A Tale of Two Apps — Or Why You Shouldn’t Automatically Give Up

Some of you may know that I have a debt snowball app called Pay Off Debt.

I got the idea for it one day while browsing the financial apps on my iPhone. I noticed that there weren’t any apps like it, and thought there might be a market for it.

“Thinking there might be a market for it” meant that I would have loved an app like that back when I was paying off my student loan. Beyond that, the only other things that made me believe people might want a debt snowball app were a few reviews on a couple of credit card apps.

So, basically I spent about $1500 and a lot of hours of time to create the very first version of the iPhone app based on a sample of about 4 people total. It was an idea that I wanted to give a shot.

And you know what? Pay Off Debt was a success. I sold 423 apps the first month, recouping more than half of my initial investment. Sales improved after that, especially when it became one of the top 25 financial apps.

People kept asking if Pay Off Debt was available for Android too, so of course that was my next project. After another investment of time and money, I released the Android version, hoping it would essentially double my sales.

But it didn’t. Not by a long shot.

The Android sales were barely a tenth of my iPhone sales, even though both versions of the app (initially) had the exact same features. (I’ve since added additional features to the iPhone version.)

Why? I still have no idea. Maybe Android users are less likely to buy apps. Maybe it’s harder to find apps in the Android Market than it is in the App Store. Maybe Android users are less likely to be in debt, or to use a debt snowball. I’d say maybe there was a better Android debt snowball app out there, but at the time mine was the only one. At some point (soon, I hope!) I’m going to do what I can to figure it out and improve.

The thing is, if I had done the Android version of Pay Off Debt first, I never would have done the iPhone version at all.

Instead, I would have told myself “Oh well, it was a bad idea. It was just a bet anyway.”

I would have given up and moved on — leaving thousands of dollars on the table.

That experience was enough to teach me an important lesson: when things aren’t going the way you’d like, don’t just assume that you’re a failure. Instead, analyze the situation. Look for alternative ways of doing things, and places to improve. Try to figure out how to make things better. And then try some more.

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22 comments

  • Thanks for sharing your experience Jackie! Been wanting to develop an iPhone app for a while now.. not finding the time!

    I’ve considered Android, but looks like iPhone wins from a financial aspect.

  • Great message!

    Just curious how large is the Android user base vs the IPhone user base. It could be that the Android user base is much, much smaller than the IPhone user base.

    Perhaps as the Android user base continues to increase, so will your sales :)

    Have a happy (and profitable) New Year :)

  • Congrats on creating apps. I’m amazed. Interesting about the iPhone vs. Android market now. I have a Blackberry and never download apps. I’ll ask my Android friends if they download as many apps. I know my iPhone friends do.

  • I think you learned more from the your miss (android) than from your success. Let’s face it, you always do! I think the iPhone market is very different from the rest of the smart phones. Apple customers are much more loyal, probably younger, and apparently more open. Maybe build on your success. Good Luck.

    • Normally I would agree with you (failures usually teach me a LOT) but in this case I think I mainly learned not to automatically blame myself. (Which is a good thing, for sure!)

  • What a great success story! I wouldn’t even know how to begin to think about creating an app or what goes into it. :) Kudos to you!

    I agree with your perspective on the surrounding issue and had a similar situation happen to me a couple of months ago; so this was a great validation – so thank you!

    Deidre

  • Cool! I didn’t know you made an app- that’s such an amazing accomplishment. What a great investment- it will be good passive income for sure.

    I think less Android sales because there are more iPhone apps for sure, what like 100,000 compared to 10,000? Maybe it’s harder to find those apps on androids? I”m not sure. I have an iPhone myself.

    • Yes I am very happy with it, especially this Christmas season :)

      I would think that less apps available = more sales, but apparently that’s not the case.

  • I would be thrilled I wrote an app! How exciting! You never know, the Android app might pick up. The thing is, you have a skill, there is a market for it, and some things will be more successful than others.

    Oh, I have been meaning to tell you that I was contemplating buying an Ipad for my husband for Christmas (which I did). However, when I was doing research, your website was one of the first sites that popped up! Great job!

    • Yeah I hope the Android app will pick up. Maybe that will happen after I update it with more functionality. And that’s funny about my site and the iPad. Hope your husband liked it :)

  • I wonder why the Android app didn’t do well. I have an Android and have yet to pay for an app; maybe we’re more frugal than iPhone users?

    • Hm, maybe. Although the Android vs. iPhone costs are pretty much the same monthly. I read a study yesterday that said basically that this is a common result among people who develop paid apps for both Apple and Android, and that Android users tend to want everything for free. That makes me think that maybe a free app with advertising might be more successful on Android, although I’m not sure how successful advertising is there.

  • Interesting results! It’s much easier to develop for Android, so combined with the smaller usebase, it might just mean there’s that much more competition (though you said yours was the only one originally).

    I don’t know… I love the fact that Android is open and that you can develop for it on pretty much any platform. iPhone on the other hand restricts you to using a Mac, and they place more control over the content. Down the road I would think that Android would be the better platform, but maybe due to the higher barriers and higher perceived quality as well as customers who actually purchase apps, Apple is actually the better platform due to higher sales. Interesting!

  • Paul Balzano

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I think it’s a great idea and have been contemplating it for a while. Did you hire someone to do the coding? Do they get a royalty or do you own the app once it’s developed. Where can I get more information to pursue my idea?

    • I do pay someone to do the coding. They bid out the project based on the information I provide, and I pay the number of hours that they estimate. If there are changes to the project along the way, hours for that are added too. They are doing it as “work for hire” so it is my app. You can find app developers on Elance. I’ll email you the name of the company that does the work for me if you like.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience. This stuff can be an emotional drain… just have to keep trying :)