Oz Weather Xmas Sales – Is the App Store Broken?

You may already have heard from some other sources that iPhone app sales were very strong over the Christmas period, possibly enhanced by many new iPod Touch devices being delivered from Santa’s sleigh.

I can certainly confirm that it was a strong sales period for Oz Weather – although the picture is complicated by the fact that I temporarily dropped the price for the Christmas period. Here are the daily sales figures to date – from 1st November to 29th December.

salesgraph_2008_12

The red and yellow colors show units sold at the normal price of AUD$2.49 (US$1.99). The purple and orange colors show units sold at the discounted price of AUD$1.19 (US$0.99) – a sale which started on 24th December (day 54) and finished on 28th December (day 58).

Key Points

  • The break-even point for the Oz Weather project was reached on 19th December (day 49) – ie. cumulative net revenue of AUD$15,500 (US$10,850).
  • After ranking as high as #2 in Paid Apps category of the Australian app store from 5th to 9th December, ranking fell gradually to #9 on 23rd December. Hence my decision to run a price sale over the Christmas period.
  • Christmas Day had the highest ever sales of 451 units – followed by similar levels on 26th and 27th December. The app ranking rose to #2 again. This is the celebratory part of this article.🙂
  • The last item on the graph (item 59 = 29th December) shows daily sales of just 17 units. This is not an error, and not just a partial day’s sales. It was the actual full day’s sales! Ranking has fallen to less than #10 – but to exactly what level is not possible to ascertain, due to problems in the app store. This is the disappointing part of this article.😦

Major App Store Technical Problems

Did people suddenly stop wanting to buy Oz Weather because the price discount had ended? Did Oz Weather suddenly become unpopular? Did a competitor suddenly release a much better app?

The answer to all these question is no. Many people are still wanting to buy Oz Weather, but are unable to do so, due to problems in the app store. On the 29th and 30th December I received 7 emails from potential customers wanting to know why they couldn’t purchase it. This is very likely the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of customers simply wouldn’t bother trying to contact the app publisher when they receive a message like the following (sent to me by a customer).

itunesna

So what is going on here, Apple? I have tried contacting Apple support, and so far have only managed to get an automated reply saying:

Please plan for a delayed response time from the iTunes Connect Support team from December 23rd through January 5th as we will be short-staffed over the holiday break.

It is apparent that the app store problems go beyond just the Oz Weather app. The Australian store paid app rankings were “stuck” for several days, and showed widely different results depending on exactly where you look at the rankings.

  • iTunes home page – showed Oz Weather #6 – this morning dropped off the table
  • iTunes app store main page – showed Oz Weather #4 – this morning dropped off the table
  • iTunes top 100 paid app rankings – showed Oz Weather #2 this morning – this afternoon had dropped to #23
  • iPhone top 25 rankings – showed Oz Weather #6 – still now at #6

I am not generally one to jump on the hindsight bandwagon – but in this case I am very tempted to say to Apple that “you should have realised that Christmas was going to be your busiest period, and employed extra staff instead of sending them all on vacation”. Now I am in a position where, due to this Apple glitch, I am probably losing several hundred dollars per day in sales, and my app ranking has artificially fallen from #2 to way off the radar – and I can’t find any way to get any response from Apple.

My questions to other app developers

  • Am I the only one having such serious app store problems?
  • If not, then do these problems affect only apps which are undergoing price changes?
  • Do these problems affect only the Australian app store?
In the absence of any way to get immediate support from Apple, I’m really hoping that someone who reads this blog can provide some useful feedback!

Late Addition (31 Dec): The following link to a PCWorld article which indicates that there have also been other app store/iTunes problems this Xmas.

Late Addition (1 Jan): I am not alone. The app store IS broken. See the comment from VPool.

13 thoughts on “Oz Weather Xmas Sales – Is the App Store Broken?”

  1. You are not alone. Apple killed us as well.
    Changed price on Sunday as planned (sale over) and BOOM, no sales. Got emails from people saying they saw the ‘modified’ message from iTunes. Dropped from #38 on Top Paid Games to #53. Was #1 in UK, dropped way down. People in UK are still having trouble and it has been 4 DAYS!!!
    This has cost us at least $6,000.

    1. Ouch! I am now into my 4th day with sales levels down 95%, ranking still dropping like a stone. Yesterday I used iTunes Connect to put the price back down to the discounted level again, just in case that would allow purchases to resume (discounted sales being better than no sales). But no sign that its made any difference at all, and still no response from Apple.😦

  2. We believe that the daily reports are wrong for from the 24th to 26th of December for our paid app (PinPoint). We noticed a spike of users on our server backend caused by new users. However the AppStore Sales Trend Reports did not show a spike at all. I hope the financial reports will be correct otherwise we will need to get an explanation from Apple.

  3. Hi Graham, your friendly Pocket Weather AU competitor here😉

    I just back from holidays and am catching up on things. From I can tell we didn’t have any of the glitches you did, but then we didn’t try to raise our price (since I wasn’t around to do it). Our sales over xmas and new year were about triple what they normally are, so I assume the figures from Apple are accurate.

    My guess would be that since iTunes connect shut down for quite a few days, they must have done some major overhauls, and with any major overhaul comes problems. Why they chose to do it over xmas is beyond me (that would seem like the worst time to do it), but that’s what they did.

    I was just about to raise our price back to the normal $2.49, but now you have me worried. What do you plan to do? Has dropping the price fixed your problem? Are you game enough to try and raise it again?

    Russell

  4. Dropping the price back again does seem to have helped – will know more when sales figures become available this evening. I’d be very cautious about setting your price up until you know for sure that Apple have resynchronised all the app info across their servers – or else you might fall into the same black hole. Lets just call it a “forced discount” courtesy of Apple.

  5. Oooh a quick theory: did you happen to change your apps availability date as well? I tried that with our last update, and even though it was a date in the past our app dissapeared from the store for a whole day. Needless to say I haven’t touched that since.

  6. We had a similar problem. After having been shortlisted for the Best Kids App category in the 148Apps.com’s 2008 Best Apps Ever Awards, we decided to make our app (WaKi SNAP!) free for a limited time from 31st December (it is still free now). We saw a huge spike in downloads on 31st December, and since then, we have seen ZERO downloads for the 1st and 2nd Jan which we find very unusual, especially as it is free. We’ve also noticed the disparity between the stated number of reviews and the actual reviews when you drill down.

    Thanks for the post. Hopefully this will be fixed shortly.

    1. Sounds like the issue may be with the app release date rather than the price (obviously!). Some others have found their app disappeared from the app store because their release dates had year 2009 set instead of year 2008.

  7. Hmmm…we left the release date as per the original, which was sometime in November 2008. The price of the App itself changed to being Free and also minor text changes came into effect a couple of hours afterwards. As far as I can tell, it never disappeared from the App store and we had no emails from anyone that there was any issue with downloading the app…only that the download figures of zero for the 2 days following a huge spike was highly unusual.

  8. Ya, the App Store is really broken. The last few days have been bad. My update (v1.1) went in yesterday, and on my iPhone shows up in the release date list, but in iTunes it’s completely disappeared (unless I search for it). They seem to have synching issues. It will probably correct itself, but at that point my app will have probably fallen to page 4 or 5 of the new releases.

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