Selling iPad apps – very different from selling iPhone apps

We started by making an iPad app. Most developers probably start with either an iPhone app or a universal app. Starting with an iPhone app makes the most sense since that device has a larger user base. Nevertheless, we had the iPad in mind when we designed our first game so for us it was only natural to start there.

A Flawed Strategy

Along the way we have learned that there were (at least) two things that made our strategy flawed: The iPad market is so much smaller than the iPhone market it is hard to know if our development strategy (see this post) has merit or not. The structure of the App Store on the iPad is not at all as sophisticated as the App Store on the iPhone with the major drawback being the lack of subcategories on the iPad App Store.

Because of these two facts small developers have a hard time competing on the iPad market. First of all the user base is a lot smaller resulting in smaller revenue (not made up for by the higher price point of iPad apps compared to iPhone apps).

Secondly, since there are no subcategories on the iPad App Store you can’t niche market your product by, for example, classifying it as an Educational Game. On the iPad App Store you only have either the Game OR the Educational category to choose from.

This lack of subcategories effectively stack the deck in favor of the larger development companies. They alone have the marketing muscle to raise to the top of a category on the iPad App Store. Having a great app is simply not enough with the current structure of the iPad App Store.

Avoid Oblivion

Unless you do something extraordinarily clever with your marketing budget (you do have one, don’t you…:-), your app will fade into oblivion after a few days when it has moved far enough back in the “Apps by Release Date” view for anybody to browse for it.

Leaving small developers with the “Apps by Release Date”, which most people never even use, as the only showcase for your app, is a major oversight on Apple’s part. There are more than enough apps for the iPad nowadays for subcategories to be justified.

For us, learning these lessons have been hard but hopefully valuable down the road as well. It has also made us change a few things in our strategy. The two largest changes so far is:

  • a shift of resources and manpower away from app development toward app marketing, specifically PR work. Since it isn’t possible to rely on a great app getting noticed on its own in the App Store, you have to let EVERYBODY know that you actually have a great app. With everybody, I mean everybody who write or publish anything that has to do with apps. It can be anything from an App Review site to, in our case with kids apps, a blog about family life.
  • a name change to make us and our apps more visible on the App Store. This change is big enough to merit its own blog post. Therefore, stay tuned, our next post will be about the significant work necessary to change something that was started as early as a few months ago.
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  • http://www.sporeproductions.com Spore Productions

    How old is this article? I’m not sure about your logic and assertations. We released a universal app and saw iPad do better in terms of ranking (due to less competing apps) and also the Free version for iPad made twice as much ad revenue (using AdMob) than on iPhone.

  • happipapi

    Yes, this post is from July 2011. As we all know, many things have changed since then in the Apple ecosystem.



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