Developers resorting to giving away apps to help them make more sales

There’s no doubting that independent developers have it hard on the App Store and I’m fairly confident everyone reading this will agree with me there. The sheer number of apps in the App Store in 2020 makes discoverability almost impossible and Apple knows it. It’s why it’s spending money and time on App Store editorial, highlighting apps that might otherwise go unnoticed. But it’s a problem that doesn’t have an easy fix, unfortunately.


I’ve been trying to help smaller developers out where I can, sharing their apps here and on Twitter. But again, that won’t fix the problem and I’m not here to tell you what will. But I do want to give a little anecdote to show just how bad things have gotten.

Right now developers are giving their apps away in an attempt to sell more apps.


Yes, you read that right.

Indie App Santa is a project that will see a new independent app go free or be heavily discounted every day through December. Aviary was free yesterday. Today it’s The Wallpaper App. But why are they giving their apps away and how does that mean they can get sales in the future?

To answer that, we have to look at the numbers.

Yesterday, Aviary was downloaded around 22,000 times. At $4.99 per download that would have raked in almost $110,000 for its developer. That’s more than a year’s salary for a lot of people. In a single day.

But to see the full picture, we need to look at how that compares to a normal day. Say, Friday last week.

That’s quite the jump in downloads. And while startling, this still doesn’t explain how going free helps developers sell apps. Terrifyingly, it might not help them at all but the idea is simple – more downloads means more App Store reviews. More downloads means more people liking the app and sharing it with their friends. More downloads means climbing the App Store charts.

As a result, more downloads could, hopefully, mean more paid customers in the future. The whole thing is a gamble and that must be absolutely terrifying when being an indie developer is the way you feed your kids.

I know I couldn’t do it. But I sure am glad some people do. The App Store wouldn’t the App Store without the amazing apps independent developers build and Apple knows it.

How can you help? Maybe keep all of this in mind the next time you take to the App Store review section to complain about paying $4.99 – or less! – for that app that you use for hours every day.

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