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 Then iOS 7 arrived, and my app looked really outdated all of a sudden.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So now I had an outdated app in the App store, making very little revenue, and no plans to improve it.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.