Friday, June 26, 2015

iPhone & iPad Apps MARKETING by Jeffrey Hughes

For my birthday, my brother bought me the book "iPhone & iPad Apps MARKETING" by Jeffrey Hughes. I started reading it recently, and already gleaned a pretty good tip, which should have been pretty obvious, but I had missed it:  near the top of your App Store description, include some positive reviews. Duh! So I compiled the best reviews that I've gotten over the last 50 days or so, and when you look at them altogether, I have to say they do look pretty impressive :-) I've added them to my App Store description, so hopefully they will be posted up there in the next day or two.

Reader for Gmail Download / App Store Link:

Awesome app (5 stars)
This update was really great and this app has earned a place on my home screen.

Awesome  (5 stars)
This is great! Love it.
It works well and reads all my messages to me whilst I'm driving. Very handy app.

Useful (5 stars)
Great for long mails when you are driving or walking. The filtering works surprisingly
well. Better than the alternatives.

Listen to your email out loud (5 stars)
Unique and creative app that lets you hear your Gmail out loud. Useful for those who
need assistance this way.

Useful (5 stars)
This app is really useful for me. It makes it easier for me to read my email.

Nice (5 stars)
Little useful app. I spent a lot less time reading gmails.

Good app (5 stars)
A very creative concept. It is the perfect app for busy people and who contact like
read all emails. Great concept!!

Great app (5 stars)
I use it whenever I need to do something and don't have time to read. I just open the app
and hear the mail. Very useful!

Excellent (5 stars)
Great reader for all you gmail people. It's great!

Awesome of emails (5 stars)
This app will read your email back to you. Great for if you're busy.

Smart! (5 stars)
Very smart app, I love the functionality! Plus it looks clean and nice.

Excellent (5 stars)
A must have tool. Very good. Thanks to the developer. Keep up the good work.

Like most people, I tend to feel much worse about 1 or 2 negative reviews than I feel good about 15 positive reviews. I don't know why that is! Just human nature I guess.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Search For Email, and then Listen!

Here it is, the latest and greatest version of Reader+ for Gmail, 1.14:

May 18, 2015
1. Added search capability to app so that you can search for the Gmail messages that you want to listen to.
2. Corrected issue with controls not responding on the lock screen under some circumstance.s
3. Corrected state of play/pause control under some circumstances (after restoring app).
4. Corrected issue in which app would never let you listen to trash or spam emails (in case you actually want to do that).
5. Fixed bug in which some emails having single-digit timestamps in the hours field would not get sorted properly. 
6. Friendly audio reminders to buy the upgraded version modified slightly and changed to keep track of the last one that the user listened to.

And you can download it FREE here:

As mentioned previously, I think this might be my last version for a while, although I'll still do any bug fixes if they happen to come up. For now I'm learning about Unity... going to see if I can put together a game of some sort.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Even Gmail Audio is Boring?

I think most people generally dislike email. A lot of the email that I get is just newsletters and crap, the kind of stuff that I usually just delete without reading. Although sometimes I'm sure some of those emails could contain some useful info... perhaps a useful stock tip or something, or some good advice about how to better market my app. That was the primary reason why I created Reader for Gmail: I wanted an app that could read out all of my email to me while I was out jogging somewhere, and the apps and built-in functionality of my iPhone at the time just didn't cut it.

Now that the app is basically done though, I've found that I don't use it as much as I thought I would. Maybe just once or twice a week. You see, for the most part, those emails are still boring! Quite often I've got a few good podcasts lined up that I like to listen to, or one or two good audio books (currently reading the true story "Foxcatcher" by Mark Schultz... highly recommend!) or maybe just would rather pound the pavement while rocking out to The Offspring. I suspect most other people are probably the same, maybe even more so, as they would not feel the same "developer-compulsion" that I have to test the app and make sure that it is functioning as intended.

Over 4000 people have downloaded the app, and based on stats from appFigures over 1000 have upgraded in recent days, so I guess that's not too bad in terms of retaining users. I'm guessing probably over 2000 still have the app installed on their devices. But looking at the stats in Google's Developer Console (I can track how much the app gets used, but not who is actually using or what they are listening to!) it looks like usually only a few people are using the app per day. I think most people are like, "Hey this app is kind of neat, I like it! But I don't actually use it hardly ever, 'cause email is just kind of boring you know?!?"

I still plan on doing maintenance-type stuff for the app, but have no major plans for big improvements. Yeah, the UI might be sup-par for some people, but I don't really care. The thing works well as it is I think, and I can't really think of any other changes I could make that would magically increase sales or downloads to any large extent.

I plan on starting a new blog soon for a game idea that I've been kicking around. Yes I know, 500+ games get released every single day for iOS... but still I want to try.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Gmail Player For The Masses

The reviews from SmoothReviews are slowly starting to trickle in, and most of them are quite positive. I think I've had 7 or 8 so far, most of them 4's and 5's with just one 3 and nothing below 3. Apparently I need to get 5 reviews in a given country for a given version of the app to get a ranking for that particular country's App Store, so this SmoothReviews thing is going to take a bit of time.

A new version of Reader+ for Gmail (1.12) was released a few days ago, with these changes:

April 27, 2015
1. Added blue circle to the left of each email in the email table view to indicate if it is an unread message (i.e. unread using a fully capable Gmail client application). 
2. Added settings option to read only "unread" emails (i.e. emails that have not yet been read by a fully capable Gmail client application). 
3. Re-built using iOS 8.3.

The full revision history can be found here:

This past week an awesome new feature was added to make the app kick ass even more: 


Now there will be a simple text input field and search button to allow you to search through ALL of your Gmail messages in just a few seconds. The Gmail API and the SPEED of Google Search are really quite impressive. So if you need to review that epic 10 page email that your boss sent to you a few weeks back, now you can just search for it, click on the result, and start listening!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


For the past week I've been testing and reviewing apps from other developers. Am I doing this out of the goodness of my heart? Not at all! I'm expecting other developers to provide reviews for Reader+ for Gmail in return. There is a website called SmoothReviews: that allows you to upload a link to your own app, and provides you with a number of apps to review. For each app that you review, someone else will eventually review your app. No guarantees that they will like it or give it a good review, but I'm interested to find out if any sort of reviews at all will increase my downloads / visibility in the App Store. So far I've reviewed 4 apps, and have not received any reviews for Reader+ for Gmail yet... :-(

Wait a sec, I just clicked around the SmoothReviews website and discovered that my app link wasn't properly uploaded! That explains the lack of reviews so far I guess :-P. Apparently there is more than one way to specify an App Store link to an app, and SmoothReviews requires a certain format with a country code and the app name in the link. Took about 20 minutes to figure that one out, so hopefully now the reviews will start trickling in!

If you happen to go to SmoothReviews, click this link:

Apparently this referral will snag me an extra app upload slot, which might come in handy someday.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Version 1.11

Version 1.11 of Reader+ for Gmail was approved today, Yay! Knock on wood, but my last 3 or 4 submissions to the App Store have been successful. OK, now I've jinxed my next submission for sure.

This version has the following new changes:

1. Next track, previous track, and play/pause buttons are now responsive on the lockscreen.

2. On settings window, can dismiss the keypad for changing the number of emails to download by clicking on empty space. 

3. On the main window, if an email is being read, there is a button in the top right corner called "Current Email" to take you to the playback window for the email currently being read.

4. On the main window, if an email is being read, the "Start Reading Gmail" button changes to a "Stop Reading Gmail" button.

The complete version history can be found on my website here:

To download / update the app, the App Store link is still:

Monday, April 13, 2015

Downloads Returning to Normal and What to do for New Emails?

On April 11, the downloads peeked at a little over 100, but yesterday they were back down to 20, and now today I expect they will be back at a normal level, probably 5 to 10. I'm guessing that Apple must have "featured" Reader+ for Gmail for a limited amount of time, to see how it would perform with the new changes. Not well enough I guess! During the past few days I got 180 downloads and one in-app purchase; nothing that a trillion dollar company would care greatly about.

Today I finished the changes for displaying and reading just new Gmail messages, if the user chooses that option. But I'm unsure what to do about marking a message as "read" after it has been listened to. Typically any message that I listen to with Reader+ for Gmail, I would not want that message to be marked as "read" since I prefer to handle that task (and a more careful read of important messages) on my computer using the real Gmail interface in Google Chrome. Also, if I were to provide a user option for marking "listened" messages in Reader+ for Gmail as "read", then I think I would need to include write access in the list of permissions that the user sees when they first log in with the app. Personally, I think the fact that the permissions are currently set to be "read-only" would be comforting to users, because it provides them with some security that the app won't do anything stupid, like accidentally delete one of their email messages.

I'd be interested to know what other users think though... if anyone is out there and has an opinion, and actually reads this, please feel free to leave a comment below! :-)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

New Version = More Downloads?

A couple of days ago version 1.10 of Reader+ for Gmail got approved. As far as revisions go, this one was fairly minor, just a new icon and a re-compilation of all the code for iOS 8.2. I was hoping that this would improve the number of downloads which has recently been suffering at something like about 3 to 6 per day.

This morning the results from the first full day of 1.10 came in: 65 downloads! I had read somewhere that the AppStore promotes apps more that use the most recent versions of iOS... possibly this is true, or possibly not, but I figured it was worth a shot. Although the new app icon is definitely better, I have a hard time believing that it would be solely responsible for a 10x increase in the download rate, so I think definitely using iOS 8.2 (rather than the previous iOS 7.1) has increased the AppStore ranking of Reader+ for Gmail.

We'll see what happens in the next few days as far as downloads go...

In actual development work, today I started adding an option for only reading out "new" Gmail messages, and indicating the new messages with a blue circle icon, similar to what some other mail apps use.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Weekend Developments / Twitter Advertising Results

I was able to work on some nice improvements to Reader+ for Gmail this weekend:

1. Can now "click off" the keyboard in the settings window if you click in the "number of emails" to download text edit field and then decide you want to do something else (like change the reading speed) instead.

2. Added a "Current Email" bar button item in the top right corner of the main window if there is in fact an email currently being played. Clicking on this button brings you back to the playback window.

3. Changed the "Start Reading Gmail" button to be a "Stop Reading Gmail" button in the main window, if there is an email currently being read.

4. Started working on making the "next track", "previous track", and "play / pause" buttons responsive in the lockscreen of the app. To date, these buttons have appeared in the lockscreen (along with a volume slider), but only the volume slider did anything. I think the buttons appear automatically whenever there is audio playing in the background.

My Twitter advertising results so far have not been overly impressive, but at least I'm not shelling out a bunch of money either. The results after 5 days are as follows:

Money Spent: $1.48
Impressions: 2585
Tweet Engagements (defined as someone clicking on the ad, which takes them to iTunes, re-tweeting the ad, or favouriting the ad): 62
Engagement Rate: 62/2585*100% = 2.40%

Twitter also provides breakdowns of gender and country; I chose to advertise in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and the impressions and engagements were relatively equal between those countries. Also, the male / female stats were relatively equal, which is interesting to know.

Additional software (I'm guessing a plugin of some sort in the app) is required to track actual downloads. I only received 3 Reader for Gmail downloads yesterday, but had 11 Tweet engagements on that day, so I'm guessing that only a smallish percentage of engagements results in actual downloads.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

iAd Workbench Results

OK, so here are the results of my 8.5 day, $68  iAd experiment. Sorry about the awful formatting of the table, but it's late at night and I'm too tired to fix it.

Spend (USD)
Avg. CPM (USD)
TTR (%)
Avg. CPC (USD)
Conversion Rate (%)
Avg. CPA (USD)
Content Views
Content Views/Visit
Video Impressions

This ad campaign turned out to be about an order of magnitude more effective than Google Adwords or Facebook advertising, but in terms of the economics for Reader for Gmail it still doesn't cut it. Although my in-app purchase is less than a month old, the evidence to date seems to suggest that for about every 40 downloads, I get about 1 in-app purchase, i.e. only about 2.5 percent of downloads result in someone paying to get rid of ads between Gmail messages. Since my cut of an in-app purchase is about $1.40, this means that I should not be spending more than $0.03 per download. As you can see from the above table, on my best day, I got 19 downloads through my iAd banner, at an average cost of $0.34 per download. So even that is an order of magnitude worse than where I need to be. The average price per banner ad click is only something like $0.02, so I'm guessing that the vast majority of these clicks must be accidental. Perhaps even a lot of the downloads are accidental too. Drunk people playing around with their phones late at night? I don't know. 

So now I've decided to try out advertising through Twitter. I'm not sure how the bidding with Twitter will work out... if my lowball, cheapo bids actually get shown to people, I think I might stand a reasonable chance of getting some downloads at a good price. Results to follow in 4 or 5 days...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Fast Talking

Version 1.08 of Reader+ for Gmail was released today. The big improvement that this version has is a slider control for controling the speed at which emails are read. The allowable speeds range from painfully slow to ludicrously fast. I'm happy with something pretty close to the middle speed on my iPhone and iPod, although I've noticed that the middle speed is actually a bit fast on some other devices, so now users can adjust the speed to their liking.

This version also fixes a bug in which the text in the playback window would not get updated in some cases (going back and forth from the email menu list to the playback window).

And this version has pretty new background colours. :-)

The summary of all the changes to date can be found here:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Promotional YouTube Video

The video that we made last weekend is now on YouTube:

Yes, it looks like amateurs made it.

No, I am not a stuntman. Not even close, and it shows. We did two takes for this video project. On the first one I went into the snowbank way too gingerly, making it look very much contrived. I was brave enough to get a bit more velocity on the second attempt, and even though I didn't really hit very hard on that one either, the snow soaked through my shirt and I was freezing cold so that was a wrap for the day.

As a marketing ploy I have my doubts about the video, but I guess you never know. YouTube lets you add something like 30 characters of tags to the video so with the tags that I added, people searching for "email reader", "gmail reader", or "gmail player" might happen to find the video and the link to iTunes that I added in the comments section.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

iOS 8.2 and 64-bit Support

Previous to today I had been using a pre-built version of the Gmail API library in "Reader for Gmail". This was a bit worrisome, since the pre-built version of the API would not compile correctly if I tried to include 64-bit support, and Apple will force all iOS developers making updates to include both 32 and 64-bit support on iOS 8 or higher starting June 1, 2015.

After some web searching, I re-found Google's instructions for importing the Gmail API into your iOS project, and luckily determined that the binary library was not actually required... Google provides the source code of the library, so I was able to just bring the source files into my project targeting iOS 8.2 (both 32 and 64-bit), and lo and behold, IT WORKED!!! To be honest, I did not expect that!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Icon

OK, here is the new icon for Reader+ for Gmail:

I'm not totally happy with the curved rainbow-like lines above the envelope, but I think they'll do for now. The gradient blue background is definitely a step above the plain old white background that I've had up until now.

Monday, March 23, 2015

iAd Workbench

In terms of paid advertisement so far, I have tried Facebook (for Arithmetic Basics), and Google Adwords (for Reader+ for Gmail). Confirming the results of others on the 'net, these mediums for typical app advertising just don't make sense. Basically I was paying something close to a dollar for each click on the ad, and only a small fraction of the ad clicks actually resulted in an actual download.

I've tried to create an iAd campaign with Apple, and I think it just got approved tonight based on an email I received from Apple, but the iAd Workbench is telling me one of my "lines" may need attention and that I have to assign at least one banner. I thought I had done that already, but maybe it just takes a while for the dashboard to get updated properly.

My research into iAd shows that it is certainly cheaper than Facebook and Google, but probably no more effective in terms of getting downloads for a given price. See for example this analysis from Raymond Law:!prettyPhoto

His app (Badminton TV) looks pretty cool, and he got a bunch of clicks on his ad, but zero actual downloads! I suspect that most ads get shown in video games and are just clicked by accident. I was able to select what sorts of apps to show my ad in  (no video games!) so hopefully I'll fare a bit better in terms of downloads. We shall see. I'll let the experiment run until the end of the month and see how it goes.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Productive Day

After a morning car trip for my daughters' final hockey game of the year (they won!) I managed to engage the whole family in a publicity stunt for Reader+ for Gmail. Equipped with four iPods, my wife and 3 daughters videoed me riding a bicycle while reading email on my phone, before crashing into a very large snow bank that juts out into our road. It will form a brief YouTube advertisement for Reader+ for Gmail at some point. The idea is to make something funny that shows what not to do with your phone while operating a moving vehicle... and then place some text about how the app could be beneficial for your safety. I'm fairly certain my video / acting skills will make this look very amateurish, but what the heck. At least I'll be able to add some useful search terms to the video that people might find and will hopefully use to direct them to the App Store.

Also completed and uploaded a new build of Reader for Gmail today, which includes the following changes:

1. Added slider control for setting speed of voice reading emails.
2. Corrected bug in which text would sometimes not be properly updated in playback window.
3. Changed colours of backgrounds (no more boring grey background!)

I came across a good blog entry from Petr Fodor at Flow Studio Games that gave some good tips for App Store optimization:

At the very least I'm going to improve my app's icon. It looks terrible, like I made it in half an hour one night. Because yeah, I made it in half an hour one night.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that Apple approved my latest Reader+ for Gmail update. So now people have to put up with ads. Or pay me two bucks. Well pay me about $1.40 and Apple $0.60.

The bad news is that yesterday's downloads did indeed fall by a factor of two again. Exactly two: 13 downloads. Hopefully the new version will reset some AppStore mechanism to get those downloads back up in the thousands.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Exponential Download Decay

Sales of my paid app "Reader for Gmail™"  were going nowhere last week. After about a month in the App Store, I had amassed a grand total of 8 downloads @ $2.00 each, less Apple's 30%. And really, it should have only been 5 downloads, since my dad bought one copy, I bought one, and my daughter bought another by mistake. I publicized the app a bit on Twitter and Facebook, so I suspect that most of those 5 downloads came from my Facebook friends, who probably felt sorry for me.

The small bit of online marketing research that I had done showed that I might do better to offer a free app with ads and an in app purchase option for people who wanted to get rid of the ads. From My previous app project ("Arithmetic Basics") I was already familiar with banner ads, so I added those, even though the evidence to date seems to suggest that people are very skilled at ignoring them completely. Then I got a bit creative and decided to have the voice synthesizer read ads for the in app purchase itself after every third email. Here are a few of the better ones I came up with:

1. If you find these periodic interruptions between emails annoying, you should press the Upgrade Now button to upgrade this program to the full version.

2.  I hope you are enjoying this application! If so, please tell a friend about it!

3. Hey I think you still have two dollars left on that iTunes gift card you got last year. Why not use it to buy the upgraded version of Reader for Gmail?

So with the ads and in-app purchase button, I uploaded it and am now waiting for the review process to happen. As far as reviews go, I think I'm batting about .400 so far. That would be excellent in baseball, but not so great for pretty much everything else. While waiting for the review, I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if the app were made free. Would there be more downloads? Basically there was nothing to lose, the app wasn't selling anyway. And perhaps some of the people who got it for free would be automatically updated to the version with the in-app purchase later on. 

Here are the download stats after going free:

Mar. 12: 2020 downloads   (Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I'm going to live the dream and develop apps full-time in my basement and wear my bathrobe all day long!)

Mar. 13: 1060 downloads   (OK, must just be the weekend... not as many downloads). 

Mar. 14: 243 downloads  (Crap, it's still the weekend though, so maybe people just don't care much about email on the weekend.)

Mar. 15: 120 downloads   (Double-crap, something bad is happening here.)

Mar. 16: 59 downloads   (Yup, definitely something bad.)

Mar. 17: 26 downloads  (Bottom? Is this the bottom?)

I'm putting money on 12 downloads for today :-(. 

No idea what is responsible for the exponential decay. Clearly once the app became free it suddenly became much more discover-able than it is now... possibly it was listed somewhere on a list of new free apps, but now has been eclipsed by other new free apps. Possibly it is a negative feedback loop in the app store ranking system... start off at a high rank as a new free app, but if downloads are less than peers, then rank is reduced, which lowers visibility, which reduces downloads, and so on.