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iPhone App Failure: Income, Losses, and Lessons From My First iPhone App

iPhone App Failure: Income, Losses, and Lessons From My First iPhone App

I think its time to close the chapter on my iPhone App case study.  I began this public project of building an iPhone app over 2 years ago.  In fact, it was the original, “niche pursuit” on my blog here.

Essentially, I allowed everyone to vote on a small business idea that they would like to see me pursue publicly.  You can see the original post and survey results here.  So, 2 years ago, I decided to build an iPhone app.  I completed the App about a year ago. You can read all the posts leading up to and post creation of the app to catch up.

I learned a great deal through this process, but today I'm ready to give the final update.  I have removed the app from the app store, and its no longer for sale.  I want to share the losses associated with this venture, and why I've closed this business venture.

A Quick History of the AdAlert iPhone App

I was very excited to try building an iPhone app, because I had read the success that Pat Flynn, Benny Hsu (listen to my podcast with Benny here), and many others were having in the iPhone app business.  I had no experience in this area, but I decided to hire an iPhone app developer to complete the programming, and I would be the idea and business man behind the project.

I also knew there was  a TON of competition on the Apple App store, so I wanted to create a “niche” application (sound familiar?).  One where I could be the top dog in a small market – yes, just like my niche websites.  I also wanted to create something that I found useful.

So, I created the AdAlert App.  You can see what the app is all about right here.  Essentially the app allowed users to quickly check their Google Adsense earnings.  But the unique feature of the App, was that it would make your phone play a sound automatically each time you earned a certain amount in Adsense.  So, if you set your app to go “cha-ching” every time you earned $5, it would do so hands free.  I gotta say, I loved the app…as did others!

What Happened to the App?

Well, the app was selling okay for the first month, but after about 5 or 6 months, I took it down from the app store.  The reason?  It stopped working properly. Let me explain…

The app was programmed in a way that the user input their Google Adsense details, and the app would query their Google Adsense account approximately once an hour to see if a new earnings target had been achieved.  All of these queries to Google were processed through my server.

As the number of users grew, so did the number of queries all going to Google from my 1 IP address.  As a result, it wasn't long before Google actually blocked my IP address from performing these queries.  Because of this, the app was no longer able to send the sound notifications…which was its primary selling point!  Ughh.

So, I worked with my developer to try and resolve, but it became clear that even if we added more IPs, etc – we would continually be playing cat and mouse with Google.  And rather than invest several thousand dollars more trying to figure out how to “fix” the app, I decided to pull the app from the App store.

Income/Loss Report for the App

In addition, part of the reason I decided NOT to invest in fixing the issue, is because it was clear that I didn't have a huge winner on my hands.  Let me break down the profit and loss of my first (and only?) iPhone app venture.

My AdAlert iPhone app cost me, $2,880 to develop.  Not a huge investment, but not chump change either.  I found the development team on Elance.com, and overall I was happy with their work.  However, the issues that came along were something unexpected, and they couldn't find an easy fix.

So, how much did the app earn?  Well, not enough 🙁 .  Here is what the app earned during its existence from May 27th, 2012 to November 30th, 2012. (I removed the app on Dec. 1st).

appearnings3

In total, I sold $573.05 of my iPhone app.

  • Total Cost: $2,880
  • Total Revenue: $573.05
  • Total Loss: $2,306.95

Here is what the sales looked like the first month or so.

appearnings1

So, most of the sales came in the first month: $315.51.  However, I also wanted to show what a more “typical” month would be.  So, here is a screenshot from the month of July.

appearnings2

The app sold $65.31 worth.  So, I likely could have expected to sell around $65 to $70 per month of the app without any additional promotion; or about $800/year. I believe the sales were mostly coming internally from the app store at that point.

However, if I would have continued to promote on my blog and perhaps in other locations, I likely could have gotten the average sales volume up to $200 a month.  That's just a guesstimate; but as you can see – even if it was making me $200/mth, it would have taken over a year just to make my money back.

Because I could see that I would likely have to invest another couple of thousand dollars to get the app working properly again, and I could see that the sales were not going to be stellar, I just let the application go.

Lessons Learned

In hindsight, I could have done several things differently and learned other things with my first iPhone app venture.

First, I could have done more research to verify that the app would function properly with a large group of users.  I will say in my defense, that I DID indeed do lots of research and had many back and forth conversations with a few different developers.  I asked specifically about the feasibility and functionality, and while some questions were brought up – the issue that eventually killed the app – was never one of them.

I was going into somewhat uncharted territory (at least to the app developers I talked with), so it was hard to predict all of the issues that might come up.

Second, I could have done more to promote my app.  I mentioned it on my blog, and that's about it.  I actually had plans to do much more, but as explained, issues started to arise a short time after releasing the app; and therefore, I didn't want to heavily promote something that I wasn't sure was going to be around.

Third, while I do think that money can be made in the Google Adsense iphone app niche, I could have picked something with bigger market potential.  This is a tough one, because I am a firm believer that dominating a small niche is much better than being a nobody in a big niche.

However, it also quickly became clear that I was never going to make thousands a month with this app – and truthfully that was never the point.  I was really hoping for a few hundred dollars a month; more as a way to prove the concept.  Then I was going to go back and develop more apps.

While I don't think I would ever recommend creating a game that competes with Angry Birds, etc – I think its important to do your market research and find a happy middle ground somewhere.  Find a niche that its not overly saturated, but also provides upside potential.

Finally, I learned that competing on the App store is a tough business.  Sure there are lots of success stories out there, but there are also many failures.  I interviewed Pat Flynn before I launched my app here, and he explained that he had close to 30 iPhone apps (if I recall correctly).

While some of these have been profitable, some of these have not been.  You can see that he earned $2,618.92 last month according to his income report here.  Don't get me wrong, I would love to be earning over $2,600 a month from iPhone apps, but you can see that is no small task and may take lots of apps to accomplish that.

My Closing Thoughts

Overall, its hard to share a business failure so publicly.  However, I've learned a lot through the experience; so perhaps the loss was only financial.  I think its also important for me to be realistic and share that not every business venture is going to be profitable.  Most certainly I've had a few failures including this one.

But because I've been willing to take risks, and even fail, I've also found some great successes in business.  For example, I have 4 different ventures now that have all been very profitable for me:

I've had other failures in business, that perhaps I can discuss another time; however, overall the winners have FAR outweighed any looser.  The saying of, “no risk, no reward” really is true.

So, will I dive into creating iPhone apps again?  I don't know.  The thought hadn't crossed my mind until I read a post recently written by Sunil over at ExtraMoneyBlog.com, where he explains the exact steps and success he is having with a couple of his iPhone apps.  The business can be profitable, and perhaps I just need to try again.

If inspiration strikes, I just may go in for round 2.  I'll keep you posted!

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions below.  Please let me know what you think!

Related Projects:

102 Comments for this Post

  1. Reggie Paquette

    Reggie Paquette

    As some one who is currently building an app, this post was very interesting Spencer. What I love most about this whole thing, is that you don’t regret it. You recognized that your only loss in the whole project was financial. Even though it did not turn a profit, I found this post pretty inspiring, man.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Reggie! Glad you found my experience interesting and inspiring as well.

    • Iain

      Iain

      You make a great Point Reggie.

      Learning from your mistakes is a huge part of the learning process.

      I recently had an experience when I learned why something wasn’t working and it made a world of difference.

      The same could be applied here in terms of iphone apps. You try it, you win or lose and you learn.

  2. Steve Eason

    Steve Eason

    Thanks for sharing the details behind the app. I liked the concept behind the app and I too liked the sound effect option. At the time though I didn’t have enough income coming in to even make it ding.

    Regardless of the end result, you’ve learned from the process and if you do decide to create another app in the future, you can build on this “failure” (which I put in quotes, because it’s not really a failure, but a learning opportunity).

    Thanks again!

  3. Alex B.

    Alex B.

    Spencer,

    Kudos to you for stepping up and acknowledging the loss and sharing your experience with us, so that others can benefit from it.

    Thanks again for sharing, and I wish you nothing but the best!

    Your friend,
    -Alex

  4. Thomas

    Thomas

    Hi Spencer,

    It happens, but you are absolutely right. A failure is just another opportunity to learn. Many failures I’ve had have taught me tremendous lessons. So don’t let it get you down, just use it and get better. I actually just wrote about a mistake I made with my niche website case study, so it happens to everybody.

    – Thomas

  5. Bill Rini

    Bill Rini

    As to your first point about asking more questions, unfortunately, I’m not sure asking developers is always a great thing.

    Developers, especially freelancers, don’t get paid telling people something can’t be done.

    Not that developers are bad people but they focus on the technical challenges rather than the foreseeable business realities (i.e. Google’s reaction to hundreds or thousands of requests from a single IP).

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Great point Bill. And because I was stepping into new territory (as far as functionality), it was difficult to find answers online or from developers. Although, I will clarify a bit – in the fact that I’ve had lots of great freelance developers tell me about things that couldn’t be done. So, there are lots of great contractors out there that do indeed tell you the good and the bad.

      • Bill Rini

        Bill Rini

        Spencer,

        No doubt. There are tons of great contractors. Heck, I did freelancing for about 2 or 3 years so I guess they can’t all be bad 🙂

        But it’s difficult because coding an app and planning an app are two entirely different skill sets. Sometimes you find someone who can do both but mostly people are either good at one or the other.

        Bill

  6. Mike

    Mike

    Thanks for sharing this info. It always seems so easy when you look at others from the outside. These are good lessons and will hopefully help others. I am currently in the planning stages of an app I’m creating so this info is valuable. Thanks again.

  7. Carl

    Carl

    I think in terms of an app it was just too niche, I think the easiest apps to make money with are probably games they have a huge market, just my 2pence

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I addressed this specifically (about games); I’m not sure that the best niche to go into (tons of competition). Sure, there’s tons of money, but most games are not successful.

  8. Mark

    Mark

    Thanks for sharing – not everything can be a winner!
    It’s risky too building something around Google’s reporting.
    I learned today that Google is getting rid of it’s Keyword Tool and I’m sure that will cause many software and app developers to rewrite their programs which relied on it.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yes, Google now has a “Keyword Planner” which works very similarly to the Adwords tool. Most app developers will have no problem making the minor adjustments/updates needed to their respective software applications.

  9. Robinn

    Robinn

    I’m curious, is the $2500 range the norm for building an app? Obviously the more that goes into it the higher the cost, but I see a lot of blogs where people are spending around $400 or so developing an app.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yes, I think $2500 is not out of the norm, and is probably on the low end actually. Sure, there are some apps that can be done for less. But most are much more expensive. In fact, many apps are well over $100k to develop.

      • Sam

        Sam

        Really? I don’t do any kind of native, mobile app development, but as a web developer, it sounds like you way overpaid.

        It sounds like your app
        1) saved user account info
        2) used that info to hit a Google API
        3) played a sound file based on the data from Google.

        Maybe there was more to the app that you didn’t mention here , but otherwise, that’s (if I was building a web application to do it) a day’s work *at most*. That makes $2500 one heck of an hourly rate.

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          I did my research :)…trust me. It was a bit more complicated than that – I’ve developed several applications (not iphone apps), and I spoke to a few developers in detail (that I trust) about the project. It was a fair price for the app. And its not really important to beat a dead horse here…

      • Robinn

        Robinn

        Thanks for the reply Spencer, just out of curiosity are you willing to share the info of the app developer? I have a few app ideas and I don’t mind paying a little more if the developer is good, and you mentioned you were happy with them.

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          You can contact me privately, but so you know, the developer was a very mid-range developer – there are much higher end/higher quality developers than what I had. (Many bids were much higher than what I paid).

  10. Benji

    Benji

    Hey man, maybe the non-monetary value you received from the lessons learned post-“failure” will end up exceeding the monetary losses.

    I’m sure your next apps will only continue to improve as a result of the lessons learned, and you will eventually make that $2k back (and hopefully more!).

    Thanks for sharing the great info

  11. John Shea

    John Shea

    Good post, nothing wrong with admitting failures. Seems like this would have been a tough app to work around with the IP issue. I wonder if it would be worth selling the base app as is for someone else to continue where you left off if you don’t plan to develop it further? Might be able to recoup some of your costs. I would totally download that app now that I’m getting more into building niche sites (Thanks to your site and Pat Flynn’s success).

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks John – decent idea on selling the base code of the app.

  12. Howard

    Howard

    The problem with building and selling mobile apps is that the margin is so low that niche markets are unprofitable. If you’re not making $50 a pop, it’s hard to justify the development costs. But who want’s to pay that much for an app?

    Perhaps a different approach is to build an app that integrates with Long Tail Pro where users can have a simple API to do research while away from their desktop. If it increases LTP sales, it would be worth developing.

  13. Josh Garrod

    Josh Garrod

    Hi Spencer,

    I loved that app! I did wonder why the alerts stopped,

    I am currently working on the designs for an app and have been quoted around the $500 to complete the work on Elance. This seems massively cheaper than you paid which concerns me. Although it is essentially just an alarm clock with a niche twist. Do you think I will end up with a poor quality job?

    Thanks,

    Josh

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Its hard to say; it all depends on the functionality required. My app had some more complex functions that required in depth coding. If all the bids on Elance were in the $500 range, but if you just selected the cheapest bid – it could be a concern.

      • Josh Garrod

        Josh Garrod

        They varied anything between $200 (which seems crazy) right up to $1,500. Te developer at $500 had very good feedback from previous clients. I guess at $500 it’s worth a gamble.

  14. Chris

    Chris

    You do know you can just go to Google Adsense site and have it send you an email daily monthly whatever with your earnings which said email would go cha ching on your phone anyway…..I’m honestly amazed anyone bought it.

    • Josh Garrod

      Josh Garrod

      Are you kidding Chris? That is nowhere near as cool as you’re phone popping up with a “caching” sound when you make $5

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I’m also amazed that people buy things like bottled water when you can get just as good from the tap. Actually, there are several Adsense apps that do nothing but check your earnings – they don’t even have a special function. And the “cha-ching” would come more than once a day (getting an email once a day with a cha-ching – sounds boring); you would get a “cha-ching” for every $5, or $10 you earned (or any amt specified)…so this could be 10 times a day, etc. Anyway, was just a fun app…

      • Chris

        Chris

        Where I live and half the population in the world would probably die or get really sick if they drank from the tap. But yeah OK I get the fun factor now still not as fun as an email from Agoda with a $400 commission 😉

  15. Tipjar

    Tipjar

    Spencer,

    I’ve thought about developing my own software (not necessarily an iPhone app), like how you’ve developed Long Tail Pro.

    As a non-programmer myself, how difficult is it to communicate your idea to a programmer and have your ideas come to life? Is it tough to find a good developer? How do you know what is a good rate or project rate to pay them?

    • Sam

      Sam

      As a developer, any kind of documented use-cases are key. Written narratives of how a user would interact with the software, storyboards of chronological use, flowcharts of “A then B then C”, etc.

      Draw pictures of what each screen might look like. List what roles different users might have and what they’re allowed to do and not do. Show them another app that’s like yours or has features you want. The more detail you provide, the closer you and your dev will be to being on the same page.

      If you say “I want an app that let’s someone do X” and then hire someone without much more detail, there’s a really good chance they’ll give you something completely different from what you had in mind.

      But, if you say to your dev “The user will see Screen X with options 1, 2, 3, and in order to do Y, they’ll click on [something] and then enter [something else]… etc etc etc”, it takes the guess work out of the equation.

      Unfortunately, there are developers (and I don’t think this is the right thing to do) who will make too many assumptions about what a project manager wants. That only leads to more fixes, longer projects, and expanding budgets.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Its not easy, but doable. Typically, the more expensive developers tend to be easier to work with – and can interpret what you are looking for much better.

      A good developer can cost anywhere from $75 to $150 an hour – it all depends on the project.

  16. Chris R Jensen

    Chris R Jensen

    I have long been hoping for a LTP app as I am often on the road and get tons of ideas that would be great to plot into an LTP app. However,would it not too be the same as the adsense app in terms of one IP trying to access Adwords tool? Or?
    Any way – as always a pleasure to read your posts – very inspirational and informative.

    /Chris

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      It could be a similar issue…but I’m not pursuing a mobile version of LTP at this time…

  17. masöz

    masöz

    Spencer, thank you very much for this great post. Your decision based on results obtained and financial loss i very understandable, however do not quit with just one app ‘failure’. Keep an eye on next opportunities that may complement what you are doing in niche websites. 🙂

  18. Kenneth

    Kenneth

    I’ve thought about developing an app before, but I haven’t been able to justify the development cost with anticipated benefit. Many people (including myself) expect apps to be free or close to free ($2.99 or less). If you spend $2K building an application and consider ongoing maintenance cost over time it’s a tough business model. You have a sell a ton of apps at that price point (considering ongoing maintenance) or you have to create an application that requires additional in-app purchases. Obviously, there are several success stories, but likely an equal or greater number of failures too.

    Kenneth

  19. ryan

    ryan

    Hi Spencer , I really appreciate today’s post . It’s great to learn from mistakes and failures .
    I’d like to know more about your niche website failures as well as what you learnt from It , This way we can avoid what you fell into .

    Thank you so much .You always inspire me . Wish you all the best .

    Thanks again

  20. Hamza

    Hamza

    Thanks Mark for sharing this great experience ! I hope your next app will be more successful. I said “more” because even if this app failed, you learnt a lot of things and made a nice $500 and it’s also a success.

  21. Chris Desatoff

    Chris Desatoff

    As others have said, there ain’t nothing wrong with admitting a failure or loss. In a world of too-good-to-be-true gurus, it’s refreshing to see an honest person reporting the ups and downs of Internet marketing.

    Long ago I read a quote somewhere that the best way to experience greater success is to “fail faster.”

    Meaning, you learn from your failures, and as you speed up your rate of trying out — and failing at — new ideas, you accelerate your successes as well.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Spencer. We’re loving it!

    Chris

  22. paintball barrel guy

    paintball barrel guy

    As a developer (but not for apple/ios), it sure seems the app could have pinged adsense directly from the phone and avoided the whole single-ip problem? Unless there’s a restriction for iphones that prevents this, but doesn’t seem there would be.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      We looked at this; and it wasn’t doable. I’d have to go back to my emails with my developer to explain exactly why; but this was the first think I wanted to do, but if I recall correctly it needed to be processed through a server (an iphone query wouldn’t do).

      • Jon Watkins

        Jon Watkins

        This would be my main concern here: I think the app was architected wrongly from the start. You are reliant on the developer(s) as domain experts to give you good advice.

        I too am a developer (not IOS) and I’ve managed many, many developers who give you duff advice / research. This is why you need a level of expertise yourself to be able to challenge them – give them another lateral path – and set them on their way again. Developers – rather than saying anything is possible – are often restricted by limiting beliefs and knowledge.

        To me this is one of the fundamental dangers of outsourcing jobs which you have limited domain knowledge yourself.

        I think it was a great app by the way

  23. Sandy

    Sandy

    Will you be making the code open-source?

  24. Jon Haws

    Jon Haws

    Thanks for sharing Spencer. I think all TRUE entrepreneurs have a failure or two (or more) along the way! I have certainly folded on a few ventures myself. While it frustrates parents, spouses, and friends at times I think having the guts to admit defeat and keep moving on with new ventures does lead to success. If anything you have proven that it is VITAL to not tie yourself to just one thing. . . there is no one “perfect” business. The only great business is one that makes money and works for you.

    This venture for you was not a success and you were wise enough to admit it and move on and focus your energy on the winners. Great post . . . I was wondering about the App

  25. Neil

    Neil

    I was going to say what paintball barrel guy suggested.

    Spencer, why didn’t you have each user’s phone ping Google directly? It seems like that would solve the problem.

    Neil

  26. Fran

    Fran

    Failing is an essential part of learning in any business. Admitting it to yourself and cutting your losses can be difficult, as can admitting it to others. Your bare all approach is inspiring and appreciated by many (if not all) of your readers. I know a few people who have put blood, sweat and tears into iPhone apps with a pretty unjust return considering the work. I know there are people making money at it and if you have an idea you think can work then go for it but I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying to build an app because they want to have a place in the app store.
    Thanks for your openness as always Spencer. Your readers learn as much from things that go wrong as things that go right. As you know of course.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Fran for the support…and its good to hear that people are open to hearing the failures as much as the successes.

  27. Jason Rothman

    Jason Rothman

    Thanks for sharing Spencer. It’s a cliche but it’s true – you learn more from the losses.

    My first foray into Internet business (and business in general) was with my book “Betting on MMA.”

    For months and months I worked hard getting the book written, on Amazon, on Kindle, setting up a blog, trying a consulting business, and starting a podcast, and only after nearly 8 months and a couple thousand dollars lost did I realize that the market size was just not big enough for what I was trying to accomplish.

    But guess what? It was all worth it because I will NEVER make the mistake of picking a too-small market again.

    Charlie Munger often says that it is highly beneficial to try to learn through others’ mistakes more than our own. And it is. But man, the mistakes you make yourself are the ones that you really feel and never forget.

    It’s all about learning and growing. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Well said Jason – thank you for sharing! Personalize experience is a great teacher.

  28. Chuck Brown

    Chuck Brown

    I wonder what % of apps actually ever recoup their original investment…I’d bet it’s a rather small number.

    I find it interesting that at least some of Pat Flynn’s app ideas were just for fun and had no tangible purpose whatsoever. But I wonder whether that was something that did OK for awhile, but has died off with the novelty of the idea.

    It certainly must be difficult getting noticed in a field as crowded as the App Store or Google Play. I suspect promotion of really successful apps often involves as much time or money as the development process did.

  29. Chris @ Stumble Forward

    Chris @ Stumble Forward

    I think winning is awesome but failure teach us what we need to be doing in order to see more success. I learned this recently when I started my first niche site and made the 2 biggest classic niche mistakes, not using exact match when searching for keywords and not studying the competition hard enough.

    What I really feel makes success is just doing the right things long enough, because as long as you are doing the right things success is inevitable. Thanks for sharing your story Spencer.

  30. Ann Day

    Ann Day

    Oh No, that’s is sad news, I use this app all the time !!! I never earn much and its never gone Ker-ching for me but I loved it. I reckon I would have been one of your first 100 buyers of the app so I’m really sad its gone. Maybe you can revive it one day with new functions and try again…here’s hoping. Thanks for your continuing hard work to teach us all how to move to a higher level.

  31. Dave Starr

    Dave Starr

    Great post, Spencer. There are far, far too many BS-artists out there who yammer all day long about how smart they are and how they are always successful.

    There are far to few actual ‘doers’ who get in the trenches and honestly report on their failures as well as their successes.

    Interesting to me how many “you paid too much” and “you did it all wrong” comments there are. Monday Morning Quarterbacking at it’s finest … *sigh*.

    One little stat regarding failure and persistence I came across not long ago … there’s a little Finish development company called Rovio. They published something like 49 iPhone aps that were essentially total failures. Then they released number 50 … a little goofy thing called “Angry Birds”.

    Cut the losses when you have to, but never give up guys and gals….

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Great, great comment Dave. “There’s a little Finish development company called Rovio…” Love that!

  32. Dal

    Dal

    Hey Spencer, what about your customers, did they get their money back?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Anyone that bought the app is welcome to ask me for a refund. (I should clarify that the part of the app that checks and displays your earnings still works).

  33. mal

    mal

    Thanks Spencer for talking about this,and being so honest,this really helps me,although it has not put me off,it gives me food for thought,keep it real,thanks again Mal.got some good info about this recently i will forward it to you,if you want?

  34. mal

    mal

    Hey if only there were more like Spencer who would be willing to spill the beans and be honest,and then we would see what really works and get rid of all the garbage out there would save a lot of sifting work,keep it up Spencer and i will always be a fan,thanks Mal.

  35. Buddy T

    Buddy T

    Spence,
    Is Long Tail classroom different than the videos that come with LTP?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yes, totally different. (Unless you bought an upsell after Long Tail Pro – the upsell is Long Tail Classroom).

  36. Benny Hsu

    Benny Hsu

    Hey Spencer. You gave it a shot and that’s more than what some people can say. The app business is tough for sure cause of the competition. I definitely think when we’re bootstrapping it, it’s better to put out a bunch of smaller apps instead of trying to hit a home run. Though Photo 365 did well, my second app is doing better now after a slow start, but my third and fourth are not making money for me. The last two I spent way too much on them for making so little money.

    So I’m going to try and make it a numbers game now instead of trying to create the next big hit.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Hey Benny – great to hear from you! Yes, as a bootstrapper, I agree that smaller apps are probably the way to go. Do you have any recent posts on your blog detailing your success/roadblocks with all your apps to date? I’d be interested in catching up on your app business…

      • Don Shelton

        Don Shelton

        Having just listened to your podcast with Benny (catching up on older ones I haven’t gotten to yet), any information on his further efforts, as well as your report here, are of tremendous value. Much for us to learn from attempts that were struggles and even failures, not just the successes.

  37. Adam

    Adam

    Although you may be chalking this one up to a learning experience, I am glad you shared it with the rest of your readers. All to often I read the success stories which can cloud one’s vision to how complicated the process can become. Your experience helps me take a step back and focus to really evaluate an idea before implementing it. Thanks.

  38. Sunil - Money Blog

    Sunil - Money Blog

    Spencer – you’ve got a creative mind and I am looking forward to the types of ideas you come up with when you have a go at apps again.

    we’ve all had our share of business losses, it’s just part of the learning curve and I know I am preaching to the choir. most often we come out of it better, more effective and usually profitable.

    I was nervous about the results as well before going live with my apps, especially because one of them isn’t “original”. I took a concept, improved it a bit (my opinion) and released it.

    what I have realized in the less than a year or so of doing this is is that you will manage to attract some sales even if the idea is already taken by another app, and if your development cost is low, then it’s fairly easy to recoup the investment and profit the rest of the way for as long as the app sells on itunes.

    in any case, will be keeping a close eye on your progress with apps. can’t wait to see your ideas come to fruition.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Sunil! I may just get back in the saddle and try another one of these. After just thinking for about a day, I’ve come up with 3 or 4 decent app ideas…

  39. Adrian Abrate

    Adrian Abrate

    I remember reading this when you first posted about it. I often wondered what happened to the app so thank you for revisiting.

    ‘Success is a terrible teacher’ so it’s important to learn from failure and treat it as part of your ongoing business education. Do you have any new ideas for another app?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I actually do have a few ideas; but hadn’t consider pursuing them until after writing this post 🙂

  40. Sonia

    Sonia

    Thank you for being one of the few who not only shares success stores, but failures as well. Your lessons learned will be very helpful to me.

  41. Norm

    Norm

    Hi Spencer,

    Damn I wish I knew about the app. earlier 😉

    It would have saved me hours of checking my stats. Such a waste of time…habit I am trying to quit.

    Did you ever thought of taking the app and repurposing it?
    It may not work for Adsense, but perhaps like an affiliate sale alert.

    Norm

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Originally I was thinking I could do this, but since the app didn’t work as planned, I scraped those ideas.

  42. John J. Ziemba

    John J. Ziemba

    Hey Spencer:

    Mediocre leaders hide their failures, preferring the limelight of recognition and ego stroking.

    Great leaders admit their mistakes.

    In my book, you’re a member of the latter group. Not everything we attempt succeeds, because if it did, everyone would be doing it and where’s the challenge in that?

    You’ve learned from your mistakes and failure. Maybe you’ll try another ap, maybe not. But with the next attempt you can build upon what you learned from the first expeience and at least be that much farther ahead of the game..

    And that’s how success is achieved.

    Good pof you to share. Now I know that I’ll probably never venture into the ap field. I’ll concentrate on building my sites fo rnow, based on primo information I get from you.

    Keep on truckin’, brother!

  43. Eliot Dill

    Eliot Dill

    Great post Spencer. I have built some iPhone apps and have seen similar sales trends. The problem with this app is not that it wasn’t successful, it was that Google kept blocking your ip so the app didn’t have enough time to be successful. Had that problem not occurred, it probably would have worked out. If you go long tail you have to wait some time to recoup your costs. I am trying a similar niche approach in the app store so I’ll let you know how it plays out. Thanks again for the great post.

  44. Mike

    Mike

    I think this app had lots of potential but where it might have gone wrong is that you didn’t have complete control. If the app wasn’t reliant on external third parties such as adsense you could have easily made this a successful business venture.

  45. Vivek Bhatt

    Vivek Bhatt

    Awesome, it feels really nice when i come across to such blogs where i enjoy reading articles , Niche pursuits provide valuable information. I am always active on this blog! like it 😉

  46. Miki Vicioso

    Miki Vicioso

    I would definitely give it another run! Is like any other business there are chances of failing and chances of succeeding you just need to keep trying.

  47. Don Shelton

    Don Shelton

    Spencer, a general question, but what plugin to you use for these comments? Thanks.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I don’t use a plugin; its just standard wordpress comments.

  48. Bud Fields

    Bud Fields

    Interesting journey, Spencer. Thank you for sharing it with honesty, transparency, and integrity. That has come through very clearly on this journey, and will bring you untold success simply because of these choices you make each day.

    As for the future, save the app for Rippln. If you aren’t in yet, let me know and I will send you a personal invite.

    Much good fortune as you continue the journey,

    To YOUR Success!

    Bud Fields

  49. Arwin Adriano

    Arwin Adriano

    I think that’s worth a try and what was more important here is the lesson you learn. I guess I am more excited to see what you are going to do next after this failure. The process never stops and I am sure you are now after for something big this time.

  50. Mike

    Mike

    Spencer, to be honest, the thing I took away from this is similar to what I’ve taken away from niche sites: don’t make your business model something where Google (or anyone else, for that matter) can just pull the rug out from under your feet.

    Great post though!

  51. Alec

    Alec

    Well it was worth a try.Every experience is never a failure just another lesson to learn from. I had similar experience with app development and although it was never profitable, it helped bring in more opportunities through the network it created.

  52. Jan Koch

    Jan Koch

    Hi Spencer,
    I’m just browsing around your blog and since I’ve also got an idea for my first app, this post is especially valuable,

    Do you have any advice how I could do research for possible buyers? How did you do it back then?

    Best regards and thanks for sharing!

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  54. Noel Chenier

    Noel Chenier

    Great post Spencer.
    And a great example of the importance of sharing our “failures” and “mistakes” along with our successes.

    But like everything in life, when you’ve learned from it, it’s really a lesson.

    I’ve created my own photo app, pretty much all on my own, and have been documenting my “newb app developer” journey.

    I’ve had some success, but made a lot of stupid mistakes along the way. My efforts to promote the app using social media, email, etc, have also had some mixed results. (I managing to get completely banned from emailing the entire continent of Australia)

    I started a blog about it all, which some of you may find useful (or at the very least, give you a laugh or two)
    http://www.learnphoto.ca/newbappdeveloper

    Thanks for sharing your story, good luck
    Noel

  55. thuan

    thuan

    thanks for sharing. You are the same like me. I failures for my first apps. I did not research well. Sold 100 copies per month but building cost me 2000-5000 depends on complexity.
    After I ready this blog, i will keep continue building differently app. I will not give you that people say is for a learning lesson. Maybe next app will be better.

  56. Archie Nadon

    Archie Nadon

    Thanks for taking the risk and then sharing. It’s been proven people learn as much by watching someone do it wrong, as doing it right. Another odd thing is that when Hollywood releases a war movie about a defeat (A Bridge Too Far, Black Hawk Down) army recruiting goes up. So you’ve probably inspired a host of others to try to make an app.

  57. John Harper Jr.

    John Harper Jr.

    Thanks for the information Spencer. As a rookie iPhone developer, I’m putting the functions together in my head that would make such an app like yours work. My conclusion is that you might want to consult with more developers and get more opinions about the feasibilty of your app. It really is a good idea. And you are right, promoting the app would have been a catch-22.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I agree…I need to go back and have someone look at this.

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  59. JC

    JC

    Pointless and stupid…just like your app.

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