The iOS App Store Brings Users Only Because It’s the Only Choice
One might argue that developers should love the App Store because it brings the users.
AppleInsider writes about the App Store, Hey app, and David Heinemeier Hansson:
Like any other product or service, Hey has to persuade people that they have a problem it can solve, and that it’s worth paying for. You can’t persuade people of anything, though, if they don’t know about it. And then if you do persuade them, you can’t profit without a way to get your product into their hands.
His first argument against the App Store on Apple’s cut got Hansson and Hey a lot more notice than it might have. But it’s the App Store that gets his product to people. It’s the App Store that means if he persuades people it’s worth it, they can instantly have it on their iOS device.
This is a misconception that many people have — they think the App Store brings some kind of exceptional distribution and marketing that developers wouldn’t have on their own.
It’s just not true. It lacks even a grain of truth.
Setting up distribution of an app is easy and cheap. I do it for NetNewsWire for Mac with no additional costs beyond what I already pay to host this blog. This was true in 2005 as much as now — distribution is not some exceptional value the App Store provides.
And then there’s marketing. Sure, being featured used to mean something to revenue, but it hasn’t meant that much beyond just ego points in years. To be on the App Store is to be lost within an enormous sea of floating junk. No matter how well you do at your app description and screenshots — even if you get some kind of feature — your app will not be found by many people.
Build it (and upload it to the App Store) and they will not come.
Instead, you have to do marketing on your own, on the web and on social media, outside of the App Store. Just like always. The App Store brings nothing to the table.
So while it’s true to say that all of an iOS app’s users come via the App Store, it’s only true because there’s no other option.
If I could distribute my iOS app outside of the App Store, I would. I’d switch in a heartbeat. Even though it’s free and money isn’t my issue. It would make my work as an app maker easier.