I retired an iPhone app

Almost two years ago, in January 2013, I made an iPhone app. It took me about two weeks from start to finish. I ported my Access database reading library from OS X to iOS. Then I added some drawing code that I made for an app I never released, and assembled a simple app for viewing Access databases on the iPhone. I named the product “Access View” and uploaded it to the App Store.

It was initially rejected. Since I was pretty busy, I didn’t really care about that. I only bothered to respond to the trivial rejection reason about a month later. After some tiring back and forth with app review, it was finally accepted and available for sale at a price of €1,79.

Initially I got nice feedback, and a bunch of feature requests. I made around 5 sales a week, so I decided to wait with implementing new features. I said to myself, if sales ever pick up, I’d start improving the app. But sales never picked up. Then iOS 7 arrived, and my app looked really outdated all of a sudden. I thought to myself, well, if I have some spare time, I’ll update it to iOS 7. I never had any spare time to update it.

So now I had an outdated app in the App store, making very little revenue, and no plans to improve it. At some point I decided that I might as well make the app free. Even if I don’t make any profits from it, maybe some people find it useful. It was also a sort of experiment: How many more people would download my app if it was free?

The first day that the app was free, 1000 people downloaded it. I was thrilled! I was excited to see the number on the next day, and was a bit disappointed when only 350 people downloaded it. The peak was quickly gone, and stabilized at around 10 to 20 downloads per day.

I got an occasional email suggesting new features, and I always replied that I didn’t have time to implement them. I figured, it would be better to have a not very good free Access reader on the store rather than none at all. And it felt good to give something away for free!

Then iOS 8 arrived. A feature in Access View broke, and users started emailing me about crashes in my app on the new iPhone. That was when I decided it was time to retire my app. I have no time to work on it, it’s not generating any revenue, and it’s broken. I logged into iTunes Connect, removed the app from sale, removed it from my homepage, and started writing this blog post.

Access View was downloaded by 2500 people and generated a revenue of 700€. It was my first attempt at selling an iPhone app, and for the time being it will also be my last.

I learned that even if an app takes only two weeks to develop, there’s a lot of additional effort connected with distributing it on the App Store. Dealing with App review, making a website, handling customer support… all these things required more of my time than actually programming the app.

It’s important to focus. I’m good at making Mac apps, and discontinuing my iPhone app leaves more time to work on MDB Viewer,  PG Commander and Postgres.app.

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