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.