By Rana June Sobhany, Co-Founder, Medialets
On July 10, 2008, the day the App Store opened for business, Steve Jobs told Jefferson Graham of USA Today that it would launch with 500 applications designed for the iPhone and the iPod Touch. Of the initial 500, 125 applications would be free downloads. (This is a very significant number and will be further discussed in the next chapter.)
Initially, any software built for the iPhone and iPod Touch was referred to as a “third-party application,” which in Apple-speak was fundamentally a hedge. In essence it was Apple’s attempt to distance itself from these potentially pernicious programs, and as consumers and developers became more comfortable with the platform, “apps” became common nomenclature.
The App Store enabled users to buy applications and transfer them to an iPhone or iPod Touch with the iPhone 2.0 software update, which became available through iTunes on the same day. The applications that launched on the platform ranged from business to game applications, entertainment to educational applications, and many more applications available for free or for sale.
The iPhone 3G, released on July 11, 2008, marked a quantum leap in the capabilities of the device, but not particularly on the hardware side. The new operating system, iPhone 2.0, flipped the switch and enabled users to download and access applications from the App Store.
While there was a significant amount of data suggesting that sales of the new iPhone 3G would be high—augmented by the sight of droves of fans lined up outside Apple, some even camping out overnight—Apple did not or could not anticipate the astounding popularity of the App Store. Up to that moment, it had garnered a great deal of success from being tightly controlled and quality driven. But consumers voted with their attention, and App Store sales reflected an overwhelmingly positive response to consumers’ ability to download additional content to their iPhones and iPod Touches.
Ten million applications were downloaded the first weekend. This was staggering to analysts, competitors, and developers alike.
In the month before and the month after the launch of the App Store, I reached out to top iPhone developers and indies alike. I quickly discovered that not one developer I spoke with was actively interested in mobile application analytics—the type of tracking tool that allows developers and sales professionals to understand usage and user patterns. This was especially perplexing to me because I knew that monetization opportunities could arise from having a deep and meaningful understanding of what users liked about applications and how they chose to spend their time engaged with them.
This was a free tool, and yet no one was interested!
The people who were interested were drawn in by the price point of the analytics product (free) and really nothing else. These developers weren’t thinking about the future of their apps, they were experimenting with a new platform and did not intend to build scalable businesses. For the most part, developers just wanted to build cool stuff.
But everything changed around the end of July 2008. Suddenly individual developers had built applications that had been downloaded 50,000 times.
My phone started ringing off the hook.
“Ohmigod. What are we going to do now?!”
Developers at all skill and experience levels had realized that Apple was providing little more than download figures from customers. There were no purchasing patterns or spending habits. There weren’t even engagement times listed—how many minutes a user spent using an application.
This was unsettling to developers who now realized how useful that data would be to them in creating businesses around their applications.
And just like that, Apple reached 1 billion downloads after only nine months in existence.
This post was excerpted from MOBILIZE: Strategies for Success from the Frontlines of the App Revolution (January 2011; Vanguard Press), with Ms. Sobhany’s permission. Register today for her DBW 2011 Workshop, Mobile Strategy: Marketing Content in an iPhone/iPad Era.
Rana June Sobhany is the co-founder of Medialets and author of the upcoming book MOBILIZE: Strategies for Success from the Frontlines of the App Revolution. Specializing in developing customer acquisition strategies, brand positioning, and leveraging public relations as marketing, Rana applies her unique style and methodology of integrated marketing communications to promote companies and ideas across political, nonprofit, entertainment, advertising, and social channels in the mobile space.