Oz Weather Apponomics – Birthday Edition

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.

SalesGraph_2009_10

The associated Australian overall paid apps ranking is as follows:

RankGraphAus_2009_10

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.

Estimated Total Value of App Store Market

AdMob has just issued a report with some very interesting data on the app store, and one of their claims is that the app store market is worth about US$200M per month.

This is disputed as being an unreasonably high estimate by some commentators. However, with data I have gathered from my own app sales, I am in a position to make my own estimate too. So what is it? Well there are four steps.

Step 1 – Sales Versus Rankings

In an earlier post I showed a graph of sales versus rankings for Oz Weather in the Australian app store during the first few months of 2009. Below is an updated graph covering the sales period July/August 2009.

Oz Weather Paid Rankings

Although Oz Weather hasn’t ranked highly enough to provide data points within the top 10, it does still allow a good estimate of the curve as a whole ie.

Daily Sales = 1800 * Ranking ^ -0.8

Note that this curve is substantially higher than the 6 month-old estimate, showing a large increase in the overall number of app sales per day – of the order of a factor of  2 or more.

Step 2 – Find area under the curve to give total daily app sales

The area under this curve is the integral of the curve formula. With some high-school calculus, we might know that this is:

Area under curve = 1800 * (Ranking^0.2 / 0.2)

Solving this for the range 0 to 50,000 apps (the approximate number of paid apps available) gives the result:

52,000 app sales per day in the Australian app store

Step 3 – Multiply by average app price

Assuming an average app price of US$1.80 (AUD$2.25) the total daily revenue for the Australian app store alone is

  • AUD$120k per day
  • AUD$3.6M per month
  • AUD $42.7M per year

Step 4 – Expand to whole Globe

I have previously estimated the Australian market to be about 1/30th of the global market size. However, the AdMob report indicates about 45M iPhone/iPod Touch devices worldwide, and previous research has implied about 1.1 million in Australia, implying a ratio of about 1/40. In that case, the corresponding global sales figures would be

  • US$3.9M per day
  • US$115M per month
  • US$1,370M per year

Conclusion

Although there are a number of estimates and assumptions involved in these calculations, the final monthly number of US$115M per month, although less than AdMob’s estimate, only differs by a factor of a 0.6.

A more accurate estimate would be possible with a wider range of app versus ranking data – especially from the larger app stores like the US. However, I did previously collate some data like this, and it also supported a rankings/sales tail off with a power factor close to -0.8.

I conclude that my own app’s sales figures imply that AdMob’s estimates are very plausible, and certainly likely to be in the correct ballpark.

Oz Weather Apponomics – Part 7

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.

SalesGraph_2009_07

The associated Australian overall paid apps ranking is as follows:

RankGraphAus_2009_07

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!

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!

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 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 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.

App Not Doing So Well? Here’s Some Solace.

I am assuming that most of the readers of this blog are iPhone app developers, but if you are not, can I perhaps just invite you to imagine for a few moments what it would be like if you were…? Great! Here we go.

As an app developer, have you ever found yourself saying anything along the following lines?

  • I’ve just dropped out of  the top 100 list.
  • I didn’t do so well today – my downloads were down 25% from the weekend.
  • My sales have decreased for 3 days in a row.
  • My review ratings have been dragged down by those pesky uninstall review prompts.

If so (and I suspect this would be especially so for many independent developers), then you may well be suffering from over-identification with your app or apps – because if you examine those statements, you will see that the “I” and “My” parts should really be “My app”, or even less personally “The app I have created”, or “The app called <insert_name_here>”.

Obviously, the simple fact of the matter is that we are not our apps. Rather, apps are abstract entities that we have created. And even then we have only been responsible for part of the act of creating them – especially bearing in mind the whole infrastructure that was built by Apple and others over the years which provided the basis from which apps such as these could emerge at all.

But a basic human emotional tendency is to mistakenly attach a significant portion of our self-worth to what we have created anyway, and then suffer a mental and emotional roller coaster as our creation rises or falls within the metrics that we apply for judging its success or failure in the marketplace.

Perhaps you are thinking “as an app developer, I’m not an especially emotional person”, but the truth of the matter becomes evident if you can stand back a little and examine your own use of language. You might be surprised to see what it reveals about what you identify yourself with! And along a similar line, do you exhibit any of the following behaviours?

  • Attempting to obtain the most recent app sales data only moments after it becomes available each day
  • Keeping detailed daily statistics of all aspects of your app sales, reviews, ratings and performance
  • Being moody or distracted whenever your app sales or reviews have been worse than the day before
  • Being jubilant or cocky whenever your app sales or reviews have been better than the day before

Again, although there may sometimes be sound business reasons for doing some of things, they are potentially also signs that you are over-anxious about your app’s performance, and hence somewhat a victim of the highly impersonal and generally uncontrollable characteristics of the app store ecosystem.

So what can you do to ease this over-attachment, lessen irrational anxiety, and generally find a greater sense of peace? Here are some tested and proven things to try:

  • Meditate – even taking just 10 to 20 minutes a day of quiet time during which you allow your mind to settle can have an effect which endures throughout the day.
  • Spend some time in nature – nature is generally peaceful and timeless, and inspires a similar feeling in those who spend time in it.
  • Exercise energetically – quite apart from taking your mind off work, this has major physiological and psychological benefits as well, including a greater sense of peace and well-being, and an enhanced ability both to focus and to think more holistically.

In addition to the above – you could also try using the “Solace and Courage” app as needed (iTunes link). I am giving away 10 free copies (promotional codes) to the first 10 people to email me at gpdawson on the gmail.com domain or follow me and then message me on twitter @gpdawson (so I can direct message you back with the code).

I’ll leave a note here when I run out – if you are reading this, you still have a good chance. Sorry! No longer available – but it still only costs US$0.99. 🙂

But please note these promotional codes work only in the US iTunes store!

For those who don’t have US iTunes accounts, here is an extract from “Solace and Courage”, which it might be helpful to ponder, instead.


Greatness arises not from what you do externally, but from who you are internally.

When you get in touch with your inner core of stillness, whatever action ensues is imbued with the special qualities of that space.

You become more powerful, more creative, more compassionate.

Even your smallest acts become subtly more profound and meaningful, and their effects penetrate far beyond their immediate sphere of expression.


I must admit here that, somewhat ironically (or is it fittingly?!), the “Solace & Courage” app that I launched about 10 days ago seems to have peaked and is now declining in sales. After peaking at 33 sales in a day, and reaching 46th in Australia in the Lifestyle category and 61st in the US, it has since declined to about 10 sales per day and dropped out of the Australian and US rankings.

On the other hand, it is still currently ranked 44th in the UK (although this obviously is only on the basis of very few sales), and all three app reviews it has received from users other than myself gave it 5 stars. I suppose they may actually be people who know me, and wanted to help, but I don’t know this for sure and prefer to imagine they are from genuinely appreciative users.

So I will (and have already) been pondering the above text from “Solace & Courage”, and am glad to say that my self-esteem remains unperturbed. Although of course I hoped, I never expected this app to be a big seller. Of course giving away some copies may possibly lead to some extra sales if people like it and spread the word, but whether or not it does, it won’t be bothering me too much. 🙂

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.

A New App – Solace And Courage

My new app has just arrived in the iTunes store! It is called Solace & Courage and appears in the Lifestyle section of the app store. View or Buy it in iTunes here.

It provides advice, comfort and inspiration for all types of life situations, via carefully prepared text and photos.

Solace & Courage Screenshot 2

You may be thinking that this is rather different to Oz Weather – and it is! However, if there were to be a connection it might be that Oz Weather deals with atmospheric weather, whereas Solace & Courage deals with psychological weather. Is that too contrived? In any case, psychology and spirituality have been a special interest for me almost as long as the weather has – and creating an iPhone app along these lines seemed like an ideal outlet for this.

The app may best be used as follows:

  • Helpful advice for times of stress
  • Encouragement for any time
  • Use for centering or meditation
  • Use as a thought of the day to ponder

The categories of text it contains:

  • Choose For Me (a random selection)
  • Receive Encouragement
  • For Disappointment
  • For Sadness / Depression
  • For Anxiety / Fear
  • For Irritation / Anger
  • About Solace (explanation and instructions)

The Main MenuYou may either choose text by category, or allow a random selection especially for you. Optionally you can have the app open immediately to a random selection, as a “thought of day”, and the text may be either autoscrolled or allow you to scroll manually.

The app contains a collection of original passages of text composed especially for this application, inspired by Eckhart Tolle, Torkom Saraydarian, J.Krishnamurti and other teachers of the Ageless Wisdom. There is no religious content, but it is intended to be spiritually refreshing and stimulating. The text is non-trivial – it encourages you to explore deeply, inspires you to overcome your limitations, and provides comfort and self-empowerment in times of need.

The background pictures of nature are beautiful, peaceful and inspiring, complementing the tone and mood of the text. Users are encouraged to take the time to absorb the meaning of the text and apply it to their own lives.

The app has deliberately slow and elegant transitions from item to item – to encourage the user to become more still and focused, and thus become more receptive to the deeper meaning of the words.

The Development Side of the Story

I only had the idea for this app about a month ago, and worked on it in bits and pieces between my other projects. Despite the relative simplicity of the app’s structure, I spent around four to five days effort in creating, experimenting with and tweaking the interface. I felt that it was important that the interface created the right mood for the user. I composed the text myself, writing only when I felt adequately inspired.

The background photos were licensed from BigStockPhotos.com – about 60 photos for AUD$133 (US$86), although I eventually discarded about 10 of them for not having quite the right level of appeal.

The app submission process was smooth – it took about 4 1/2 working days from submission to approval by Apple.

Of course it is far too early to tell how well this app will go in the very competitive app store environment, but I’m not holding my breath. I may be lucky just to make back the photo licensing fees!

I suppose another trait that this app has in common with Oz Weather is that it is has serious intentions. So many of the apps currently available are very light, frivolous and faddish, though to a large degree this is due to the way the app store is structured. It favours the cheapest apps (by putting the highest volume of sales to the top of its rankings rather than highest revenue), and the one-off payment system means that developers have no incentive to develop apps that will be used on an ongoing basis.

Of course iPhone OS 3.0 will change this to some degree, making it possible for developers to charge for premium or onging content. But we still have a few months to go with the existing model before those new possiblities will actually eventuate!