increase in sales that justified the ad expense.

A few things to note:

  1. If you are using Paypal to pay for your ads, be sure you aren’t just sending from a bank account,  link to your credit card.  Otherwise you will need to wait for the e-check to clear,  typically 4 or 5 days.
  2. When selecting an advertising network, be very mindful of which publishers are showing your ad, and what their interests are.   Project Wonderful is an excellent place to promote your webcomic, but doesn’t have as strong a presence for music, politics, media, or other subjects.   Before you buy, take a look at which sites best suit your ads and what is advertising there now.
  3. A bigger ad on a cheaper site will often get you clicks at a cheaper cost than a small ad on a high-traffic site.  Keep an eye on the actual Cost Per Click you are getting on an ad, and adjust the campaign as you go along.
    125 by 125 pixels is a pretty popular size, I went for the strongest visual from the bigger ad and the message from the smaller ad.  I thought the three sizes I made worked together nicely as a set.

    125 by 125 pixels is a pretty popular size, I went for the strongest visual from the bigger ad and the message from the smaller ad. I thought the three sizes I made worked together nicely as a set.

  4. Manage your cost-per-click in relationship to the upside to be gained.   It’s okay to spend $5.00 getting someone to buy something if you are selling something expensive, not so much for a 99 cent app (for which you will be paid 70 cents after Apple takes its cut).
  5. Few ads will inspire action on the first showing, in general the ad industry says that someone needs to see your ad about 27 times before they will act. Seeing as many people who read webcomics and game reviews visit multiple sites, and read them daily, you should try to stretch out your impressions to as many places and over as long a time period as you can, rather than buy 1 expensive high-traffic ad for a day.
  6. Alternating between the big ads on a site and smaller ads on the same site seemed to work nicely, and saved cash. You’ll want to design your ads so that the different sizes share graphic elements, branding, etc.
    This was the 117x30 version of the ad, the familiar logo made it eye-catching despite its size.

    This was the 117x30 version of the ad, the familiar logo made it eye-catching despite its size.

  7. Different ad networks have different pricing models. Project Wonderful prices ads by day, and you bid for the ad slot. Whenever your ad is the high bidder, it shows on the site. You are only charged for the time slices when your ad is shown, and you can put in an automatic bid, just like eBay. Project Wonderful will only bid up your ad to the minimum needed for you to win, subject to your daily spending limits and your max price for the ad. Other networks may ask you to pay per impression (generally a bad idea), pay per click-through, or pay per action (actual order on your site). Be sure you are comparing apples to apples when comparing sites.

So, overall verdict: not worth the money in sales, but pretty valuable lesson about how online ads work. I definitely will end up using online ads again, but as part of a wider strategy of getting reviews, blog links, etc. for the product. Advertising is no substitute for marketing, i.e. identifying your target audience and figuring out how to reach them.

iBuddha

mountainiBuddha is still going strong on the iPhone App store.   You can get it here.

Sales are still underwhelming, but we’re fairly proud of this app, which features 1025 different fortunes culled from such sources as Buddha, Confucius, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Groucho Marx, and your local Chinese take-out place.

If you aren’t willing to shell out 99 cents for the full version, there’s a free version here instead. The free version has only 25 of the fortunes and doesn’t include the lucky numbers feature, but will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.