App Spamming on the Mac App Store

I decided to create a new thread for this so that it wouldn’t detract from the original topic.

Some people wanted to know how I became labelled as an App Spammer on the Mac App Store, and as such have had to suffer the consequences.

Because I’d spent a long time working on my current photo editing app, the misses and I wanted it the launch to go as smoothly as possible. So we individually read the App Store guidelines and compared notes. Some things in the program were adjusted, but we didn’t see any major problems.

When the first rejection came in because of this; we decided that as we were not going to have enough time to update our older apps to 64-Bit before the launch of Catalina, that we’d pull them from the App Store. So we did, we cut down our apps from what ever it was to 3 or 4, including most of our paid apps, in the belief that we’d be able to get HDRtist NX 2 on the App Store.

Apple still were not happy with it, two weeks later we were finally able to speak to someone on the phone at Apple. She was very nice, but she was firm. The problem was that they considered Photo Editing apps to be “Template” apps. Which means that you shouldn’t sell multiple photo editing apps. Instead there should be one single app and use In-App-Purchase to distinguish the different products. Our model for this new product was to have 3 different versions at different price points, FREE, $19.99 and the all signing all dancing version at $59.99. While again it’s not stated that you cannot do this, we’re not allowed to do this.

The Apple approved solution was to merge the two paid products into one, and to use IAP to separate the products. Obviously I was uncomfortable at this, because it required going back, modifying the structure of the program and starting testing all over again. So we launched the product on our site, did all the marketing that we could and set about clearing up the issues that were now happening because of a broader range of hardware the product was being used on.

After 3 months of finding workarounds or replacing code to make the app work on more systems (mainly fighting Core Image issues, where it behaves differently on different versions of the OS and same OS but different hardware), I finally completed the merge. We tested it and the experience was horrible. The very concept of asking the user to pay once to get the mid-tier product, only to then try to promote them to pay for the higher product, it’s the solution the Apple encouraged us to follow. But we both fundamentally hated it so much, that I undid the merge, and completed the $19.99 version without this. At last we finally had a modern Paid app in the Mac App Store. Sales of it, are atrocious. It’s been a complete and utter waste of time.

My next job is to attempt the merge again, but this time, into the FREE product. Although I don’t have much hope for it, but we really need the money and therefore I must prevail.

Why didn’t we start with IAP? Because in the past I’ve attempted IAP 3 times, and each time, it’s been a complete failure for us. The most difficult thing to do is to provide a balance between having a totally usable FREE application, and features worth paying for. Hopefully this time it will be different.

What exactly do you mean with “horrible”? Did you ask some testers if they thought your app horrible, too? There are several other apps that do similar IAPs compared to your app. If you tell your user upfront I really don’t see a problem. Free is 800x600, 20$ is up to 2000x1600 and 60$ is >2000. Or you do your IAP with features.

I would consider 20$ to be very cheap for any photo app.

We both decided that we hated the idea of selling the App for $19.99, only to them offer them an upgrade option to purchase the full version. It would require two purchases to get the top-of-the-line product and we didn’t feel that this was an honest way of doing business.

So our primary goal now is to bring the expensive app into the FREE version, we both feel more comfortable promting to users to “Upgrade” when they got the original app for FREE.

I suspect that my opinion on what’s honest or correct is the reason why we suck at business.

Except those guys are still there and still cranking out those kind of apps. I understand that because the rules are interpreted, and therefore it’s down to the actual reviewer to decide, but I gotta tell you, it sure does feel like I’m on a “Developer we want to go away and die” list.

Why does it feel that way? I don’t get it.

The other problem I see is that you compete with the likes of Affinity Photo which has a price of 54€ and offers much more functionality.

About your website: What does the following tell me?

[quote]INTRODUCING “POLARIS”
Polaris is our 8th generation tone mapping engine, she was designed from the ground up to do one thing and to do it well; create stunning detail enhanced HDR images, while she compresses the huge dynamic range into an a beautiful HDR rendering that you’d be happy showing friends & family.[/quote]

What do I care about the 8th generation? Nothing. Is your Polaris better than the other apps? If yes, how?

I know what you mean but do your users know that, too? Your copywriting is full of jargon. You are writing for beginners and hobbyists.

There are only 2 ways to make more sales:
a) You make a blog about photo editing where you give answers to common problems. This is slow.
b) Advertisements which also isn’t easy to do. Do you do at least retargeting?

Perry Marshall is THE marketing strategy guy. Neil Patel is excellent for SEO. He says, for instance, that translations are very important. But he is a tiny bit crazy. The incomeschool.com guys are much more down to earth with SEO. They have a good program on how to monetize a blog (monetize is a totally stupid word).

I agree with Beatrix.
Not saying your photo editor is bad (it’s infact very good) but seeing there are very big players like Pixelmator Pro and Affinity Photo that can do the same (and more) it’s very hard to attract users to buy something else. Both are priced very lowly so many people prefer this above buying separately Photo apps that’s only doing some specific things. Tutorials for doing advanced things with both apps are free to be found on Youtube.

So basically you are swimming in a sea with a lot of competition. Trying to be the red monkey is nowadays very difficult.

However, I do think specific photo editing apps for iOS are a different kind: everything needs to be edited very fast so those apps are usefull and popular. I don’t think this is the case for desktop (macOS or Windows).
So maybe try shifting to iOS for creating photo editors. That also means shifting to Xcode.

In my experience a good app will sell also very good outside the Appstore. That said, 5 years ago , that was different though (read: booming Appstore era).

Never go this way. Any cell phone gets pictures at a much higher res than this. Never disappoint the user not being able to use “his picture”. As Sam must know, it’s about features. All listed, user choose which ones. Basic features+something exclusive (because competition) free. Advanced ones for an IAP fee, and even more advanced+exclusives for another IAP fee. Something like this. ABC. People must be able to go to C without passing through B. The prices are A->B, B->C and A->C. The $60 version should be insanely great and desirable or it’ll sell nothing due to competition. Maybe you should consider a price revision like A:0, B:20, C:40. So the steps would be A:0 AB: 20, BC:20, AC:40.

In many ways, with Check Print’R+ and Check Writer III+, like Sam, I have to contend with big players who have both deep pockets and devoted followers. At one point, reviews got so bad for Check print’R+ that I tried to launch a new, improved version. Apple reviewers immediately rejected it as app spam.

As a result, I stay with the existing apps that were pretty alone when I launched back in 2013. As a matter of fact, spammers flocked around me like flees since.

I will probably stop creating big versions anyway. The MAS is slowing down for me, and I am doing all I can to produce Android and iOS versions with the same features. People are massively turning to mobile. Already, Amazon does more than 50% of its sales though mobile.

I remember when Apple would reject you for using IAP to allow the user to upgrade. I don’t remember the wording but the guidelines prohibited using in-app purchase to “unlock features”. They were only for purchasing “downloadable content”. Times sure have changed…

Thanks all for your support; over these last few years I have become incredibly demoralized about my choice in career. I find it most upsetting that I’m far more capable now than I’ve ever been, now the struggle to make money is harder than ever.

We’re currently exploring different options for doing this with IAP on the Mac App Store. My current train of thought is as follows.

Keep the FREE version as it is, or add maybe add a few more features to it.
Offer the user 4 options.

  1. A one-time 14 day trial, now that Apple allow this.
  2. $39.99 for 3 years, all features unlocked.
  3. $19.99 for a year, all features unlocked.
  4. $4.99 a month, all features unlocked. This would allow for longer trials, or someone who only needs it’s temporarily.

These options would be non-automatic renewing. In theory I would be able to offer discounted versions for existing customers. I know Apple will give us developers a discount for an auto renewing subscription when it enters the second year, but I haven’t a seen a way how I can pass this on to the customer, it appears the customer pays the same price.

Nothing is set in stone yet, I am just playing around with ideas, trying to find a mix of what would constitute good value for the customer, and less complication for us.

I see some companies offer things like.

  1. $4.99 a month.
  2. $2.99 a month (min of 12 months).
  3. $1.99 a month (min of 36 months).

Or even, something like this.

  1. $49.99 a year.
  2. $4.99 a month.
  3. $1.50 a week.
  4. $0.50 a day.