Apple (AAPL) is tweaking the way its iPhone/iPod touch app store looks in iTunes. This is good news for users, who will, in theory, get a better experience. (And might download/buy more apps.) It’s also good news for app developers, who have complained that the app store too heavily favours a tiny cross section of all available software.
AppleInsider: TouchMeme’s Krishna Vegesna tipped AppleInsider off to the overnight design tweaks, which “accomplished three important things,” according to the iPhone app developer. First, he said, Apple now highlights the most popular applications on each category page.
As part of this new grouping, the Cupertino-based company has also separated the most popular Free Apps — which previously dominated the most popular listings — from most popular Paid Apps, breaking each out into separate sidebar modules that flank the general listings for each category.
What the new layout doesn’t appear to do, yet: Give higher priced apps an advantage over cheap, $0.99 apps, which many developers have complained about. If you haven’t yet read iPhone developer Craig Hockenberry’s manifesto yet, it’s a good one. The gist: Because Apple’s “most popular” list, where many/most purchases come from, favours the apps that have been downloaded the most — not the ones that’ve brought in the most revenue — it’s riskier to fund more expensive, higher quality software.
Hockenberry: We have a lot of great ideas for iPhone applications. Unfortunately, we’re not working on the cooler (and more complex) ideas. Instead, we’re working on 99¢ titles that have a limited lifespan and broad appeal. Market conditions make ringtone apps most appealing.
Before commencing any new iPhone development, we look at the numbers and evaluate the risk of recouping our investment on a new project. Both developers and designers cost somewhere between $150-200 per hour. For a three man month project, let’s say that’s about $80K in development costs. To break even, we have to sell over 115K units. Not impossible with a good concept and few of weeks of prominent placement in iTunes.
But what happens when we start talking about bigger projects: something that takes 6 or even 9 man months? That’s either $150K or $225K in development costs with a break even at 215K or 322K units. Unless you have a white hot title, selling 10-15K units a day for a few weeks isn’t going to happen. There’s too much risk.