Making Money on Android Market (+ Sales Figures)

Lately I’ve been reading quite a few articles about Android Market, and whether or not you can really make money on it.

As an independent AIR Developer, who has quite a bit of experience (a whopping 12 mths!) I thought I would weigh in, and shed some light on the market, at least from my perspective.

Some History

My first foray into App Development was a music streaming application called “SkyTunes Music Streaming“, it was initially an Android App. It was an application to stream your music from your home computer, over wifi or data network, to your mobile device. And it actually worked pretty well! While popular, and met with good reviews, SkyTunes was never a financial success due to a variety of reasons. Mainly (I think) because I was competing in a space I was just not equipped to compete in, Streaming music has some major heavyweight’s, and VC backed companies offering tremendous services for free, or next to nothing. Disheartened, but determined, I decided to port SkyTunes to the Playbook, in order to win a free device, and in the meantime began work on my next app, a Photo Editor for the fledgling PlayBook called TouchUp Pro Photo Editor.

TouchUp Pro went on to be a great success on PlayBook, and so I decided to port it back to Android. Because I’m using Adobe AIR, this was a very painless process, taking about 2 days to fully port over (the majority of this was performance optimizations, for the lower powered Android devices). The bulk of my post will focus on TouchUp Pro, and how it’s performed over the last 5mths or so.

Btw, the happy ending is SkyTunes still survives on Playbook, is very highly rated, and user’s email all the time gushing about it. I found a smaller pond :) Anyways…

The Slow Climb

In May 2011 I released TouchUp Pro to the Android Market. The app was met with favorable reviews but sales were quite low initially. Profits for my first 4 weeks averaged only $25 – 30 / week. I wasn’t too worried at that point, as Playbook sales were great and I was making nearly $100 a day, to me this was already a massive success compared to SkyTunes. Based on the response from users, I continued to refine the app and add features, with each new release it steadily rose in the Android charts.

In August I released the “Lite” version of TouchUp Pro, as well as a vastly improved 2.0 version of the app. At that point sales really began to take off. I attribute this mainly to the quality of the new 2.0 app, the initial implementation of TouchUp Lite was not well done, and caused very negative user reactions. From time to time I would remove the free version, and I never did record a major difference in sales. Note to self: Free versions only work, if the user’s leave happy. Piss them off (hold back to much) and you’re looking at a 1% turnover at best.

Here you can see the rankings of TouchUp Pro, from May through Oct. You can see that it slowly and steadily ticks upwards. I think this points to the fact that a quality application will eventually rise to the top, and continual improvements do pay off. Don’t stop iterating if you feel there’s major features missing, at the same time, don’t spend endless hours into something, I haven’t touched TouchUp for months, and it continues along… at some point it makes more sense to create a second app :)

As of last week TouchUp is sitting at 18th in Paid Photography! (yes, I made a much better lite version)

Price Matters! (or does it)

One of the most surprising phenomenon’s I found was when experimenting with the price of the application. Initially, TouchUp Pro was priced at $1.99 with lackluster sales, so I decided to bump it up to $3.99 and see what happens… the result was a 50% increase in sales! Not only was I making twice as much per sale, I was selling more units.

User’s were equating a higher price with higher value, and having an app at the high end of the pricing structure actually seemd to make it more appealing to some people. Since then I’ve experimented with several price points, but $2.99 – $3.99 seems to be the sweet spot for my app in particular. I do not see signficant download boosts when dropping price, and the bottom line can really suffer.

This is in stark contrast to the iTunes market, where low price is king, and anything priced over $2.99 has a very hard time selling (specifically on iPhone, not so much on iPad).

Lets talk money.

So where has all this gotten me in terms of revenue? Well, sitting at 18th spot on Android Paid Photography Apps is not quite as lucrative as you might think. Generally the app pulls in between $75 per day, lower on weekdays, higher on weekends. While this is not amazing, it’s an excellent revenue stream that goes a long way towards supplementing my other applications. TouchUp Pro has continued to sell well on PlayBook, where it is the premier Photo Editing Application, and has also been extremely well received by iOS users.

Below are the weekly Android sales figures for TouchUp Pro from May through October. This is my revenue share, after google has taken their cut:
* Note: The huge jumps are due to inconsistent android sales reporting, where sales are not reported for days/weeks, and then lumped together into a single day, it’s kinda a mess…


Days of the week

Just a random tidbit of info, not hugely useful, but something I had always have wondered about when first getting into this. Which days sell the most, which the least? Here’s daily downloads from Analytics for the last month, can you guess which day is Sunday? Lets just say Sunday’s are now my favorite day of the week every week :)

Thursday & Friday usually  suck, Saturday Sunday are the best, and Mon-Wed are mediocre… and now you know!


Lesson’s Learned

This experience has galvanized a few things in my mind, for your benefit here they are in point form!

  • There is a lucrative market on Android for independent developers. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Android user’s ARE willing to pay…it’s just harder. My Android app currently pays most of my mortgage (and that’s not too shabby). At the end of the day, build a quality app and they will come. The market is full of shitty free apps, and alot of user’s prefer to pay for something of higher quality.
  • Keep it simple! My first app, which took > 300 hrs to make, made me nothing. It was the small, focused, 100hr app that become a big success. My advice is focus on small, simple apps. User’s love simplicity, and there is no direct relationship between features and income. Focusing on simple apps allows you to polish them to a high level, and allows you to release more apps in a given timeframe. The other benefit here is you get early user feedback, TouchUp Pro started as a completely bare bones editor, but based on user feedback I knew exactly what I needed to add to bring it up to snuff. By the time I launched the iOS version, it was a full featured Photo Editor with redesigned UI, and full of great feature requests from user’s.
  • Don’t aim niche. Create something everyone will use. It’s tempting to create something that serves your needs, and in some cases this can be an excellent strategy, but as a rule of thumb try and develop an app for the masses.
  • Don’t be afraid of the big guy! I was worried I could not compete in a world of PhotoShop Express, PicSay Pro and PhotoForge, but user’s have shown me that they love choice, and a polished clean app will always find an audience.
  • AIR offers an amazing opportunity for smaller developers. I would never have been able to do what I’ve done without Adobe AIR. Enabling an individual developer, in my free time, to publish to every app store out there, from a single code-base is simply amazing.  The efficiency and time saving afforded by AIR are simply unparalleled in the mobile landscape right now. Literally, there is just nothing out there that can match what AIR gives you.
  • Support everything. While Android may not be blowing the doors off, it represents a solid 30% of income from TouchUp Pro, PlayBook adds another 5%, and together they are a substantial portion of my income. It’s very nice to have these multiple revenue streams, as it protects you from dips in your income, while one store may be suffering from low sales, another store may compensate.I was even afraid to launch on iOS initially. I figured that the market was so flooded, and full of quality editors, how could I possibly stand out? I decided to go for it, and now iOS represents the bulk of my income. That was the most lucrative 2 days of development I have ever spent in my life! Support everything! You just never know.
  • Focus on one platorm at a time, and then back-port. I found that when I tried developing for multiple platforms simultaneously, I would lose my efficiency, as just testing would consume a large portion of my time. Instead, focus on one platform, and do a development sprint on it. Polish it, and refine it, and complete as many features as you can. Once you’re ready to deploy, then port back to your other platforms (I use ‘port’ loosely, really it’s just a matter of squashing 1 or 2 platform specific bugs, and making sure it deploys ok on the device)
Hopefully this posts helps someone out there, or at least sheds some light on what can often be a very shady aspect of mobile development.

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4 Comments to “Making Money on Android Market (+ Sales Figures)”

  1. nick says:

    Great read! How has the addition of captive runtime impacted your sales,reviews, and feedback?

    • shawn says:

      Thanks! The one biggest affect it’s had is no more negative 1star whining about Adobe AIR! Even a single 1 star rating is a bitch to work off…

  2. Stephen says:

    Great article, I agree that AIR is a great option for small sized teams/solo developers to create simple apps to sell on multiple markets.

  3. [...] His blog only has a dozen or two articles, but they are chock-full of interesting information (and even sales figures!). The most useful stuff for me, at this point, is the graphics pipeline [...]

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