iOS and Mac App Store Sales Data for Lens•Lab

I debated whether or not I should make this post. It seems like most software developers keep sales numbers close to their vests. I suppose I can see why this is (sales data being proprietary company information that might be used by competitors), but I finally decided that that rationale doesn’t really apply to me.

Let me begin by telling you who I am and why I’m here.

I’ve been a technology junky for my whole life. I’ve been using Macintosh computers since the early ’90s and had one of the original iPhones shortly after they first came out. I’ve always approached programming from the hobbyist perspective but actually got more serious about it during the job I had a couple of years ago.

I learned Visual Basic.Net to solve some pretty bad problems with a product that it was my job to support. I wrote a utility that made it MUCH easier to manage 700+ digital video recorders spread out over the state of Missouri. Being able to come up with software that makes peoples lives easier and getting paid for it was pretty cool stuff!

I’d been trying to teach myself Objective C and the Cocoa frameworks for a while. Once my son was born and I became a stay-at-home dad, I finally buckled down and began serious study.

I was also a photography nerd and I guess I got the idea for Lens•Lab when I was trying to explain how depth of field works to a friend of mine.

Basically, Lens•Lab was hatched kind of on a lark and just for fun. The $99 iOS developer fee was not too expensive so I thought, “why don’t I just put this app out there and see what happens?”

While I was developing Lens•Lab, I relied on the internet A WHOLE BUNCH. From simple problems like how a certain class works, to how apps are marketed, to how to make optimized box blur algorithms I relied on the kindness of strangers posting what they learned on the internet.

So, this is really why I’m posting this. Hopefully this data will help others out there when they are figuring out the mobile app landscape.

One more thing I should mention: I haven’t done ANY marketing or advertising whatsoever for these apps. I’ve posted to my personal Facebook (I have some 300 odd “friends”) and made a few public posts on Google+. I did get one review on 148 Apps which I will go into more. I posted in a thread on Ars Technica about the app. Other than that, these sales seem to be mostly from people finding the app on the app store or harnessing teh Googles.

So, what are the sales numbers for an cheap inexpensive, niche, hobby application released on both the iOS and Mac App Stores? Let’s get on with it!

Lens•Lab for iOS devices sales data:

  • Released 129 days ago on April 18, 2011
  • Sold 963 copies
  • This averages to 7.47/day
  • Past two weeks sales: 65
  • Past two weeks average: 4.65/day

Lens•Lab for Mac OS X sales data:

  • Released 28 days ago on July 28, 2011
  • Sold 256 copies
  • This averages to 9.14/day
  • Past two weeks sales: 101
  • Past two weeks average: 7.21/day

That’s the basic info. Let’s dig down a bit:

Here’s a chart of the iOS version of Lens•Lab since it first came out:

Here are some interesting observations:

  • There were a very large number of sales on the first few days. (Biggest sales day was release day at 98.)
  • There is a small spike around April 27 that may or may not have been because of the review on 148 Apps.
  • Sales trend more or less evens out after the first month.
  • Once sales “even out” they can still vary wildly. Some days I sell 15 copies, some days I sell 4.

Now here is the chart for the Mac OS X version:

Some interesting observations:

  • While sales are marginally strong on the first few days, there is not nearly the downward slope we see on the iOS version.
  • We still have a pretty wide variation in sales from day to day.
  • We’ll know more about how the Mac OS version is doing as time goes on.

Some other things to note:

  • Pretty close to 50% of all sales are from the US. Of the rest of the world, the markets break down like so:
    • US: 50%
    • UK: 10%
    • Germany: 7%
    • Canada: 7%
    • Australia: 6%
    • Italy: 5%
    • France: 4%
    • Etc…

So one big question is: what explains the massive boost in sales in the first few days of the iOS version? I think the answer might be two-fold: better discoverability for iOS apps, and being in the “what’s hot” section of the iOS App Store. For iOS users, there are more avenues to discovering new apps (both via the device itself and the iOS App Store in iTunes) than there is for Mac OS X apps. Also, Lens•Lab was in the “new and noteworthy” section of the iOS App Store for a couple of weeks pretty soon after it was launched.

Another question is this: why are there almost twice as many sales for the Mac OS X version than the iPhone version, especially considering the Mac App Store has to be at least an order of magnitude smaller? This may be a bad question as the Mac OS X sales may dwindle just like the iOS numbers did. I’m kind of going on “data after one month”. But I think what’s going on is this: there is an expectation that iOS apps should be cheap or free. Basically, even though I’m not really competing with other fancy depth of field calculators, I’m still competing with all the other apps that sell for 99¢ that do far more. So, a small/one-trick pony type iOS app is not that great of a deal for 99¢. Compare this with the Mac OS X app store where you routinely see apps for $30 or $60 or $300. Compared with those, a little 99¢ app is a deal.

Now, let’s play some “what-if?” games.

Suppose I had 10 different little utility apps on the iOS and Mac App Stores. Suppose I charge 99¢ for them. How many would I have to sell a day to make a “decent” living?

10 apps, selling at 99¢ apiece, each selling 20 copies a day (not unreasonable), would net you $51k a year. Not a bad living for a self-employed app developer. I’m not saying that I make this (I only have one app out) I’m just trying to see what is realistically possible.

Anyway, I hope these can help some smaller developers out. Keep in mind that this is not my “job” (full-time father is), it’s really a hobby that’s paying for itself plus a bit more. I had no idea how much money I might make with this (I really just hoped I would make back the developer costs) but I’m totally delighted and happy with the sales numbers I have. Do you have any thoughts on these numbers? Does this help you as an app developer? Leave a note in the comments!

Last but not least, thanks to all of you who purchased Lens•Lab!


5 thoughts on “iOS and Mac App Store Sales Data for Lens•Lab

  1. This post reminds me of many of the talks we have had regarding all of this. Thanks for sharing this in such a coherent way. I personally love creative entrepreneurial thinking.

    I only want to add something that popped into my head while reading this.

    Since you don’t do any marketing, I wonder what a tiny bit of it might do to your numbers. I know you have seen how to get ranked in Google organically with good content and how that might generate traffic because of the Air post. What if you were able to convert some of that traffic to sales if you had a blog about aps or photography or … That is what is missing in my business model, something to sell. I get the traffic (although I am at the whim of any changes to the Google algo but this is just life on the web as I have seen ups and downs in my traffic for Google for years) but have nothing to convert, to sell. I need to sell advertising and as we know that is not the best revenue model.

    We should talk some more. Even back 4 years ago, I thought that any product or service could benefit from curation the way I do it, instead of content creation. With minimum time one could build a site targeting certain keywords and/or niche subject and then try to sell to whatever traffic you get. Curation as marketing?

    fyi I just checked I have over 90,000 pages in the Google index and over the past 30 days search engines (mainly Google) have sent visitors to my site via 23,372 different keywords all organically and this is with my site’s traffic down because of the Google doldrums.


    1. Thanks for your comments, Tomas.

      Marketing and I have a uneasy relationship. I pretend it doesn’t exist because I haven’t really figured out a way to think about it that didn’t make me feel skeevy.

      I really like the idea of things (whether they are blog posts or pieces of software) growing organically on their own merits rather than artificially inflating them with advertising or marketing.

      Also, I don’t really know what I’m talking about.

      Either way, I’d be happy to talk about this some more! Have you had the Straffe Hendrik Quad at Broadway?

  2. Roman

    Thank you for sharing. I really like figure posts.

  3. Corey Jones

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for the great post and your willingness to share! I am working on a Mac App Store app and was trying to get a feel for the volume of sales and how it was going since the store is fairly new. Do you mind sharing real quick how you’ve done since August? Have your sales held steady? Thanks!

    1. Hi Corey,

      Sales have fallen a bit but they’re still decent. The iOS version of Lens•Lab sells about 4 or 5 a day and the Mac version sells about 3 a day.

      Hope this helps!

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