App Store Turns 1

The app store just turned one year old! And to celebrate, Apple have added a little promo page to iTunes, which you can find via this link on the iTunes store front page.

iTunes Menu

And here is part of their colorful celebratory page, created with Apple’s usual great design flair.

App Store Turns 1

Apple have “gathered together some of our favourite games and apps“, and to my delight, Oz Weather is one of the 32 apps they have chosen to feature in their apps list – appearing there in 10th spot.

iTunes Turns 1 Apps

What caused me to discover this? Today’s sales jumped up by 40%. Although sales can be quite variable day to day, this change seemed to be a bit bigger than usual, and I wondered if there was some material cause. Having been tipped off, it didn’t take long to find it. 🙂

As usual I will be watching carefully to see whether this has an extended effect on sales levels, and report back in due course.

Amendment 20th July – it has been pointed out to me that this 1st birthday page had been in iTunes for a week already. So I can’t attribute the sales jump to this after all. Looks like I’m getting a bit lax in my iTunes monitoring!

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Oz Weather Apponomics – Part 6

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.

SalesGraph_2009_06

The associated Australian overall paid apps ranking is as follows:

RankGraphAus_2009_06

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.

Oz Weather on National Television

I was contacted by Australia’s ABC TV late last week, as they were interested in compiling an article about iPhone development for their Midday Report news and current affairs show.

As usual, the initial focus was very much on how lucrative app development could be, especially for independent developers. Thankfully, though the article turned out to be quite balanced, and also featured Keith Ahern of MoGeneration Pty Ltd, who started up a now-thriving mobile development business, centered around iPhone apps.

Of course the interviews always end up as a compilation of brief sound bites from much lengthier interviews, but I thought they did a good job of weaving it all together. Well done ABC!

Special bonus to anyone who can name all the members of the Pollenizer crew who appear to be working very, very hard despite the TV lights and cameras, at around the 1m07s mark.

Oz Weather Apponomics – Part 5

This is the latest installment tracking the progress of the Oz Weather iPhone app in the iTunes app store. (Part 4 installment here.)

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.

Oz Weather Sales to Date

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.

Oz Weather Ranking

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.

Apple Promotions

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

Oz Weather - Apple Store Mural

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.

Oz Weather Twitter Service

app_store_badge_0708_h120

As a complementary service to its iPhone app (link above), Oz Weather is now providing weather forecasts and observations via twitter, with official data sourced from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

As a twitter user, all you need to do is to follow the twitter stream for the city (or cities) of your choice.

The latest forecast along with any current weather warnings is tweeted four times a day – morning, noon, late afternoon and late evening.

twitter_weather_melb

Additionally, it is possible to view the latest hourly weather observations by clicking on the twitter link at the end of each forecast (@obs_melb for Melbourne, for example). Or if you are a keen weather follower, you can also choose to follow this stream and automatically get the updates every hour as part of your own twitter stream.

twitter_obs_melb

Due to the nature of twitter, traditional methods of delivering weather forecasts don’t necessarily work well on it, but dedicated streams on a per-city basis is one approach that does seem to have some promise. Twitter weather is a fairly new phenomenon, but a number of players are already experimenting with it. No doubt we will see some interesting and useful developments emerging as a result.

Oz Weather Apponomics – Part 4

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).

Oz Weather Sales

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.

Weather vs Sales

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.

Oz Weather v1.4 Released

Sales of Australian weather apps have been quiet recently (more details to come in a future post), and right now Oz Weather is at #17 overall ranking of Australian paid apps. This is a very respectable position by almost any standard, although much less impressive than it has been historically.

I am attributing this mainly to the fact that the weather is now inter-seasonal and hence rather bland, especially when compared to the exceptional heatwave and tragic bush-fires in Victoria two months ago, during which sales peaked quite dramatically. In a previous article I revealed the relationship between interest in weather and Oz Weather sales levels, and this apparently continues to hold true, as weather query rates have been below 1 per app per day recently, indicating an historically low interest level in the weather from app users.

However, Oz Weather development continues never-the-less! Version 1.4 has just been approved by Apple. This approval took 4 working days (6 days elapsed), which seems to be about par for the course.

The main new feature is a much-improved city selection dialog. Although it has been possible since v1.0 to use GPS location via the “Locate Me” crosshairs button on the add city screen, it seems that many users never even noticed it was there, and thus were scrolling through the list of 274 cities in alphabetical order in the hope of finding somewhere nearby by finding familiar place names.

The new screen design has the following improvements

  • Divides cities into separate lists for each state
  • Makes the “Near Me” button much bigger and easier to find
  • Also allows users to view a list of  locations near to any specified location

Add City Dialog Add City Dialog 2

The other changes are a little more subtle. For example I have added grip bars to the current weather views, thus making it more obvious that you can scroll sideways to find observations for other nearby locations within your vicinity. I’ve almost lost count of the number of emails I’ve received from users requesting additional observation locations, and who seemed to be very pleasantly surprised when I told them they could already just scroll sideways to get exactly those locations.

Side Grips

And the least visible change has been a very satisfying one for me, as I believe that I may finally have conquered an obscure problem that could cause a crash. It was a fairly rare crash, but not rare enough to prevent some understandably annoyed users from leaving some bad reviews. Sadly there is no mechanism in place allowing developers to respond to people who report their problem via a review. But here is a suggestion for Apple. When someone submits a review with, say, 2 stars or less, then prompt the user with a message like the following.

If you have experienced problems with this app, then please contact the developers via their supplied contact email address for support. Developers are unable to contact you or respond to you regarding any problem that you report only via a review.

Apple already does prompt users with messages when they leave reviews – why not just add an extra one  like this? It could greatly help users and developers alike.