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2.8 million users strong: It’s the Camera+ 1-year retrospective

by John Casasanta
June 9, 201114 comments

Camera+

Well, that was a hell of a first year, wasn’t it?

To say the least, Camera+ exceeded our initial expectations by far. For the year, we sold 2.8 million copies, which represents approximately 1.6% of all iPhone and iPod touch devices ever sold. Even though 1.6% may sound like a small percentage, in reality, getting even 1% of virtually any market is no small feat. This is especially so when you’re not just giving something away for free.

The 2.8 million sales, including in-app purchases, amounted to $2.65 million in revenue after Apple’s 30% cut. The in-app purchases of our “I ♥ Analog” effects pack brought in just over $100,000 by themselves.

Inception

The initial concept for Camera+ came to me approximately two years ago to the day. As it is now, Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) was going on and a small bunch of friends who were attending the conference were hanging out at my apartment one night as the conference was winding down. I had the thought that nobody had made an iPhone app yet that provided scene modes like “Portrait”, “Beach”, “Scenery”, etc, that most digital cameras have.

So I threw the idea out to Karl von Randow (who I’d only met a couple of months prior at the WEB09 conference in New Zealand when we were both speakers there), that we should team-up and make an app that “lets you pick a scene mode from a simple, nice-looking grid and then lets you snap a photo”. tap tap tap would do the design and Karl would program it. “It shouldn’t take more than a week to pump this out.”

Sidenote: The beverage of choice that night at my apartment was mead provided as a gift by Corwin Derkatch, who’s the programmer of our hit game, The Heist.
And a serendipitous sidenote: After we ran out of booze at my apartment, we all headed over to Grubstake for more booze and a bite to eat. But in a strange coincidence, after our Camera+ team dinner for WWDC this past Monday night, Karl and I decided to walk around town here in San Francisco and continue chatting about the future of Camera+… and without even realizing it until we sat down and ordered a couple of fine Portuguese beers, we were at the Grubstake again, engaged in somewhat of an advanced version of the conversation we had almost exactly two years prior.

Grubstake

Launch

“It shouldn’t take more than a week to pump this out.”

Add in several more team members. Chalk-up literally dozens of design sessions with Wolfgang spanning hundreds of hours total. Then roll the clock ahead almost exactly a year to the day those words were uttered and you have Camera+ 1.0.

It clearly was much more of a substantial app than we ever set out to create. And we couldn’t have been happier with how it all turned-out.

I had the “genius” idea that we should piggyback off of the buzz of the start of WWDC ’10 and launch Camera+ a couple of hours before Steve Jobs’ keynote. Then we could head down to the show, sit back and enjoy the keynote in-person ourselves.

But of course things like this never go anywhere near as smoothly as you’d want or expect them to. We weren’t dramatically late finishing-up the zillion things it takes to do a product launch, but we were late enough that we knew that going down to Moscone West and getting into the main room to see the keynote live just wasn’t in the cards for us. So after our usual all-nighter to prepare for a launch, Scott, Lisa, and I found ourselves watching a livebog of the keynote from my house. As a person who’s attended my share of keynotes in the past, trust me when I say it simply wasn’t the same as seeing it in-person. :P

launch

Original post: Introducing Camera+ …the ultimate photo app

Our first big innovation: Touch Focus & Exposure

After the initial release, the first really significant feature that we added to Camera+ was Touch Focus & Exposure. This enabled users fine control over their shots by helping them to control how light or dark their photos turned out so they could take optimal photos. The feature was a huge hit with both casual and more serious photographers.

Touch Focus & Exposure

While we initially thought the feature was intuitive to use, in retrospect, it wasn’t very discoverable. So, over time we tweaked it to be both more usable and far more discoverable. We’re pretty satisfied with the way it works now and our users seem to feel the same way, thankfully.

Original post: Camera+ 1.2 available with exclusive Touch Exposure feature

The controversy: VolumeSnap

For the very first version of Camera+ that we submitted to Apple for approval, the app had a feature that we dubbed VolumeSnap. VolumeSnap enabled users to use the physical volume buttons on the side of the iPhone to snap photos, making your iPhone feel just a bit more like a real camera.

VolumeSnap rejected

But Apple rejected the app, citing potential “user confusion” and we quickly disabled the feature in the rush to get v1.0 out in time for the keynote launch.

To make a very long story short, VolumeSnap lead to Camera+ being pulled from the App Store for a span last year. But now in iOS 5, Apple seems to have reversed their “user confusion” stance and they’ve actually included a feature just like our VolumeSnap in their own Camera app.

So this makes us very hopeful that we’ll be able to include VolumeSnap in Camera+. Keep your fingers crossed…

It was actually surprising to see a fair number of knuckleheaded posts implying that Camera+’s future was in jeopardy after Apple announced snapping pics using the volume controls and a few other minor features that are going into the iOS 5 Camera app. Even though Apple did manage to essentially obliterate a few other apps with this year’s WWDC announcements, whatever they’ve added to their Camera app will have have virtually no impact on Camera+ and most other 3rd-party camera apps.

And here’s a list of the things we learned regarding the whole VolumeSnap fiasco:

  1. having your app kicked out of the App Store for four months is pretty damn annoying

Original post: Camera+ VolumeSnap: Rejected

A comeback with Camera+ 2

After our little cooling-off period, we attempted to make a very strong comeback with Camera+ 2. The whole time we were booted from the App Store, we kept development going and even added two developers, Jorge and Pedro, to the team.

By the time we were ready to relaunch, we managed to rework major parts of the app for much improved usability and performance. And the app had over 50 new features in it.

through the roof!

Camera+ 2 was received better than we could’ve anticipated and in less than 6 months, we’ve managed to sell well over 2 million copies of it.

Original post: Introducing Camera+ 2: the ultimate iPhone app is back with over 50 great, new features!

Our big breakthrough innovation: Clarity

Clarity

Our most significant feature that we’ve added to Camera+ has undoubtedly been Clarity. Clarity is our response to Apple’s HDR and the results that can be accomplished with it can be breathtaking.

Camera+

Clarity was important enough that we dedicated a whole webpage to it, complete with a fun video by Lisa.

Clarity’s helped make your iPhone compete with much higher-end cameras and it’s helped inspire people to do many, many awesome things with iPhoneography. One of the best examples is Josh Brown’s Italy photo book

Joshua Brown Italy

I don’t know if we’ll ever add anything else to Camera+ that’ll have as much impact as Clarity’s had… but we’re definitely going to keep trying because it’s things like Clarity that we find the most rewarding to do.

Original post: Camera+ 2.2 available: I can see clearly now!

The future of Camera+

We’ve got a ton of things that we’re planning to improve and add to Camera+. Of course, we’re going to do our best to not clutter the app in any way as we add to it.

And with all the fantastic, new features that are coming to iOS 5, we’re going to be very busy for quite the long time. One really good thing is that some of the new additions to iOS 5 will actually make some features we were already planning to add to Camera+ go a lot easier.

It’d be hard to be more excited about the future of Camera+. I’m 100% positive that you’re going to love how it evolves.

99¢ anniversary sale

As I mentioned yesterday, to celebrate this 1-year anniversary of the release of Camera+, we’ve put it on sale for a very limited time for the ridiculously low price of 99¢.

Check it out at http://campl.us.

And that about wraps-up this look back over the past year of Camera+. Here’s to hoping that the next year will be as fun, exciting, and successful. Even with the few downsides we experienced, I couldn’t have wished for a better project and team to be a part of.

Note: The actual anniversary of Camera+ was on June 7th, but with it being WWDC week and all, my dog ate my first draft of this post or something. So it went up a couple of days later than it should’ve.


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Who linked to this

14 comments

  1. Sami
    4:47pm, June 9, 2011

    CONGRATULATIONS!! Thanks for such a great App. Makes the iPhone the best camera mobile phone in the World!
    Being a user from day 1, it’s been a great experience, loved the way you guys pushed out new features and kept it exciting.
    Keep it up and looking forward to more surprises…

  2. kc!
    4:59pm, June 9, 2011

    Seriously crossing my fingers that iOS5 will let me substitute Camera+ for the stock app for that button they are including on the homescreen, as Camera+ is my default camera (only use the stock app for video now)

  3. Jeremiah Shaw
    5:22pm, June 9, 2011

    Love the Camera+ app. I use it probably 10-30 times a day. You guys have truly set the standard. Can’t wait to see some of the new features coming out soon!

  4. Jacob Griffin
    7:33pm, June 9, 2011

    Any chance you will add a video option so we can get rid of iOS camera for good?

  5. Jack Hsueh
    9:28pm, June 9, 2011

    Congratulations tap tap tap!

    Before I tried Camera+, I always thought that camera of mobile phone just sucks. After I used Camera+, I must say I’m totally wrong. Its usability and functionality are just perfect.

    Now, 3/4 of my photos are taken by Camera+, I don’t have to carry my heavy camera bag all day. Camera+ just works!

  6. DerBenni
    8:26am, June 10, 2011

    I seroiously love your App and I’m planning a photobook of my last holiday completely filled with photos I edited with Camera+, bit like Josh. But what I still don’t get is, why you never reacted to any of your customers, screaming for a reaction from your side, while you were pulled from the AppStore. Not a single word. Why?

  7. David Hellmann
    9:14am, June 10, 2011

    integrate a option to sharing to instagram ;)

  8. Len
    11:09am, June 10, 2011

    Is there is any way of defaulting the new lockscreen camera shortcut button to be remapped to open Camera+ instead of the native iPhone camera app?

  9. Ed H.
    2:17am, June 11, 2011

    I really hope Apple allows setting of alternate apps for the lock screen camera – and allows third-party apps to use the volume button for shutter, as well.

    My only request would be to make sure that Camera+ writes proper EXIF data when saving to the built-in camera roll…

  10. Anne
    8:44am, June 11, 2011

    In an upcoming update, would you PLEASE bring back a copy of the original pinhole filter version from the Analog pack? The Analog pack was the number 1 reason I initially bought the app. Since the filter was updated, I downgraded back to version 2.0 and have skipped every update since then. I love the original pinhole filter that much. But there’s nothing more I would like than to be able to get those great updates I’m currently missing, just not at the cost of losing the pinhole filter I love. I know I’m not the only one who prefers the original version. So for those of us who paid for the Analog pack, would you please take that into account. I think Camera+ is a fantastic app but I feel let down by the lack of response to user feedback.

  11. Zee
    12:43pm, June 12, 2011

    Congrats! Love the app, but it seems to crash every time I used the ‘Diana’ or ‘Tailfins’ filter. On iPhone 3G. Not sure if my old hardware is the cause or the app, but hope you can look into it.

    Looking forward to the new update. Hope it’s soon :)

  12. Ed
    4:26am, June 17, 2011

    Now that Apple themselves are planing on including volume snap with their native camera app in iOS 5, any chance we’ll see this rad feature back in a coinciding update?
    I LOVE camera+ and recommend it any chance I get!!

  13. Cindy
    10:45am, June 18, 2011

    Absolutely love your app, and your contests are fantastic, what a great way to learn about the features! You allow people to tap into an artistic side they may not have known they had! You knocked it out of the park with this app.. and by the way your blog is so interesting, love reading the history of how your app was developed! And that you drank mead… and that you have a game called Heist, fun!

  14. David
    3:03pm, June 20, 2011

    I guess coming up with this app was that not that big a deal, since you already had Camera Plus & Camera Plus Pro to rip from & ride on their success.


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