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Camera+ first month sales: Setting Sail in a Sea of Games

by John Casasanta
July 12, 201034 comments

sea of games

How do you launch an iPhone app that’s not a game and have it succeed? It’s definitely not easy, given the current atmosphere of the App Store. But we recently did with our app, Camera+, and it’s gone on to be our most successful launch to date, earning over a quarter million dollars in its first month.

First off, the numbers…

Camera+ first month daily sales

Camera+ first month daily sales

The total number sold for the first month was over 217k. Our total revenue after Apple’s cut was just over $253k. Our strongest revenue day occurred about a week after launch with us taking in $15,488 that day and we averaged around $8,440 daily for the first 30 days.

Camera+

Camera+
  • what it is: the ultimate photo app
  • number sold: 217,720
  • net sales: $253,215
  • more info: at the App Store

It’s definitely worth noting that unlike in our early days in the App Store, we don’t do any advertising for our apps anymore. I feel I need to make this distinction because it was definitely part of our recipe for early success and we still get a lot of traffic on posts that talk about it. But ad costs have simply become too prohibitive to be effective for a business like ours now.

Note: It might be worthwhile for me to write some sort of detailed update on this since a lot of developers may be misled into thinking that the method is still effective. If it’s something you’d like to see, leave some feedback in the comments about it.

So, in a nutshell, the only real expenses we had since launching Camera+ were for the launch promo prize (around $10k) plus a few hundred dollars for our “photo of the week” contest prizes.

The current state of the App Store

Taking a quick snapshot of the current Top 25 Paid chart in the US, you see that all but 5 of those apps are either games or in the entertainment category. 20 out of 25 (and one of them actually gamed the system to get there). Considering that there are currently 20 different categories in the App Store, it’s easy to see that games completely dominate the App Store.

US Top 25 Paid Apps

US Top 25 Paid Apps

If you’re an iPhone developer, this may be a big red flag if you’re creating productivity apps, utilities, and other non-game apps and you’re looking to develop the next big hit. But, as we’ve proven, it’s still possible to cut through and get a non-game up the ranks.

Be absolutely meticulous

We obsess over details. It makes for better apps. Camera+ was no different than any of our other apps in this regard and it’s taken literally dozens of design sessions to get it in the state that it’s currently in. I’m talking about hundreds of hours just for the app design.

But we’re passionate about this and love doing it so it hardly feels like work to us. Spend substantial time making your app look and feel good to the user and it’ll likely pay off.

Add some fun touches

If the market dictates that people want games and entertainment apps, but that’s not exactly what you’re creating, you can consider meeting at a midway point…

One of the things we set out to do from the start with Camera+ was to add some fun touches to it. This isn’t to say that we wanted to let the fun become a distraction, but by adding things like transition animations and such, it’d both make the app feel more fluid to the user, while also making using it be a little more entertaining.

So, on Camera+, you see cool little animations when you go from the main “SLR camera body” screen to the photo taking screen and the Lightbox. Add to that a few Easter eggs here and there and users can get a bit of delight out of an otherwise utilitarian app.

Consciously social

In order to have your app spread via word of mouth, it’s a good idea to include some sort of sharing in it when and where appropriate. The more “social”, the more potential it has to be viral.

I’m definitely of the mindset that if you give people too many choices, it significantly decreases the chance that they’ll actually pick one of them. So carefully choose the most popular services that are actually relevant to your app. For Camera+ this was Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and of course email.

And don’t just throw a sharing service in half-heartedly. For our Twitter sharing, we worked hard to make it better than any other Twitter photo sharing service out there. For example, we enable our users to upload larger photos than most other services and also upload several photos at a time. It’s definitely worked out for us as we have tons of people sharing their photos through Camera+ as this quick search on Twitter shows.

Go BIG on the launch

As Phill posted after our Voices launch, there’s hardly any substitute for a huge launch promotion and a giant mailing list to push it to. For Camera+, we did this by having the promo prize be over $10,000 in high-end camera gear. But the big difference between the Voices launch and this one was that for Voices we used the MacHeist list with around 600,000 members with a Mac-related giveaway, while for Camera+ we went with our more targeted tap tap tap-specific opt-in list with around 70,000 people on it.

Granted, not every developer has access to such resources, but there’s no reason that anyone can’t build-up resources of this sort over time… it’s taken us years so patience and persistence is key.

Note: Hopefully some of you will appreciate that the words “rocket” nor “balloon” never come up in this post. I’ll be forever grateful to Phill for making it so that we had to change the beginning of our phone menu to, “Welcome to tap tap tap. For rockets, press 1. For balloons, press 2…” :|

Don’t depend solely on domestic sales

The US iPhone market is huge. For our past apps, we generally saw figures between 60% and 70% for US sales compared to the rest of the world. This is for apps that weren’t translated to any other localization than American English. I had a recent conversation with someone from Apple about this figure and he confirmed that this was a very typical percentage breakdown.

Camera+ did very well in the US early on, reaching as high as #7 in the Top Paid chart and #5 in Top Grossing. But it actually fell off the Top 100 Paid chart faster than our past apps. Whereas Convert and Voices both stayed up for around two whole months each, Camera+ got knocked out in just three weeks.

So, back to the 60-70% US figure… for Camera+, the breakdown was actually 37% for US sales. This is obviously a huge difference. We’ve had days where international sales completely obliterated US ones… as in around under 2.5% US.

Camera+ first month US & worldwide daily sales

Camera+ first month US & worldwide daily sales

It’s a pretty unusual chart to say the least, beginning predominantly blue (US) then switching over to predominantly green (worldwide) about ⅓ of the way in..

One of the things that could account for higher potential international sales for non-game apps is that many countries don’t have games dominate the charts as much as they do in the US. Take Finland, for example, where Camera+ has done very well recently and you see that only 11 out of the top 25 are games or entertainment.

Finland Top 25 Paid Apps

Finland Top 25 Paid Apps

Now bear in mind that I’m not talking about our international success here from some know-it-all-ish point of view. The way things worked out for Camera+ came as somewhat of a surprise to us and we definitely ended up on the good side of a 225,000 sided-die for part of it with Apple making us App of the Week in many countries recently. We need to figure out ways to be more predictably effective in international markets. The obvious thing would be to translate the app to various languages, but it’s not at all a trivial effort.

Listen to feedback and keep improving

For some of our smaller apps, we’ve admittedly been taking a bit of time to get them updated. It’s harder to make a big impact unless an update for them is fairly substantial. But with a more complex app like Camera+, the updates are coming along faster. We have some very cool features planned and we expect that the app will rise in popularity as we implement them.

A very good sign for the future of Camera+ is that well over 60% of 1.0 purchasers have already updated to version 1.1 and several thousand more are still updating every day. This means that people are undoubtedly using the app and appreciate the new things added to it.

Risk: There are no guarantees in the App Store

You can spend a year on an app and hardly make a dime on it. It’s not just the nature of the App Store… it’s the nature of practically any business. I’ve seen some big-budget apps from big-name publishers basically fizzle out in the App Store. It’s a harsh reality so be prepared for it if you decided to try your hand at creating apps for the iPhone and iPad.

First and foremost, though, create something you’re proud of and you’ll have a better chance of success following. When you find yourself getting excited over the most trivial of details… things that most people won’t even notice, let alone care about… then you know that you’re on the right track.



tap tap tap is a leading iPhone and iPad app developer and publisher. We’ve been creating top-notch apps since the App Store first opened. Our apps are used by literally millions of people in all corners of the world.

A few of our favorite and most popular apps we’ve created are:


Who linked to this

34 comments

  1. Michael Murdock
    11:25am, July 12, 2010

    Great posting. The question is, are you open to considering outside ideas for apps. I’ve got a doozy, but need a developer to execute it.

  2. Amu
    11:33am, July 12, 2010

    Congrats on the sales! Would love to see more detailed campaign launch activities that you guys have done.

  3. Jesse Curry
    11:33am, July 12, 2010

    I think that you all did a great job socially promoting Camera+, I saw the App mentioned so many times that I finally ended up buying it, just to see what all the talk was about.

    There are a ton of nice little touches, I can tell that a lot of time was spent refining the App.

    That said, I don’t know this is an App that I’ll use a lot, but I’m sure that you’ll have many happy users.

  4. Davidmoreen
    11:36am, July 12, 2010

    I can not believe that you guys made over a 1/4 of a million. That is a ridiculous amount. I’m so happy for you guys!

  5. Josh Hofer
    11:38am, July 12, 2010

    Interesting you didn’t address the horrible sales tactic you guys used when this launched. Launching the app with a limited time ‘sale’ offer… and then a few days later REALLY putting it on ‘sale’ for .99c!

    If you’re interested in how MANY people feel about Tap Tap Tap you should read these comments: http://www.iphoneography.com/journal/2010/6/20/price-drop-camera-the-ultimate-photo-app.html

  6. Chris P.
    11:46am, July 12, 2010

    I am downloading this app now. I’ve been waiting till you updated for iPhone 4.

    However, when searching the app store on the iPhone it has become almost impossible to actually find Camera+.

    If you just search Camera, your top choice is Camera plus: free zoom, free flash, etc. It’s a clear rip off of your app name. I wonder how many people mistakenly purchased this app instead of Camera+ because they had a friend tell them to get camera plus for their iPhone. I’m wondering if the + in the app name isn’t throwing the search off?

    I don’t know how you get placed better within search but searching for apps is getting harder and harder with everyone ripping off successful app names. Another example is Find my iPhone app. Try searching the name. Sure it comes to the top but along with an app named Find my Device. The app some what copies the name but also some what copies the icon.

    People complain that Apple is too strict in the app store. But sometimes I wish they could help eliminate this confusion.

    I eventually had to go to the top photography app category to find it on the iPhone app store. If I couldn’t then I would need to probably go to your website to find the app store link.

    This is crazy and I hope a great app like this can get the search respect it deserves.

    Anyways, here’s my $1.99. Spend it wisely.

  7. David
    1:16pm, July 12, 2010

    Didn’t hurt that Lisa was on MacBreak Weekly on the TWIT network, and was able to plug the app there.

    That’s how I found out about it.

  8. mangochutney
    1:22pm, July 12, 2010

    I really happy for you guys and hope that those numbers will improve even further over time.

    Camera+ is one of those very few apps that genuinely amazed me upon installation. Great finish, great functionality, the cooperation between Ms. Bettany and you people really paid off.

    I heard about it on MacBreak Weekly, when Ms. Bettany was on the show. Since is was a tap tap tap app, I didn’t even blink before hitting ‘buy’.
    I’d have actually paid way more than 1.99
    But I won’t complain.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re doing it right.

    Cheers from Trier, Germany,

    Alex

  9. Dev Basu
    1:31pm, July 12, 2010

    Thanks for sharing your stats – Camera+ is definitely in the cream of the crop for app design and you UI is beautiful. I heard about the app via various mac blogs, and recommended it to all my friends after it released. You guys have a formula now – Stick to it and another mega appstore hit will be on its way (if not already on its way).

  10. Will
    1:42pm, July 12, 2010

    A post about why advertising iPhone apps would be great – please write one :-)

  11. Will
    1:43pm, July 12, 2010

    A post about why advertising iPhone apps doesn’t work anymore would be great – please write one :-)

  12. Ryan
    2:30pm, July 12, 2010

    I really appreciate your posts. You are the 37signals of the app world. I hope I can imitate your methodology in the future.

  13. Ryan
    3:55pm, July 12, 2010

    I think another reason why it’s mostly games in the top paid apps is because of the huge iPod Touch market. All of those users would have no use for a camera app. I’m not sure what the ratio is (and apparently it may be a little different in Finland) but either way that makes it more difficult for your iPhone-specific app to hit the top of the charts.

  14. Dirk
    4:57pm, July 12, 2010

    Nice App, nice Report, but your price policy is not very User friendly. At the end this will keep your clients away from new products of taptaptap. :(

    Not to get me wrong the app itself is great! Changing the price from 2.99 to 0.99 is not.

  15. Jeremy
    5:12pm, July 12, 2010

    I am curious on your tendency to stay away from advertising. From everything you are saying above you basically depended on an e-mail blast, your giveaway, and social. Is that really it? Did you ever consider throwing some money into an ad campaign of some sort (AdMob, Adwords, Facebook, etc) or do you think you will in order to keep sales up?

    Internationally, Camera+ isn’t localized is it? Do you think this would help your worldwide sales if it was?

  16. Keegan
    7:05pm, July 12, 2010

    Great Job, I’d be interested to hear more about why advertising is not worth the effort on the app store currently.

  17. Chris Davis
    4:11am, July 13, 2010

    Hi, What is the UK price of the app, and has the price always been fixed at that value?

  18. Christopher Phin
    8:35am, July 13, 2010

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on advertising too; I’m coming at it from another perspective, as I’m a magazine editor. I stress: I don’t sell or involve myself with advertising, though my magazines carry it. But I’d like to hear what you’d like to say – or have a chat; ping me for my phone number – on how magazines and websites can support developers in useful ways that benefit everyone in the industry.

  19. Sean Farrell
    12:27pm, July 13, 2010

    I love this app. Glad you are doing well with it.

  20. Miki
    2:27pm, July 13, 2010

    Unfortunately, my Camera+ has a bug in it and I have stopped using it. The shutter lag is so slow and often freezes on me! Anyone else having this problem?

  21. Phil
    8:00am, July 15, 2010

    I knew tap tap tap apps before, and when I heard about Camera+ on MacBreak Weekly, I immediately bought it without thinking twice… and I’m glad I did :)

    Even thought I’m the kind of guy that has 30+ photography apps (to try them all and find the best one), I have to admit that Camera+ is on my Top5 photo apps. It’s definitely a 4.5/5 stars, and worth the $1.99

    I would just wish more optional grid (such a Level system by using the gyro and accelerometer), a custom Timer (0, 3, 5, 10s using the flash LED for countdown indication) and some of the FX from Hipstamatic I actually do like (for crappy pictures style effect.

  22. SimpleSense
    2:15pm, July 22, 2010

    I enjoyed the story and the app looks amazing. Do you have any plans to make games in the future?

  23. lerouxb
    9:43am, July 23, 2010

    Not sure about other countries, but the games category is still missing in South Africa whereas the entertainment category exists. No-one can tell you why. A handful of games have been mis-categorised into the entertainment category and those work just fine. Perhaps other countries have the same problem? That probably explains the large number of sales internationally. Without games the market probably moves much slower for countries like South Africa, so apps can remain featured or near the top of lists for much longer.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the mailing lists you market to are probably dominated by people that live in the US which would explain the huge early adoption rate.

    The funny thing is that the android market’s games category is available everywhere, but paid apps only show up in some countries due to a lack of google checkout support. So for probably a large part of the world there is no way to buy mobile games no matter which platform you buy into.

  24. AWallpaper
    1:51pm, July 27, 2010

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/awallpaper/id374189866?mt=8

    AWallpaper

    With over 30,000+ high quality iphone wallpapers which is growing every day, Awallpaper offers the largest collection of wallpapers currently available! AWallpaper Free is the most full-featured,versatile and functional app you could have at any price

  25. TimB
    8:03pm, August 6, 2010

    I’m really liking Camera+, especially since the recent update sped up the time between taking shots. I have noticed an odd behavior where thumbnails of images taken with Camera+ don’t show up in iPhoto when trying to import. That’s the only real issue I’ve come across so far. Great app.

  26. Oisin Prendiville
    8:24am, August 19, 2010

    For the launch competition did you have to build your own bot to track retweets or if you know of a reliable online service for doing so?

  27. RMC
    8:44am, August 25, 2010

    I loved the app until …. I posted a pic to Twitter from the app and noticed ALL of the pics ever posted from the app can be seen! There is no way to delete them! Therefore, I no longer use the the “social” piece to the app. I download to camera roll and upload.

  28. Paul Teitelman
    2:07pm, July 24, 2011

    Awesome write up on an amazing app, Apple just doesn’t stop and now with the FaceTime feature it’s great for long distance interactions. And obviously you’re point is bang on – not every app is going to be amazing but as long as people keep sharing their reviews you can get a better chance of getting a good app.

  29. Vincent
    8:07pm, November 7, 2011

    Very insightful post. I’m one of the buyers of Camera+. I use it more than the default app and like it very much.

    You guys made a very nice app.

  30. Lizabeth Holste
    11:28pm, March 22, 2012

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  31. Michele
    8:58pm, June 11, 2012

    I like the app, and appreciate the ease with which I can share images on Facebook.
    But I wish there was an easy way to download images from my iPhone directly to my computer’s hard drive, as there is with some other camera apps. If there is a way, I haven’t been able to figure it out.
    the only I can see to get images to my hard drive is to email them to myself, and this is cumbersome when there are a number of images to be transferred.

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  34. Aldo Coulter
    12:33am, July 31, 2012

    Sewer whenever My partner and i listened or go by way of a write-up I found new things that helped me to write. A lot of thanks!


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