Launching an iPhone app – what happens next?

Thing of mystery, the Apple Apps StoreWe’re about to submit the first of our iPhone applications to Apple – the culmination of four very long months of hard work, poor diet and frequent swearing. We’ve pulled an indecent number of all-nighters (somebody call for the world’s smallest violin, quickly) and we’re excited that it’s nearly time to share our work. We’ve shown mock-ups to a handful of folk and the response has been positive, so we’re hopeful it’ll be favourably received.

That said, we’re a little in the dark regarding what happens next. As in heavily sedated, lights out, head wrapped in a sack, bundled into a chest and buried deep in a well full of concrete. We’ve no clue how many apps we’ll sell, if any, because there’s next to no information available to use as a comparison. Apple only release sales information on individual apps to their developers; a handful have shared their sales figures online, but unsurprisingly these are usually for apps that have sold well.

Without numbers to guide us, setting an appropriate price for the app is also guesswork. And then we have to consider if should we be selling it at all. The store is populated with thousands of free apps, many more costing less than a pound, all collectively driving down consumer expectations. Are we realistic to put a price on our work?

So to summarise – we’ve spent four months creating a product that nobody might buy, or that we’ll have to give away for free. Brilliant. What, if anything, are we doing to ensure it hasn’t been an utterly pointless waste of our lives?

As I mentioned, we’re not looking to launch a standalone app; we want to establish a brand within the store. Launching subsequent apps should be substantially faster and easier than birthing the first, since Jon’s months of coding and gnashing of teeth will provide a basic template that new content can be dropped into. More importantly, a series of products unified by a common brand can cross-promote one another and help tease out more sales*.

We’re also planning a marketing and PR campaign, although our strategy is at odds with the suggestions of other developers and consultants we’ve discussed it with. We’ve been told to concentrate on courting the online movers and shakers, to create a “buzz” amongst peers and bloggers, but we’re keen to target traditional media – press, magazines, radio. We thought we’d share our thinking, but feel free to disagree; there’s no agreed methodology for promoting iPhone apps yet, so the more conversation on the subject, the better:

The iPhone in 2009 isn’t going to be about early adopters, it’s going to be about millions of consumers wanting a handset as a lifestyle accessory.

We have a lifestyle-orientated product that’s broad in appeal, so it makes sense to consider how we reach these potential customers. These average, everyday people live very full and satisfying lives oblivious to the musings of web 2.0 commentators, start-ups and tech blogs. A very broad example of this might be Facebook; despite our perception of its popularity, four out of five people in the UK don’t have an account.

If we only shoot for the moon and reach out to those who are active in the new media landscape, then we’re going to fall short. Of course we’ll be looking for a review from the likes of 148apps.com and a nod from Techcrunch would be exciting, but why not strive for exposure from Heat or in-flight magazines, too?

We’ll see. Despite the future being a swirling vortex of uncertainty and potential deathly doom, we have enthusiasm, belief and a plan. We’re looking forward to seeing what happens next. Paul

* In lieu of hard facts, we’ve used voodoo to established that we might (or might not) sell between 200 and 400 apps a month, so the venture only becomes worthwhile if we can launch a series of apps. That number may be modestly low (or arrogantly high), but we’ll let you know how close we actually are once the app launches.

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