Posts Tagged ‘rankings’
This is the latest installment tracking the progress of the Oz Weather iPhone app in the iTunes app store. (Part 7 installment here.)
Oz Weather v1.0 arrived in the app store on 1st November 2008 (now at v1.7.1), so I now have a full years of stats to share with you.
- Total paid app downloads: 64,500 (176 per day on average)
- Net app revenue: AUD$99,600 (US$89,700) – net of 30% Apple share and 10% Australian GST
- Average User Rating: 4 stars – from 1187 ratings of all versions
- Average ranking: 17.5 – in Australian app store
[Stop Press - AUD$100k sales were reached on 3rd Nov 2009]
The following graph shows a complete history of one year’s worth of daily sales records.
The associated Australian overall paid apps ranking is as follows:
So there have been a number of peaks and troughs. The single biggest factor causing those peaks and troughs appears to have been Apple promotions in the Hot / New / Staff Pick lists. But this has worked both ways – the biggest troughs have occurred when Apple has promoted competing apps.
The second biggest factor has been the weather itself. In Australia it seems that people are more interested in summer weather than they are in winter weather, hence causing an underlying annual cycle which peaks in summer (Dec/Jan/Feb) and troughs in winter (Jun/Jul/Aug).
Some individual weather events (eg. extreme heat waves, major rainfall events) seem to account for much shorter term peaks – especially noticeable around Feb 2009 when a major app update was also released.
Its also worth noting that during the course of the year the number of competitors has grown substantially. No doubt other developers have noticed how well weather apps seem to do in the app store ecosystem, and I would guess that my blogging about such attractive sales figures has probably encouraged some of the new ones into the game too. ;-) However, most of the newer competitors have failed to get any significant visibility, at least so far, and overall I don’t regret my decision to be transparent and open with my sales figures. I am always delighted to read about the inside stories of other app developers’ successes and failures, and hope that my own story has been interesting and useful to others too.
There have been quite a few news and blog mentions of Sun Seeker since it’s release (described in this previous post), which has created some good interest in it, and yes, some good app sales too. But a common reaction of press reviewers seems to be to question what you would use it for. I have to say, frankly, that I am a little surprised. How could you not immediately understand how useful this app really is?!
But then it dawned on me (whoops, no pun intended!). We are not all born the same. Some of us do seem to have that extra geek gene, which means that some things which seem really obvious to us are pretty much obscure to others. And vice-versa of course, as I know all too well, often to my own detriment. ;-)
Thankfully, however, some of those who bought the app do already “get it”, and a few kind souls have left some great comments explaining exactly how they find it useful – and some of these are in ways that I had not even imagined myself. As these comments are spread around different countries’ app stores, I thought it might help to list a few of them here. I have added highlighting to various words and phrases to emphasize the types of usage people are using it for.
I bought this app to track the suns position on the cockpit window during my trips as an airline pilot, this app works better than I had hoped. I now use this app as a situational awareness tool, keeping track of possible solar glare on final approaches to particular runways. It works awsome in the virtual 3d view because of the slaved compass I can find the suns relative position with reference to any runway. This is really a great app. (Lwm5 – USA)
Fantastic – shows the true utility of augmented reality apps. As an architect I have been doing solar analysis of sites by printing solar charts, taking pictures and noting bearings & altitue of horizon (trees mnts structures etc) – then combining info in Photoshop. With this app it’s as easy as pointing the camera to get a sense of the solar access of a site at different times of day / year. (smh_iTunes – USA)
I work in the Solar industry and this works exceptionally well for aligning solar arrays and showing customers the path of the sun. GREAT app :-) (Clear James – Australia)
The perfect app for DOP’s Gaffers and anyone that needs to know where the sun path will be and where you will lose the sun behind a building etc. The augmented reality is flawless and helps anyone plan out a photo/film shoot to the hour. A steal at this price. (Metromadman – Australia)
It might also be worth noting that, currently, the best sales of this app are being made in… Japan. How fitting, given that it is sometimes know as the land of the rising sun!
Currently Sun Seeker is #6 in paid apps in the Navigation category, there. I’m guessing that this might have something to do with the fact that Japanese are known for being early and enthusiastic adopters of new technology. This helps in two ways – firstly because there might be a strong uptake of the latest 3GS iPhone model (required for this app), and secondly because the area of augmented reality is so new to the consumer space, and offers exciting new ways of using the technology, which may not be immediately obvious to those more reluctant to embrace unfamiliar technology.
Now why can’t Westerners be more like the Japanese?
So until next time – Konichiwa! :-)
This is the latest installment tracking the progress of the Oz Weather iPhone app in the iTunes app store. (Part 6 installment here.)
The latest stats, to 4th August 2009:
* Total app downloads: 48,600
* Net app revenue: AUD$73,800 (US$59,000) – net of 30% Apple share and 10% Australian GST
* Average User Rating: 4 stars – from 885 ratings of all versions
The following graph shows a complete history of more than 8 months of daily sales records, since launch on Nov 1st 2008.
The associated Australian overall paid apps ranking is as follows:
I already explained the cause of the great sales dip in June in the previous post, but the other feature that stands out here is how the ranking in the latter half of the graph has been declining despite a fairly constant average base level of sales (excepting June). The obvious explanation for this divergence is that the total number of all apps being bought is gradually increasing with time as the number of iPhones/iPods in Australia has increased. Recent estimates by AdMob put the total number of iPhones in Australia at around 750,000 and iPod Touch at 350,000 – making a combined total of 1.1 million devices on which Oz Weather could be installed. This would mean that Oz Weather has been purchased by about 4.4% of Australian device owners.
This might seem to leave room for plenty more sales, but others have suggested that 3% is a high ownership rate for other popular apps such as “Flight Control”, so maybe we’re already pushing the boundaries!
This is the latest installment tracking the progress of the Oz Weather iPhone app in the iTunes app store. (Part 5 installment here.)
The latest stats, to 3rd July 2009:
* Total app downloads: 44,800
* Net app revenue: AUD$68,000 (US$54,400) – net of 30% Apple share and 10% Australian GST
* Average User Rating: 4.5 stars – from 6 ratings of latest version, 4 stars – from 790 ratings of all versions
The following graph shows a complete history of more than 7 months of daily sales records, since launch on Nov 1st 2008.
The associated Australian overall paid apps ranking is as follows:
The most immediately noticeable feature of these graphs is the big “crash” in sales and rankings starting at the beginning of June, and then the sudden recovery on 26th June. What could have caused these big changes in fortune?
- The Fall – At the beginning of June, Oz Weather’s main head-to-head competitor (Pocket Weather AU) was given “Staff Favourite” status in the Australian app store, which meant that it appeared on the front page of the app store with that endorsement. So at the same time that Oz Weather sales and rankings tanked, Pocket Weather sales and rankings took off. While Oz Weather reached its nadir at 68th ranking, Pocket Weather peaked at around 29th ranking.
- The Recovery – On 26th June, Apple launched the iPhone 3GS in Australia. Oz Weather sales tripled overnight and its ranking jumped from 60th to 20th, while Pocket Weather’s ranking remained much steadier, hovering around the 40th to 50th ranking range. My surmise as to what caused this is Apple’s in-shop promotions which include Oz Weather as one of the featured apps, and a demo version is pre-installed on some of their iPhone shop demo units. This means that new iPhone customers who visit an Apple store to make their purchase get well exposed to Oz Weather.
Interestingly, the cause of both the fall and the recovery are apparently Apple’s own promotional mechanisms, over which individual developers have (as far as I am aware) absolutely no control. Either you are picked or you are not!
Overall, of course, Apple’s influence has been much more of a benefit than a hindrance to Oz Weather, and I am of course very grateful for that. And I certainly do not begrudge the fact the Pocket Weather was given a staff favourite pick by Apple. Like me, they’ve put a lot of time and effort into their app, and deserve their day in the sun as much as anyone else.
The latest stats:
- Total app downloads: 40,000
- Net app revenue: AUD$60,800 (US$46,800) – net of 30% Apple share and 10% Australian GST
- Average User Rating: 4.5 stars – from 105 ratings of latest version
The following graph shows a complete history of more than 6 months of daily sales records, since launch on Nov 1st 2008.
It is apparent that, although sales have declined quite a lot from their peak in early Feb 2008, they now appear to have leveled out over the past two months at an average of around 125 sales per day.
The app ranking (amongst all paid apps in the Australian iTunes store), however, is a little more volatile.
If you look at the long term trend this might be interpreted as showing a ongoing decline. However, if just the last two months are taken in isolation, then it is also possible to interpret it as having leveled off at around the #20 ranking mark, albeit with greater volatility – and this seems to be given some support from the actual sales numbers. In fact greater volatility is always to be expected at a lower ranking, due to a crowding of other apps with similar sales levels, such that only small variations in sales numbers can make much larger changes to their relative rankings.
Also of significant interest may be the fact that Apple has actively included Oz Weather in their advertising and promotions. These have included:
- Icon and app description featured in the Sydney Apple Store on mural advertising display
- Icon and app description featured in the Sydney Apple Store in “Lifestyle” app plaques placed around iPhone/iPod sales areas
- Demo version of app is included on some demo iPhone/iPod devices in the Sydney Apple Store
- Icon and app description featured in full page national and local newspapers (Australian, Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age)
- Icon appears in some of Apple’s iPhone television advertisements
Some of these promotions have been ongoing for a couple of months (Apple Store), and others are more sporadic (TV and newspapers ads). However, I have been unable to spot any significant correlation between the timing of these promotions and changes to app sales figures. Given that sales levels appear to have stabilised, if there is any effect from these promotions, it suggests that the effect may been to prevent a further falloff in sales, rather than actually increasing them.
Of course there is still the possibility of a seasonal effect that I referred to in an earlier post, and perhaps when more severe winter weather sets in sales levels could increase again. In fact the sales of other weather apps appear to have suffered a similar decline in rankings to Oz Weather,which would be in line with this hypothesis, but on the other hand it may also simply be reflecting the huge increase in the number of apps available (four times more than when Oz Weather launched), or even a market saturation of weather apps. If estimates of the number of iPhones in Australia are accurate, then Oz Weather is already installed on 10% of them. It might be hard to get a better market penetration than that, for a paid app!
As usual, I’ll report back again with further information when time permits.
This post provides an update to the progress of Oz Weather in the Australian app store.
First, here are some of the most recent milestones, highlights and points of interest.
- Total app downloads: 34,800
- Net app revenue: AUD$52,500 (US$37,000)
- Highest paid app ranking: #1 (for 12 consecutive days)
- Lowest paid app ranking: #17 (excluding app store technical glitch)
- Average paid app ranking: #6 (over app lifetime)
- Upgrade uptake half-life: 5 days (average time for 50% of existing users to update to new versions)
- Total weather queries served: 3.8 million
- Split between iPhone / iPod Touch user base: 89% / 11%
And here is the complete history of daily sales to date (ie. from 1st November 2008 to end of first week of April 2009).
I have listed some probable causes for some of the ups and downs in my previous posts, but the newest “feature” here is what looks like a downward trend since the peaks of early February, although the last 20 days or so could be showing a leveling off – perhaps to some kind of base sales level around 100 to 150 sales per day. This is lower than the figure of 150 to 200 I had suggested in an earlier post, but the correlation between daily sales and weather queries per day seems to have become even clearer, as evidenced by the following updated graph.
If you compare this graph with the earlier version from a month ago, you will see that the more recent, lower level of daily sales on the leftmost part of the graph correlate well with decreased level of app usage by existing customers – which was down to about 0.75 queries per day per app in some cases.
This suggests two possibilities to me
- Long term users may be experiencing app fatigue, overload or dilution, and are no longer using older apps as much as they used to.
- During this inter-seasonal period with less weather extremes, the weather is of less interest to people in general, and hence existing app owners use the app less, and new iPhone owners are less likely to want to buy a copy.
It is worth noting that sales of other Australian weather apps appear to have experienced broadly similar trends to those of Oz Weather, as evidenced by their rankings which have broadly followed the movements of Oz Weather’s own rankings. Therefore it seems that competitive factors are not a significant factor here.
Based on the evidence to hand, I suspect that the issue of less interesting weather is the most significant one. If this is indeed so, then sales can be expected to increase again when bouts of extreme winter weather start to hit Australia.
So that is my hypothesis, and I will report back later with further data which may support or refute it.
Apple has recently made major improvements to the user review system for apps, making it generally much fairer and more useful to customers.
Reviews are now labeled with the date on which they were written, the version of app being reviewed, and there is a graphical view of the distribution of ratings, making it much easier to see the overall response of users to the app.
But there are still some ways in which the system can be abused or gamed, as I have only just discovered myself, after noticing that despite Oz Weather’s typically high user review scores, the 3 reviews shown to all users on their first view of the app information (in the Australian app store) happened to be 1 and 2 star reviews, with correspondingly negative sentiments. :-(
The reason that these unrepresentative reviews are being shown persistently is because Apple considers them to be the “most helpful” ones according to the algorithm that they apply to their peer review system ie. where users rate other users’ reviews.
But closer examination showed that those particular reviews had received feedback from just one other user ie. they were marked with the statement “1 out of 1 customers found this review helpful“. And looking down the list of 31 reviews of the current version it was apparent that the low ranking reviews had all been found “helpful” by 1 out of 1 users, whereas all the high ranking reviews (many more of them of course!) had all been found helpful by 0 out of 1 users (ie. found “unhelpful”).
Given this pattern, what’s to bet that all this was the work of just one person?
Most disappointingly, a review I left myself was similarly marked as unhelpful, thus making it virtually invisible to most users. I had left this for the purpose of trying to help those users who had app problems but not realised they could just email me for support. And in it, I clearly identified myself as the developer. (As I had to leave a star ranking, it had to be 5 stars – what would user’s have thought of the app if it’s own maker had ranked it less?!)
This problem with user reviews of reviews has been there since day one of the app store, but due to the fact that numbers of users, their reviews, and their reviews of other reviews was always growing, it wasn’t a big issue for long. Once enough users had been acquired, the chance that a single user’s feedback could affect things this dramatically became negligible.
But with Apple’s new review system in place, whenever any app update is issued, the reviews for the current version only start at a count of zero, and the prospect of this distortion and/or possibility of gaming the review system by just one (or very few people working together) arises again, at least until the number of user reviews has grown enough to drown it out again. Given that many app developers do release updates relatively frequently, this makes it into a real issue – one that happens to have been made much worse as a consequence of the new review system.
So how could this be solved? Well Apple has already solved a similar issue in relation to the average star rating ie. they no longer give a star rating at all until a sufficient number of reviews have been received. So perhaps the solution is simply to ignore the helpful/unhelpful ratings until a sufficient number have accrued – at least several, preferably more.
Another approach would be to limit the number of helpful/unhelpful ratings that any one user can give – thus preventing them from sullying the entire complement of existing reviews in one go, as appears to have happened to Oz Weather in this case.
Yet another would be to look for patterns of user response eg. if a user consistently rated all low star reviews as helpful, and high star reviews as unhelpful (or vice versa), then their ratings are simply ignored. Of course this might require some advanced algorithms to make it work, which may be unrealistic for now, but it doesn’t hurt to think about them!
Because a solution to this issue is not going to be implemented or appear overnight (despite Apple’s many other talents!), I would like to appeal to any existing Oz Weather users to go into the Oz Weather app store entry in iTunes (you can use this link) and use the helpful/unhelpful feature to rate some of the existing other reviews. I would ask you to do this with integrity and honesty ie. please don’t just do it for the sake of panning the bad reviews or glorifying the good ones – rather do what feels right and appropriate to make the review rating more realistically representative of your own opinion of the app.
By the way, those bad reviews on the front page are no-doubt quite honest. The app can (rarely) start crashing, and the only solution is to delete then re-install the app, and I do believe that it is very important to listen to complaints, and think carefully about what you could do to avoid similar complaints in future.
To this end, I have recently rooted out the likely cause of any crashing, and also put in a crash recovery mechanism just for those 1 in 10,000 type scenarios. Hopefully this will mean that eventually there will be no 1 star reviews at all – and then it wouldn’t be possible for anyone to game the helpfulness of reviews either! What? Me? An idealist? Well maybe. :-)
In an earlier post I showed a graph of Oz Weather’s daily sales levels versus its ranking in the Australian iTunes app store, and then extrapolated the findings to get a very rough estimate of global sales versus iTunes US app store rankings.
Australian Sales vs Rankings
As Oz Weather has now been selling for more than 3 months, and has had an extended period ranked #1 in the Australian store, so I am now in a position to make an enhanced analysis. But note that there were some anomalous sales figures over the Christmas period (24th Dec to 31st Dec) due to three unusual circumstances:-
- the surge in overall Christmas sales
- the fact that I discounted the app over that period
- thirdly due to a major loss of sales when the app store broke down temporarily
The graph below shows the entire history of sales, minus that week’s worth of “anomalous” sales data.
I tried fitting logarithmic, exponential and power curves to the data – the power curve gave by far the best fit, with the approximate equation
Daily Sales = 425 * Ranking ^ -0.5
This equation can be used to give a reasonable estimate of sales of paid apps in the Australian iTunes app store using the overall ranking (not the ranking in any individual category such as entertainment, lifestyle, weather etc). However note that there is a wide range of variation about this mean trend line on a day to day basis. For example while Oz Weather was ranked #1 sales varied between about 260 and 620, and at rank #2 from 190 to 420.
World Sales versus Rankings
We now have a good idea of the apponomics of the Australian store, but what about world-wide sales? To begin to answer this, I have gathered as much data as I could find giving US store app ranking versus daily sales. The main sources I found were
- Joel Comm blog regarding the iFart app
- App Cubby post on App Store Pricing
- Veiled Games article
- Magic Jungle blog post
Using data from these sources – some real sales figures and others inferred and estimated, I constructed the following graph.
The main assumption here is that US rankings reflect Worldwide rankings reasonably well, which although not necessarily true for specific apps, is probably true on average. Also note that, to clarify the picture, I did exclude some of the higher figures given for #1 ranking – up to 50,000 or more supposedly. I suspect that sales at the #1 spot will be much more variable than lower ranked slots, so it seemed sensible to include only the lowest figures that resulted in a #1 ranking, for this purpose.
As before I tried fitting logarithmic, exponential and power curves to the data – and again the power curve gave by far the best fit, with the approximate equation
Daily Sales = 15000 * Ranking ^ -0.75
This equation can probably be used to give a reasonable estimate of sales of paid apps in the US iTunes app store using the overall ranking. It roughly confirms my earlier guess that world sales were typically 30 times more than Australian sales. In fact, for the given equations, the World/Australia sales ratio varies from 35 (#1 ranking) to 13 (#50 ranking).
Given that there is no reason to suspect any major difference in sales dynamics, one might have expected the ratio to remain similar at all rankings (ie. the power factor to be the same in each equation). However, note that the Australian curve is based on data only going down to #17 ranking, whereas the US curve has data down to #100 ranking. I therefore suspect that the US curve power factor is more realistic for the long tail, and that the drop-off in sales levels for Australia well below the #20 ranking might be somewhat less than that predicted by the given equation.
So there you have it – the best that I can do with the available data. As more data becomes available I will add it in to the mix, to see how much further this can be refined.
Following on from Apponomics Part 1 after the first two weeks of sales and Apponomics Part 2 after one month of sales, Oz Weather has now had just over three full months of sales. Here is a complete history of the daily unit sales numbers, up until 5th Feb 2009.
The red and yellow bars show Australian and overseas daily unit sales at AUD$2.49 (US$1.99), and the blue and orange bars are at the temporary sale price of AUD$1.19 (US$0.99).
I’ve annotated the graph with some significant events which did (or might have been expected to) affect sales volumes. These events were as follows.
- Release of v1.1 Update – saw an immediate jump in sales and rise in ranking from #6 to #3
- Release of v1.2 Update – sales flat
- Xmas Sale – decided to try a brief sale over Christmas period due to falling sales & ranking having dropped to #9
- App Store Broken – a couple of days when customers were unable to purchase Oz Weather
- Major Heatwave in Parts of Australia – consistently high sales level, bringing ranking to #2
- Release of v1.3 Update – major app enhancements and an eye-catching new icon pushed the Australian iTunes paid app ranking to #1 – where it remains at time of writing
Summary of Sales & Revenue
- Total units sold: 23,800
- Average sales per day: 245
- Approximate revenue: AUD$35,000 (US$22,500)
- Total units sold prior to v1.3: 19,800
- Total upgrades to v1.3 in 9 days since release: 13,350
- Upgrade ratio: 67.4%
Although I indicated in a previous blog entry that I had broken even on 19th December, I did invest considerable extra development time and effort into the latest app update, and also into further professional design work . Consequently I estimate my total nominal costs so far to be around the AUD$25,000 (US$16,000) mark. This leaves a nominal profit to date of AUD$10,000 (US$6,400).
Thoughts and Comments
Although Oz Weather has been substantially profitable (for a sole developer) over this 3 month period, the apponomics depend to a large degree on how much ongoing additional development effort is required to maintain its level of sales. So far, Oz Weather sales levels have not dropped off in a way that seems to be typical of many other apps. It remains an open question as to how much of this is due to the additional development effort I have made versus what would have happened without this frequency and depth of app updates.
Competition is of course another important factor. Whilst Oz Weather has taken the major share of the Australian Weather apps market since its launch, the visibility of its success is an encouragement to competitors. The developers of Pocket Weather have made no secret of the fact that they would very much like to regain the position they had in the app store before Oz Weather jumped in, and appear to be investing considerable time and effort into fighting back with their own major updates. There also remains the possiblity if not likelihood that some other major player in the Australian weather scene will want to launch their own app, backed with pre-existing infrastructure which will give them some competitive advantages.
So despite all the stories you might hear about overnight successes in the app store, overnight falls from grace are probably just as frequent. In reality, it is just a reflection of life as a whole. Hard work and listening carefully to your users will maximize your chances, but the only real certainty is uncertainty! Stay tuned for the next instalment.
A couple of days ago the latest update to Oz Weather – v1.3 – was approved for sale by Apple. There are some major enhancements. A lot of work went into this one!
Shortly after release of the new version, Oz Weather finally jumped into #1 spot in paid app rankings in the Australian iTunes store. I’ll cover the effects of this on sales figures in a future blog post. :-)
From the appearance angle, there is a striking new icon (emphasizing the Australia-only weather focus of the app) and a range of fun new background color themes to choose from – just in case anyone tires of seeing the same app colour scheme day after day – as you might only in app that typically gets daily use.
As with previous improvements to the app appearance, I’ve got Peter Fellows to thank for this great design work.
From the functionality point of view, there are several big advances too. Although I’d covered most of the available Bureau of Meteorology forecast locations in previous versions, this version covers all available forecast locations, and for each one will display current weather from up to the 6 nearest observations locations in each case – accessible via the famous side-swipe action that is so often admired in the iPhone’s much more basic built-in weather app.
There is also a new “Capital Cities” item which allows you to see forecasts for the 7 main capital cities all on one page, and to side-swipe through the latest observations for each one, or tap on a city’s forecast line to jump straight to its current observations.
There are also a range of other new features and enhancements like
- Sunrise and sunset times for today
- Forecast min and max temperatures displayed on current observations page
- Dates added to day name on forecast page
You can choose whether or not to enable these new features by going to your iPhone’s home page, selecting the “Settings” icon, and then scrolling down to the “Oz Weather” entry in the list of application settings.
I’ve actually had a lot of fun building this, and the jump is rankings and sales is very gratifying. But it remains to be seen how durable this will be. There is currently an extreme heatwave hitting Melbourne and Adelaide and this could account for a general increase in weather app sales. In fact competing apps have also done very well in the rankings at the same time despite having had no recent updates or icon changes, which does seem to suggest that the unusual/extreme weather is affecting things. But I’ve also had some very positive feedback about the new design. WDYT?