How to Build an App Empire: Can You Create The Next Instagram?

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Chad Mureta runs his seven-figure app business from his iPhone. (Photo: Jorge Quinteros).

I first met Chad Mureta in Napa Valley in 2011.

Two years prior, he had been in a horrible car accident. He’d lost control of his truck in at attempt to avoid a deer, hit a median, and flipped four times, nearly destroying his dominant arm in the wreckage.

While in the hospital for a lengthy recovery, a friend gave him an article about the app market. Shortly thereafter, Chad began designing and developing apps. His results?

“In just over two years, I’ve created and sold three app companies that have generated millions in revenue. Two months after launching my first company, one of my apps averaged $30,000 a month in profit. In December of 2010, the company’s monthly income had reached $120,000. In all, I’ve developed more than 40 apps and have had more than 35 million app downloads across the globe. Over 90 percent of my apps were successful and made money.”

After finishing rehab, Chad was able to leave his real estate company, where he’d been working 70 hours a week, to run his app business from his iPhone… in less than 5 hours per week.

“Apps” are the new, new thing, thanks to major successes like Draw Something (bought by Zynga for $210 million) and Instagram (bought by Facebook for $1 billion), among others. But for all the hype and promise, few people actually know how to create something that gets traction.

In this post, Chad will discuss his step-by-step formula for rapid app development and sales optimization. It covers real-world case studies and the details you usually don’t see: early prototype sketches, screenshots, how to code if you don’t know how to code, and much more.

Last but not least, don’t miss the competition at the end. If you’ve ever thought “I should make an app that…,” this one is for you…

Enter Chad Mureta

When you are on your deathbed, will you be able to say you lived a fulfilled life?

I nearly couldn’t.

I started my app business from a hospital bed, wondering if I even wanted to live. I had barely survived a terrible car accident that shattered my left arm. I had gone through two groundbreaking operations, and spent 18 months in painful rehabilitation.

With limited insurance, I had racked up $100,000 in medical bills. Even though I survived, I had no clue how to get out of the deep hole I felt trapped in. I was moved to a physical rehabilitation center and worked on reconstructing my body, my mind, and ultimately my life. While I was there, I read two books that made a huge impact: Unlimited Power strengthened my thought processes, and The 4-Hour Workweek inspired me to pursue lifestyle freedom.

During that time, a good friend gave me an article about “appreneurs” and told me I should consider getting into the business. I learned that most appreneurs were one- or two-person teams with low costs, and the successful ones were bringing in millions in profits. Still in my hospital bed, in a state of semi-coherence from the pain medication, I began drawing up ideas for apps.

Three weeks after my final surgery, desperate, broke, and grasping at straws, I borrowed $1,800 from my stepdad and jumped into the app business. Fortunately, taking that leap was the best decision I’ve ever made…

These days, my life is about doing what I love while earning easy income. I run my business from my iPhone, working in a virtual world while earning real dollars. I am part of a growing community of “appreneurs,” entrepreneurs who make money from applications that are used on iPhones, iPads, iPods, Droids, and Blackberries. As of this writing, the world’s youngest appreneur is nine years old, and the oldest is 80!

Appreneurs earn money while creating lifestyles of great freedom. Two of my appreneur friends spend several months of the year doing nonprofit work in Vietnam, while their businesses are generating seven-figure incomes. Another is taking his kids to see the Seven Wonders of the World, creating priceless memories with his family. Still another friend goes backpacking throughout Europe with his wife for most of the year. As for me, I’ve hiked in the Australian Outback, trekked with Aborigines across the desert, climbed in the Rocky Mountains, got certified in solo skydiving, heli-skied in Canada, walked on fire, and most important of all, learned not to take life so seriously.

No matter what your dream lifestyle is, you can have it as an appreneur.

The Opportunity for Appreneurs

There are currently more than 4.6 billion cell phones being used worldwide, enough for two-thirds of the people on Earth. The app market is literally the fastest growing industry in history, with no signs of slowing down. Now is the perfect time to jump into the mobile game.

What happened during the early days of the Internet, with the creation of websites like Google and eBay, is exactly what’s happening today with apps and mobile technology. The only difference is that we have experienced the rise of the Internet and are conditioned to react more quickly to the app revolution. This means that the app world is running light years ahead of the Internet, when it was at the same development stage. Developing apps is your chance to jump ahead of the masses and not be left behind, saying years from now, “I wish I had…”

Common Objections

“I’m not a tech person. I have no experience in this market.”
I was in the same spot, and I still don’t know how to write code. But I found successful people to learn from, emulated their models, and hired programmers and designers who could execute my ideas. If you can draw your idea on a piece of paper, you can successfully build an app.

“The app market has too much competition. I don’t stand a chance.”
This industry is just getting started– it’s less than four years old! What makes the app business unique is that the big players are on the same playing field as everyone else. They have the same questions and challenges as you and I will have.

“I don’t have the money.”
You don’t need a lot of money to start. It costs anywhere from $500 to $5,000 to develop simple apps. As soon as you launch your app (depending on your sales), you could see money hit your bank account within two months.

“It’s difficult… I don’t understand it… I’m not smart enough.”
Just like everything you’ve learned in life, you have to start somewhere. Fortunately, running an app business is far easier than almost every other type of business. Apple and Google handle all of the distribution, so you can spend your time creating apps and marketing them. And you don’t have to come up with new, innovative ideas. If you can improve on existing app ideas, you can make money.

Many people are joining the app gold rush with a get-rich-quick mentality and unrealistic expectations. Maintaining an optimistic perspective is important, but so is understanding that you will have to put in work. My goal in this post is to help you think like a business owner, and show you the map I’ve used to find “the gold.” This is not a one-time app lottery, and you can’t treat it as such. If you think of this endeavor as a long-term business, it will grow and become a sustainable source of income.

Still interested? Then let’s get started!

Step 1: Get a Feel for the Market

As with any business, your success will be directly related to your understanding of the marketplace. The App Store is the marketplace of the app business, so in order to understand the market, we have to study the App Store. This seems rather obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many developers I meet that don’t understand this concept. They don’t watch the market, follow the most successful apps, or try to figure out why those apps are successful.

In order to become a great app supplier, you must first become an app addict. That means spending at least 2-4 weeks researching the market while downloading and playing with tons of apps (give yourself an app budget of $100 to start). This training period is an investment in your expertise, which will become the lifeblood of your success. The more hours you rack up playing around and studying successful apps, the better you’ll be able to understand their common traits and what users desire.

So, how do you keep pace with the market? The best way is to study Apple’s cheat sheet constantly. The App Store displays the top paid, top free, and top-grossing apps (the apps that make the most money, including free apps), almost in real-time. Apple provides the same lists in the individual app categories.

These charts are golden because they tell us volumes about the market. The best part is this information is freely accessible to anyone, at any moment (unlike the market info for basically every other industry).

Review these charts frequently, and keep a notebook of potential trends you spot. Doing this repeatedly will educate you on successful app design, marketing, and various pricing models. The research you’re doing is simple, costs nothing, and it’s actually fun!

Here are some questions to ask while you’re researching successful apps in the market:

  1. Why is this app successful?
  2. What is its rank and has it been consistent?
  3. Why do people want this app? (Look at the reviews.)
  4. Has this app made the customer a raving fan?
  5. Does this app provoke an impulse buy?
  6. Does this app meet any of my needs?
  7. Did I become a raving fan after trying it?
  8. Will the customer use it again?
  9. How are they marketing to their customers? (Check out the screen shots, icon design, and descriptions.)
  10. What is the competitive advantage of this app?
  11. What does this app cost? Are there in-app purchases? Advertisements?

Most developers will build an app and expect tons of people to find and download it right away. That rarely happens. You have to figure out what people are interested in and the kinds of apps they’re downloading first, then you build your app based on that insight.

Once you’ve put in the necessary 2-4 weeks of research and feel you have a decent grasp on the market, it will be time to look back on the trends you discovered and explore some ideas for potential apps you can develop.

Step 2: Align Your Ideas with Successful Apps

How do you know if the market wants your app? Again, you’ll need to look at the Top Apps chart. Are apps like the one you want to create listed there? If yes, you’ve got a potential winner. If not, keep looking. It’s that simple.

Don’t hate; Emulate! When you follow in the footsteps of successful apps, you will have a better chance of succeeding because these apps have proven demand and an existing user base. This takes the guesswork out of creating great app ideas.

I can’t stress the importance of emulating existing apps enough. It’s easy for people to fall in love with their own idea, even if the market doesn’t show an appetite for it. But this is one of the costliest errors you can make.

Unfortunately, developers make this mistake all the time. They focus on generating original ideas and spend a lot of time and effort creating those apps. When it doesn’t work out, they go to the next untested idea, instead of learning from the market. Often times, they repeat this cycle until they run out of money and dismiss the app game. This doesn’t have to be your experience.

A personal example of how to successfully emulate competitors is my Emoji app. First, I took a close look at what the market offered and downloaded all the major emoticon apps. I liked what I saw, but noticed that there was a lack of variety and limited functionality.

Screenshots from a competing Emoji app. The app (left) is opened once to provide the user with instructions on how to enable the Emoji keyboard (right).

I wondered how I could improve upon these existing apps, given that the Emoji keyboard had a limited number of emoticons that couldn’t be increased. I was also curious how profitable these apps could be if they were only being used once.

I kept brainstorming until it hit me. I couldn’t add more emoticons to the Emoji keyboard, but I could include unlimited emoticons within my app that people could send as images via text message or email.

I created an app that not only enabled the Emoji keyboard, but also contained an additional 450 emoticons within the app itself, which could be shared via SMS, e-mail, Facebook, and so on. The app was used constantly since users had to return to the app to send an emoticon.


Screenshots of my Emoji app.

The Emoji app was developed in two weeks. It followed the freemium model, meaning free with an in-app purchase option. The app hit the number one spot in the App Store’s productivity category and the number 12 spot in the top free overall category within six days, raking in nearly $500 per day. Bingo.

Whenever you decide to look into emulating an app, ask yourself these six questions:

  1. Why are people purchasing this?
  2. Can I do something to emulate this idea and take it to another level?
  3. What other ideas would this app’s demographic like?
  4. How many other similar apps are in the market? (Visit TopAppCharts.com to find out.)
  5. How successful and consistent have they been?
  6. How does their marketing and pricing model work?

Step 3: Design Your App’s Experience

You’ve studied the market, you see an opportunity, and you have an idea that could be profitable. Great! Now it’s time to turn those thoughts into something tangible.

To convey your idea properly, you can simply draw it on a piece of paper. Maybe it will look like a 3-year old’s artwork, but it will still convey what you’re trying to do. Some people like putting this together in digital form, using Photoshop or Draft. Whatever you’re most comfortable with, and whatever will give the programmers the details they need, is the way to go.

For your viewing pleasure, here are the rudimentary drawings (a.k.a. wireframes) for my first app, Finger Print Security Pro. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be pretty!

And here’s how the app’s final design turned out:

To make the design process easier, I look at certain apps in the App Store and reference them to show my programmers what I’m looking for. For example, I’ll say, “Download the XYZ app. I want the ABC functionality to work like theirs. Take a look at the screenshots from this other app, and change this.” I take certain components of apps that I’d like to emulate, and give them to the programmer so that we are as clear as possible.

Highlight menu vs. Facebook menu
Notice any similarities? Highlight’s menu (left) emulated the style of Facebook’s menu (right).

The clearer you are, the fewer misunderstandings and problems you will have once it’s time to hand off your drawings to a programmer. The idea is to convey what the app will look like, where everything will be placed, and what happens if certain buttons are selected. This helps the programmer know what you want and will be a useful blueprint when designing your app. Do not be vague or ambiguous. You should know what every part of your app will do. If you don’t, you need to develop your idea more thoroughly.

You have to consider your design to be final before you can begin the coding phase. Inevitably, you will have ideas for additional features once you start testing the initial versions of your app. But if you decide to make major changes after a substantial amount of work has been done, it can frustrate your programmer. It’s like telling the builder who just installed your fireplace that you want it on the other side of the living room. The news will not go over well. Most people don’t realize this is what they are demanding of their programmer when they ask for big changes. That’s why it’s important for you to take your time and carefully plan every aspect of the app before you submit it for coding.

Step 4: Register as a Developer

You now have your idea drawn out. Before you go any further, you need to sign up as a developer with the platform for which you’re looking to create apps.

Don’t be intimidated by the word “developer.” It doesn’t mean you have to be the programmer. It’s simply the name used for somebody who publishes apps. All you have to do is set up a “developer account” so you can offer your apps for sale in one of the app stores.

Here are the links for each platform and a brief overview of their requirements.

Apple iOS *— Registration requirements include a fee of $99 per year and accepting the terms of service.

Android— Registration requirements include a fee of $25 per year and accepting the terms of service.

BlackBerry— Registration requirements include a $200 fee for every 10 apps you publish. You must have a BlackBerry World App Vendor Agreement in place with RIM (the creator of BlackBerry) to distribute apps.

* For your first app, I strongly suggest developing for Apple iOS, rather than Android or Blackberry. Simply put, Apple users are much more likely to spend money on apps. You will increase your odds of making a profit simply by developing for the iOS platform.

Also, don’t forget to go over the App Store review guidelines. Apple enforces these rules during the review process, and if you don’t follow them, your app will be rejected. For instance, you might remember seeing a plethora of fart or flashlight apps on the App Store awhile back. As a result, Apple has decided to no longer accept those types of apps. Knowing these rules can save you a lot of time and effort. If you see any of your ideas conflicting with the guidelines, reject them and move on to the next one.

Step 5: Find Prospective Programmers

Coding your own app, especially if you’re teaching yourself at the same time, will take too long. The likelihood of you getting stuck and giving up is very high. It will also be unsustainable over the long run when you want to create several apps at the same time and consistently update your existing apps. After all, the goal is to get your time back and escape the long hours of the rat race. Therefore, programmers will be the foundation of your business. They will allow you to create apps quickly and scale your efforts.

Hiring your first programmer will be a lengthy process. You’ll need to: post the job, filter applicants, interview qualified candidates, have them sign your NDA, explain your idea, then give them a micro-test… all before coding begins! But while this process takes time, it is time well spent. Making great hires will help you avoid unnecessary delays, costs, and frustration in the future. You’ll always be looking to add new talent to your team, so learning how to quickly and effectively assess programmers is an important skill to develop.

Let’s get started. The first part of this step is to post your job to a hiring site.

Top Hiring Resources

These websites allow programmers to bid on jobs that you post. As you can imagine, the competition creates a bidding frenzy that gives you a good chance of getting quality work at a low price.

Here are a few of my favorite outsourcing sites:

oDesk— Its work diary feature tracks the hours your programmer is working for you and takes screenshots of the programmer’s desktop at certain time intervals.

Freelancer— This site has the most programmers listed. They claim that twice as many programmers will respond to your ad, and I found this to be mostly true.

Guru and Elance. Both of these sites have huge lists of programmers.

 

Below is a template of a job posting, followed by an explanation for each of its components:


Click the image to enlarge.

Enter the skill requirements—What programming languages do they know? For iPhone apps, the skills I list are: iPhone, Objective C, Cocoa, and C Programming.

Give a basic description of your project—Keep it simple and skill-specific. Tell the applicants that you will discuss details during the selection process. Do NOT reveal the specifics of your idea or marketing plan. Use general descriptions, and request info on how many revisions (a.k.a. iterations) their quote includes.

Post your ad only for a few days—This way programmers have a sense of urgency to quickly bid on your job.

Filter applicants—I always filter applicants using these criteria:

– They have a rating of four or five stars.
– They have at least 100 hours of work logged.
– Their English is good.

Compose individual messages to all suitable applicants, inviting them to a Skype call for further screening. Most of these programmers will overseas, which can present issues with communication and time zone differences. Therefore, a Skype interview is an absolute must before you can continue. Disqualify anyone who is not willing to jump on a Skype call.

The Interview: Essential Questions to Ask Programmers

Don’t give away any of your ideas during this initial conversation. Whenever the topic comes up, say you’ll be more than happy to discuss everything after they sign the NDA (if you want a copy of the NDA template I use, see the bottom of this post). Here are the questions you should ask each applicant before committing to anything:

– How long have you been developing apps?

– How many apps have you worked on? Can I see them?

– Do you have a website? What is it?

– Do you have references I can talk to?

– What’s your schedule like? How soon can you start?

– What time zone do you work in? What are your hours?

– What’s frustrating for you when working with clients?

– Are you working with a team? What are their skills?

– Can you create graphics, or do you have somebody who can?

– Can I see examples of the graphics work?

– What happens if you become sick during a project?

– What if you hit a technical hurdle during the project? Do you have other team members or a network of programmers who can help you?

– How do you ensure that you don’t compete with your clients?

– Can you provide flat-fee quotes?

– What’s your payment schedule? How do you prefer payment?

– Can you create milestones tied to payments?

– Do you publish your own apps on the App Store?

– How do you submit an app to the App Store? (Can they verbally walk you through the process, or do they make you feel brain challenged?)

Finally, mention that you like to start things off with a few simple tests (creating/delivering your app’s icon and a “Hello, World!” app) before coding begins. You need to tell them this upfront so they aren’t surprised after they have provided their quote. Most programmers are happy to get these tests done without a charge, but some will want a small fee. In either case, be clear with this requirement and have them include it in the quote.

During the interview, pay attention to how well they are able to explain themselves. Are they articulate? Do they use too much techno babble? Do they speak your native language fluently? Do they seem confident with their answers? How is their tone and demeanor? If you have any issues or worries, you may want to move on to somebody else. But if you can communicate with them easily and your gut is telling you “Yes,” you’ll want to proceed to the next step.

In either case, thank them for their time and mention that you will follow up with an NDA agreement if you decide to move forward.

Step 6: Sign NDA, Share your Idea, and Hire Your Programmer

You must protect your ideas, source code, and any other intellectual property. These are the assets that will build your business, so you need to have each potential programmer sign an NDA before you hire them. Yes, it’s rare to have an idea stolen, but it does happen (read the bottom of this post if you want a copy of the NDA that I use).

As you’re going through this process, you will be getting feedback on your programmers’ responsiveness. For instance, if it’s taking too long for them to sign the NDA, it might indicate how slowly the development process will move. Buyer beware!

Once the NDA has been signed by both parties, you can share your idea and designs with your programmer. At this stage, it’s critical to ensure they have the skills to complete your app. You do not have any wiggle room here, especially on your first app. Either they know how to make it or they don’t. You want to hear things like, “I know exactly how to do that” or “I’ve done similar apps, so it will not be a problem.” You don’t want to hear things like, “I should be able to do that, but I have to research a few things” or “I’m not sure but I can probably figure it out.” If you hear those words, switch to an app idea they are confident about or run for the hills.

After you’ve found the best programmer for the job, you can commit to hiring them. Establish milestones and timelines during the quoting process (break up the app into several parts), and decide on a schedule for check-ins that you’re both comfortable with (ask them directly how they like to be managed). You will need to periodically review their work, from start to finish. Most applications go through multiple iterations during design and development, and I won’t release partial payments until I’m fully satisfied with each milestone.

Step 7: Begin Coding

Rather than jumping haphazardly into a full-fledged project, I prefer to gradually ramp up my programmer’s workload by starting with a couple smaller tasks. You need to assess their graphics capabilities, implementation speed, and overall work dynamic (e.g. communication, time zone, etc.). If you’re underwhelmed with their skills, you need to get out quickly. Remember: Hire slow, fire fast. It will pay off over the long run.

Here’s my three-step process during the coding phase:

1. Icon—Ask the programmer to create and deliver the icon of your app. You will probably have several ideas for icons, so pass them on and ask for a finished 512 x 512 iTunes Artwork version of the icon.

2. Hello, World!—Ask the programmer for a “Hello, World!” app. It’s a simple app that opens up and shows a page that displays “Hello, World!”, and it will take them 10 minutes to create. The idea here is not to test their programming skills, but to determine how they will deliver apps to you for testing. This app should include the icon they created, so you can see how it will look on your phone.

3. App Delivery—When the programmers are ready to show you a test version of your app, they have to create something called an “ad hoc” (a version of your app that can be delivered to and run on your iPhone, without the use of the App Store). This ad hoc version of your app needs to be installed on your phone before you can test it. The initial installation was a bit cumbersome in the past, but a new service called TestFlight has simplified the process. I ask all programmers to use this service even if they have not used it before. They will be able to figure it out, and you’ll be able to install your test apps with a few touches on your phone.

The first version of your app is finished and delivered, and you’re now staring at it on your phone/tablet. Give yourself a pat on the back — you’ve made serious progress! But don’t get too caught up with yourself, because now it’s time to begin the testing phase.

Step 8: Test Your App

If you were having a house built, you’d want to make sure everything was in working order before you signed off. You would check major things like the roof and plumbing, all the way down to minor things, like crown molding and paint. You need to do the same thing with your app.

To start, your app must perform as expected. Pull out your initial design document and go through every feature. Never assume that something works because it worked last time you tested the app. Test each feature every time, especially before the final release.

Most importantly, don’t be the only tester. Your app makes sense to you, but it might not to others. You need to get everyone you know, from your 12-year-old nephew to your 75-year-old grandmother, to test your app.

The time you spend on testing is crucial because you will see how consumers use your product, what features are intuitive, what they don’t understand, and their patterns. They will have questions that won’t occur to you because you designed the app and everything about it is obvious to you.

Hand the app to them and say, “Hey check this out.” Don’t mention that it’s your app, what it’s supposed to do, or how it works. Give as little information as possible and watch as they try to understand and navigate through your app. This experience will be similar to the one your real user will have, because you won’t be there to explain things to them either.

Watch them testing your app and ask yourself these questions:

– Are they confused?

– Are they stuck?

– Are they complaining?

– Are they using the app the way you intended?

– Did they find a mistake or a bug?

– Are they having fun?

– Are they making suggestions for improvements? If yes, which ones?

Get them to talk about their experience with your app. They will be more honest if they don’t know the app is yours. Don’t get offended if you hear something you don’t like; their feedback is priceless. Assess each response to see if there’s a problem with your app, then ask yourself these questions:

– Would other users have the same issues? If yes, how can I fix them?

– Should I move things around?

– Should I change colors to improve visibility?

– Would adding some instructions help?

– Should I improve navigation?

Testing and debugging will take several iterations, like the design and development stages. This is all part of the process. Don’t forget to use TestFlight to save lots of time with the mechanics of installing test versions of your app.

Just remember: If you keep tweaking things and adding features, you might unnecessarily increase costs and production time. You need to get the app on the market quickly and in a basic form to test the concept. Only redesign during this phase if you feel you have a good justification for it. Otherwise, add the idea to your update list and move forward with development (I keep an update list for each app and refer back to it when the time is right).

Step 9: Post your App to the Market

At this point, you’ve had all of your friends and family test your app, taken the best feedback into account, and wrapped up any final changes with your programmer. Congratulations – it’s time for you to send the app to the App Store for review!

It’s a good idea to have your programmers show you how to submit your first few apps. Do not give out your developer account login information to your programmer or anybody else. The best way to have them show you how to submit your app, without having to giveaway your login, is to do a screen-share over Skype or GoToMeeting and have them walk you through the process. As your business grows, you might want to delegate this task to someone on your team.

Below is a screencast on how to upload an app to the App Store. As you’ll see, it’s a fairly confusing and tedious process. Best to leave this task to your programmers:

The amount of time Apple will take to review and approve/reject your app will depend on whether you’re submitting on behalf of yourself or a company. If you’re an individual, it will usually take 3-7 days. If you’re a company, it will likely take 7-10 days.

The real fun begins once your app is approved and available for download…

Step 10: Marketing Your App

The App Store is filled with thousands of great apps, but most developers are not skilled when it comes to marketing. Meanwhile, many poorly designed apps rank highly because their developers have figured out the marketing game. How do they do it?

You really need to focus on a few key areas to effectively market your apps, which will allow customers to discover and download them. Understanding how an app’s basic elements are marketing opportunities is essential to being successful in the app business. Your job is to create a seamless flow from the icon all the way to the download button. Let’s take a closer look at these components, which you can adjust at any time from your developer account:

ICON
The first thing users will see when they are checking out your app is the icon — the small square image with the rounded corners to the left of the app title. It’s also the image that users will see on their phone after they install your app.

The icon is important because it’s how the users will identify your app. It needs to look sharp, capture the app’s essence, attract the users’ attention, and compel them to investigate your app further.


Great app icons are clear, beautiful, and memorable.

Many developers create icons as an afterthought and focus all of their effort on the app itself, but the icon is the first impression you will make on the users. The old expression “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” applies here. Make sure you have a quality icon that represents your app and makes the users believe it has value.

APP TITLE
Over 80 percent of searches in the App Store are related to an app’s functionality, rather than an app’s name. Therefore, it is critical that you help users find your app when they perform relevant keyword searches in the app store.


Source: Chomp.com

Each word in your app’s title serves as a keyword, much like keywords in search engines. You can think of the title as your URL. For instance, if you type “angry” into the App Store search field, the Angry Birds apps will return as a search result.

DESCRIPTIONS
Having a compelling description for your app is like having a great opening line — people are more willing to learn about you once you’ve piqued their interest. The first chunk of your app’s description needs to be packed with the most relevant information customers should know.

If applicable, use statements like “Top App 2012” or “One of the Most Addictive Games in the App Store.” Follow it up with a call-to-action, such as, “Check out the screenshots and see for yourself.”

SCREENSHOTS
Screenshots are great marketing tools because they give users a visual of what they will experience. Think of them as the trailer for your app. Here are a couple examples of effective screenshots:

Nike+ GPS screenshots.

Free Music Download Pro screenshots. Note the use of captions to explain the app’s features.

Many people shopping for apps won’t read the description, but will instead scroll down to the screenshots. The screenshots need to convey the main functionality of the app without showing too many details that may confuse users. If your screenshots are cluttered, it will be as ineffective as a realtor trying to sell a house with messy rooms. The brain gets overwhelmed and buyers have more trouble seeing the product’s true value. Therefore, the screenshots you include should be clean, appealing, and informative.

KEYWORDS
Unlike your icon and title, keywords are not something the users get to see. When you submit your app to the App Store, you’re allowed to provide keywords relevant to your app. When users search for one of the terms you entered, your app appears in the search results.

For example, if you type in the word “kids” or “game” on the App Store, you will find that Angry Birds is one of the search results. The terms “kids” and “game” are not in the app title. The makers of Angry Birds most likely chose those keywords to associate with their app.

A good example of effective keyword usage is an app I created called Flashlight. Since the name is Flashlight, we came up with keywords, such as “bright,” “help,” “light,” and “camping.”

One time, I added the term “phone” to the keywords of my free prank fingerprint app. This seemingly minor change propelled the app to the number one top overall free category, which moved the company’s income from $1,000 per day to $3,000 per day. This is the power of refining the marketing components for your app. Simple changes can dramatically increase your revenue.

CATEGORIES
The App Store organizes apps into specific categories to help users find them more easily. In addition to the top overall rankings of all apps, each category has its own top rankings and, therefore, generates a certain amount of visibility based on these charts. Users looking for certain apps often browse through these category charts without looking at the top overall charts. For instance, an app that doesn’t show up in the top 200 overall might still be in the top 10 of a particular category.

When you’re submitting your app for review, make sure to select the most relevant category for your app. On the other hand, many apps can be classified into more than one category. You have to choose one, but you can always change the category during an update.

One of my apps, Alarm Security, wasn’t performing well, and I was trying to bring it back up in the rankings. I initially tried changing the name and keywords, but it didn’t move much. The one thing I hadn’t tried was switching it out of the Entertainment category. The app contained various alarm sounds (like loud screams and gunshots), so I assumed users would use it more as a goof than as a tool. I was wrong.

Once I moved the app into the Utilities category, the number of downloads skyrocketed. After five days, the paid downloads had tripled, and it was only because of a category change.

Just as your app will always need certain refinements due to consumer demand and competition, so will your marketing. For most of my apps, I have changed the icon and screenshots three to five times and the title and description between 5 and 10 times. I change keywords almost every time I update apps. I always switch the categories when it makes sense. Keep an open mind and continue to be inspired by your observations during your market research.

Finally, there’s a simple rule of thumb I follow for making changes: Tweak once per week, then measure. You have to allow ample time to see the effect of any changes you make. Measure your results, then make adjustments based on your data in the following week. Your goal is to increase traffic and revenue, all while improving your users’ experience with the app.

Bonus Marketing Tactics

FREE APPS
After you’ve taken care of the basics, your best marketing tool will be offering a free version of your app. It will generate traffic and visibility that you otherwise wouldn’t get.

Free apps create the most traffic because they have the smallest barrier to entry. It takes five seconds to download, and it’s free. Why wouldn’t you push the button? Once the free version of your app gains some traction, you can use it to advertise the paid version of the same app. This is like getting those free food samples at the supermarket. If you like the sample you tasted, you might buy the whole bag and become a long-term customer.

NAG SCREENS
Nag screens (pop-ups that remind users to check out the paid version of the app) have been the most critical marketing tactic for my business. You might worry about annoying users with these ads, and that is a valid concern, but you need to think of nag screens as adding value for your users. If they downloaded your free app and they are using it, a percentage of your users will be interested in buying the paid version of your app. For those who don’t, a quick pop-up message is a small price to pay for using the free version.

You have to accept this and not shy away from this type of marketing. If you’re still on the fence, consider this: When Apple launched its iBooks app, it used a nag screen within the App Store app. If you had an iPhone at the time, you may remember seeing that pop-up inviting you to download iBooks. Well, you were nagged by the one and only Apple.

Basic nag screen (left) vs. Advanced nag screen (right). Advanced nag screens typically have three times higher click-thru rates.

When adding a nag screen, explain to your developer what you are looking for, and reference specific examples of other apps that have nag screens. Be sure you can change the nag screen without submitting a new update to the app store. To do this, tell the developer you want your nag screen to be dynamic. This will allow you to change your marketing message redirect your app’s traffic within seconds. This is an absolute must. Your nag screens will lose a huge part of their effectiveness if you cannot change them on the fly.

How do you assess the effectiveness of your nag screen? All you have to do is keep track of how many times you show a particular nag screen and how many users click “Yes” to check out the app(s) you’re promoting. This is called your click-through rate, and the higher the percentage, the better.

Final Thoughts

This is the first time in history when so many of us have the tools and access to knowledge that can quickly lift us out of the rat race. Your background, gender, race, education, and situation are irrelevant. All you need is the desire and a game plan.

You don’t have to wait till “someday” to fulfill your dreams. You can start right now…

Contest and Bonuses

We’re throwing a contest for any readers who are ready to dive into the app world. Whoever comes up with the best idea for an iPhone app (as decided by me and my team) will have 100% of their development costs covered. That’s right: You won’t need to spend anything to have your app made – all it will cost is your time and effort. This will be a great learning experience for the winner, so if money is all that’s holding you back, we want to help you get started.

Here are the details:

– You have 1-week (ending Monday, April 30, 2012 at 9am EST) to research and design your app idea. Your app should try to fill a void in the market or improve upon apps that are currently available.

– Once you’ve decided upon your idea, post a comment below with a detailed explanation of the app you want to develop. Bonus points if you can show us (with a drawing, video, etc.) how your app will function. More bonus points if you show us the research you did to prove your app’s potential for success.

– You can only submit one (1) idea (one entry per person), so make it good!

– Up to $5,000 USD of your development costs will be covered. 100% of all revenues earned will go to the winner.

– Winner gets a 1-hour phone call with me (Chad) at any point during development or marketing.

For those who are worried that someone is going to steal your idea and make a million dollars with it– you don’t have to enter the contest! Just remember: my success in the app store came from emulating successful apps. In other words, borrowing proven ideas and trying to make them better. If someone else can succeed by taking one of my ideas and improving upon it, that’s only fair game. Don’t let the fear of losing prevent you from trying to win.

Contest deadline has passed; Winner (Alex K.) has been contacted. Thanks, all!

Finally, for those who’d like a copy of my NDA template (along with the checklist I use when hiring a new coder), email a copy of your receipt for App Empire, my comprehensive book on app development and marketing, to bonus (at) appempire.com. The book goes into depth on advanced marketing and monetization techniques, including how to put your business on cruise control (automate).

We look forward to seeing what you guys come up with! Talk to you in the comments 🙂

Posted on: April 22, 2012.

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.

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948 comments on “How to Build an App Empire: Can You Create The Next Instagram?

    • LOL. That is hilarious. Could be somewhat of a “status” symbol for people to show off and share.

      You’d have to have badges for “longest streak”, “biggest player in the area”. You could also have linked proximity between male/female users and get extra points for threesomes, etc.

      The pure outrageousness of this app would give it lots of coverage and press.

      Like

  1. —————————————————
    ///// Rob’s Kickin’ App Submission \\\
    —————————————————

    “Draw Something” is fun but some of us are more musically inclined. May I submit to the jury: “Play Something” (or some other app name Zynga won’t sue me for).

    Users have a virtual keyboard (piano type keyboard, not a typing keyboard) where they play notes to try and reproduce one of three song choices. Initially, the player is limited to one or two octaves and a single instrument (the piano). The three songs will vary based on difficulty and award value. After finishing their composition the playing partner will have to try and guess the title of the song.

    As players complete songs they get “notes” which can be used to unlock additional octaves, different instruments and other bonuses. Of course, users can simply buy notes if they’d rather not wait for the perks.

    Additional perks could include the ability to record the player’s voice (for singing), allowing multiple notes to be played at once (treble & bass lines) and new songs to play/guess.

    ————————————————————————————
    Upside: The social gaming market is clearly a winner and something folks will pay money to play or buy perks.

    Downside: This app requires a client/server type architecture and might be a bit more pricey to develop.

    Downside: Your boss might not be too keen with you busting out your interpretation of “Eye of the Tiger” at the company meeting.
    ————————————————————————————

    Looking forward to your feedback and seeing what all the other 4H folks come up with!

    ~Rob

    Like

    • Ive thought of this as well, have something similar however a bit different.

      I think you’re on the right track. My main that Im working on I wont dare post on here however it WILL change the world.

      To the future!

      Like

  2. App contest:
    Fairly sure parts of this idea are already out there but…

    Easily accessible mini-scoring system for an individuals reputation/personality

    App that allows you to refer someone or be referred by various individuals.
    Rating from -1000 to 1000
    Rating system based on who references you and their own personal reference ‘score’
    Can link with others to show you support them, a friend, or merely an acquaintance of some kind.
    Personal statements are mandatory, can’t just give a score, anyone can rate you.
    Gives you a personal and public backing by individuals on your ‘character’ (or lack of)
    Helps people (or possible employers) to friend you (facebook), or hire you.
    Can easily check on someone and find out who they “hang” with and if their personality is compatible with yours.
    LInkage to facebook for basic stats on the individual.

    Like

  3. The app I have in mind is called SketchDip. I came up with the idea because it would alleviate having to wait for you tab when trying to leave a packed bar. Also, people would not have to worry about leaving their card at the bar after having a few drinks. The way it would work is when you go to the bar you can scan a QR code and that will automatically start your tab at the bar and you will be in the bars computer. Every time a person orders a drink that is using the app, an itemized list of all their drinks will be kept track of on the persons mobile device. This will allow someone to monitor their tab throughout the night to make sure no one was charging drinks to their tab. When the person is ready to close their tab they can simply click “check out” on their app, leave gratuity and walk out of the bar without having to wait for the bartender to give them their tab. This will be possible because when a person downloads the app they will put in their credit/debit/paypal account information in the app.

    Like

    • Hi
      Have seen a bar app but it was supplied by the processing company as it had to tie into accounting, bartenders login id ( in a busy bar it needs to know who is the bartender/waiter /floor person who rings it up )
      it was very cool, on a wrist strap in a bar in Key West.

      Like

    • I like this suggestion because it leaves out that akward moment if you wish to not tip the bartender for doing a poolry job at serving.

      Like

  4. Thanks for the awesome & inspiring post. I’ll keep this short.

    Idea – Create an app that is similar to Fruit Ninja, but instead of chopping fruit and avoiding bombs, you will be shooting pheasants (birds) and avoiding hens. As the player progresses in the game, more roosters and hens will fly until the player either shoots a hen or misses too many roosters. Simple, mindless, fun.

    Hopefully, this will be another app that users will spend hours playing!

    Like

  5. Hi Chad,

    First, thanks a lot for a great article!
    Second, I’ll take my shot at this contest. I have an idea that is bugging me for a few months now.
    I’ll keep it as simple as I can.

    Possible name: Meet me!

    Category: Social

    Login method: Facebook, email account(sign up)

    Idea: An app that would help people meet, find, follow, gather, race, connect, chat

    Description: The app would use Google Maps or Open Street maps and will work on GPS enabled devices only. Basic idea is that an user can log in and share its location with other people. The users will see the live position of the other users. There are other apps that are similar to this one but they can be greatly improved(i.e. Friendjectory or Friend Mapper)

    Think about a cycling event. One user creates an event(public or private) and others are able to see it(only if public or invited). After joining the event each user will be able to see every other user that joined that event in real time on a map. They, for example, can see each other moving towards the meeting point. After they depart, let’s say that one of them got left behind. He/she can use the app to see where the front group is so he can catch up with them.

    Another great use of the app is a mode called “Race me”. By creating a “race me” event, an user can define a finish point on the map. The first one from all attendees who will arrive to those GPS coordinates will receive some points. The app would have a scoring module, or it may be linked to GameCenter or OpenFeint systems.

    There could also be a chat/message system between friends from the same app. You cannot chat with users to which you are not friend with. You can of course send them a Friend request.

    Users will only be visible on the map if they choose to.

    This app can be used on foot, in the car, on a bike, skate, pretty much everywhere and any time. The selling point would be the live positioning of the other users(friends, attendees…), the race mode and the general social flavor.

    You can find here a PowerPoint with a sketch I drew for this app idea:

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10939844/Meet_me.ppt

    Thanks for this chance.
    Vali

    Like

  6. Prelude

    Hi Chad / Tim,
    Thank you for passing on your knowledge to wannabe entrepreneurs, like myself.

    Act I
    I will start by answering a few questions raised in App Empire
    Chapter 2 (Install This First: The App Millionaire Mindset)

    Q: What’s my why, and how will my life change when I get it?

    A: I will empower myself to continue chasing my dream, to found an architectural school dedicated to improving living standards in deprived areas (globally).

    Q: What can I see myself doing in the app business to make money? What’s my passion?

    A: I am passionate about helping others to form real relationships, via the iPhone ecosystem.

    Q: What do I want to do with the freedom I will have?

    A: I want to make myself a better person, and in the process make the world a better place. Presently, I am teaching myself how to tailor clothes.

    Q: How committed am I to making this work, and how important is it that I succeed?

    A: I will get (spiritually) rich or die trying.

    Q: When and how am I going to check in daily on my winning mindset?

    A: By continuing to spend quality time with my niece and nephew.

    Q: Who else is going to benefit from this new way of life and money, and what will that mean to them and to me?

    A: Humanity will benefit from the success (and philanthropy) of well-intentioned entrepreneurs. I want to do my part in pushing humanity forward.

    Act II
    Chapter 3 Discover the New World
    Gathering Intelligence

    On the 23rd April 2012, 3 no. dating apps where positioned amongst the top 25 grossing apps in the App Store; Match.com, Badoo & Zoosk where ranked at positions 4, 10 & 17 respectively.

    These Apps generate revenue via monthly subscription models, priced from $13.68, to $24.16, to $39.98. Given that the mean number of users for these sites is set around the 73 Million mark, it is not unreasonable to estimate that (subject to a 75% reduction factor, to account for non-subscribed users) monthly revenue in this sector may be close to 500 Million dollars.

    Q: So, how do I plan to capture a significant chunk of this pie?

    A: By discarding the monthly subscription model in favour of one based on micro-payments.

    Act III – My App Idea ‘Naang’
    Naang’s Basic Game Dynamic

    Naang allows players to freely interact using yes/no questions. Questions are to be formed so as to elicit a response of yes or no. Before posting a question, the asker specifies a preferred answer; subsequently, the status of the relationship between the asker and the recipient ‘levels-up’ if the actual answer matches the preferred answer. Conversely, the level of the relationship decreases if agreement is not reached. In addition to this basic game dynamic, players are invited to purchase gifts, via a beautiful in-game gift store, which if accepted will also ‘level-up’ relationships. Note: 50% of all virtual gift purchases go to charity.

    Act IV
    Example – Refer to the link for the associated descriptive illustration.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/90872096/Naang-AppEmpire-RevB

    I start by asking Nicole if she likes sci-fi movies, specifying a preferred answer of YES.

    Nicole answers YES, as a result our relationship ‘levels-up’ to Level 1.

    Next, I ask if she likes Marmite, specifying a preferred answer of NO. Nicole answers YES. EPIC FAIL. The level of our relationship returns to 0.

    To recover, I opt to send Nicole a gift. Naang suggests that I send her an umbrella, based on weather forecasts in her area.

    Play continues.

    I pay £1 to unlock Nicole’s personal profile & activity preferences at levels 3 & 7 respectively.

    As we tend towards a real world date, discount coupons are offered for use at restaurants etc.

    Finally, at Level 10, I pay £1 to unlock a direct messaging function between Nicole and I, to facilitate the transfer of our relationship into the real world.

    I start by asking Nicole if she likes sci-fi movies, specifying a preferred answer of YES.

    Nicole answers YES, as a result our relationship ‘levels-up’ to Level 1.

    Next, I ask if she likes Marmite, specifying a preferred answer of NO. Nicole answers YES. The level of our relationship returns to 0.

    To recover I opt to send Nicole a gift. Naang suggests that I send her an umbrella, based on weather forecasts in her area.

    Play continues.

    I pay £1 to unlock Nicole’s personal profile & activity preferences at levels 3 & 7 respectively.

    As we tend towards a real world date, discount coupons are offered for use at restaurants etc, between levels 7 & 10.

    Finally, at Level 10, I pay £1 to unlock a direct messaging function between Nicole and I, to facilitate the transfer of our relationship into the real world.

    END

    Good luck everyone!!!

    Like

  7. This is a great post, and Chad knows his stuff.

    Things I feel could be addressed in this post.

    Support
    Monetisation beyond charging for an app
    Managing developers in case things go wrong (I blew 7k on elance building my coffee finding/review app, Wherespress).

    tim

    Like

  8. Disgusting!

    Another “Plagiarize Other Apps to Try To Make a Quick Buck” article. These make me sick. Excerpts like this are absurd: “I can’t stress the importance of emulating existing apps enough. It’s easy for people to fall in love with their own idea, even if the market doesn’t show an appetite for it. But this is one of the costliest errors you can make.”

    So let me get this straight. It’s a bad idea to be creative with original ideas? So how about those developers who made it to the top of the charts with the original idea you’re trying to copy? You know, the original idea that your desperate copy-cat app will never make more money than. Yeah, it’s way better to try to make a few bucks infringing on others IP.

    Like

    • I understand where you’re coming from, and I hear this criticism a lot. If someone wants to take a gamble on an unproven idea, I have a lot of respect for that. The market needs risk-takers. But the market also needs people who can take proven ideas and make them better. We have a natural tendency to romanticize being original, but in reality, there are relatively few original ideas. I’m not suggesting stealing someone else’s hard work (i.e. directly ripping off their code or design, which the latter is actually what’s lead to Zynga getting so much flak from gaming developers). I’m suggesting that, in order to mitigate risk and increase your odds of succeeding, a new developer should emulate and improve upon successful ideas. This emulation strategy has been used to society’s benefit over and over and over, throughout all of human history, for literally every product you can think of. Ideas evolve and, as original as we like to think we are, the best concepts we come up with are derivations of other people’s ideas. In fact, Steve Jobs, one of America’s greatest inventors and original thinkers, was known for saying, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” Thomas Edison, another one of our country’s most prolific inventors, said, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” Pursuing an original idea is risky, especially when (A) no one has ever done it before, and (B) the market demand is unproven.

      Of course people can create original ideas that succeed beyond our wildest expectations. Those are the ideas that move society forward. But this post is not about how to be a groundbreaking artist who takes a lot of risks in the name of innovation; it’s about how to get started, how to succeed in the app market, and how to (hopefully) set yourself free from the rat race to work on something you love. That’s an important distinction that you seem to be missing.

      Like

      • Another proven method for creating good ideas is to move past the “improving an existing idea” to “combining two or more existing ideas”. That is where the magic is. This follows along the line that there are no new ideas, just better combinations of ideas.

        Consider how Four Square combined gaming with checking in or how Yelp combined reviews with social. Both good combinations of existing ideas that weren’t that great by themselves.

        Like

  9. An app that simply allows you to post to all of your social media sites in one place. The main reason to use being that you could avoid the load time of Twitter, Facebook, etc and just accomplish this all in one place. I’d like it to have one blank space for posting and then check boxes for the sites you would like post to. So if you check the Twitter box, the update would have to follow the character limits guideline.

    Like

  10. Awesome post! Hope it sparks lots of innovative apps:)

    My app idea is for a personal Death Clock with a few twists:
    -it would show the effective days remaining in your life using a graphic symbol (e.g.: a circle with 4 colors representing the 4 seasons of life)
    -it also shows you the death clocks of your family and friends (e.g.: by pulling in data from their Facebook birthdays).

    Like

  11. Here’s my idea:

    A lockbox app for storing primarily pictures from your phone. Has it been done before? Yes. Can it be better? Yes.

    Features:
    -Face recognition for unlocking (take picture for reference, take new picture each log in and compare with reference picture..make a funny face for more difficult log ins)
    -Password login as backup
    -Quick loading
    -copies/moves photos from Camera Roll (works like an upload pictures dialog from Facebook / Instagram, but with multiple photo selection at once)

    Thanks for the opportunity!

    Like

  12. There are some useful ideas in this post. But I think the author is giving an unrealistic picture of how easy it is to make decent money in the App market in order to sell his book. Don’t believe the hype. You will be competiting with hundreds of thousands of other apps, many of them free. The numbers show that the median earnings for a non-free App was a measly $600 per year. I know some very talented and smart iPhone app developers. They are all working long hours and none of them are making a fortune.

    >Ask the programmer to create and deliver the icon of your app

    Very few programmers have good graphic design skills (just as very few graphics designers have good programming skills).

    Like

    • Thanks for your comment, Andy. Yes, there is a lot of hype around the app market (my intent was to get people excited in this post, and I may have gone a bit overboard). That being said, I also know a lot of very talented and smart iPhone app developers… who are earning more money than they ever thought possible. Both sides to the story are true. While the majority of developers aren’t succeeding on an extraordinary level, I would argue that – for most of them – their strategy is fundamentally flawed on some level. Having an app certainly doesn’t guarantee success. Even having a great app doesn’t mean you’ll make money! To succeed in the app store requires continual monitoring, tweaking, and improving your marketing efforts (that’s assuming you have an app that the market wants).

      I do agree with you about the majority of programmers lacking graphic design skills. But as I pointed out (which may have been unclear), this is just part of the initial testing phase to assess what they’re capable of putting together. I like to see what they can do before we commit to developing the whole app.

      In any case, thanks for adding your perspective!

      Like

      • >To succeed in the app store requires continual monitoring, tweaking, and improving your marketing efforts (that’s assuming you have an app that the market wants).

        That has also been my experience selling Windows/Mac software. You can’t just have a good idea in the shower one morning, build it in a week and then expect the money to come pouring in. It takes a lot of time and commitment to polish the product and the marketing, and I think that doesn’t come across in this post. Anyway, I am heartened that my contrary view hasn’t been moderate out.

        Like

  13. Think of Shazam or soundhound…got it? Great. Now think of a similar app but with the added feature that it not only tells you the name and composer of the song but it also gives you the key the track is recorded in and even the chord changes. Perfect for musicians or wanna be pop stars…

    Like

  14. Question for Tim and Chad. I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, I am as excited about this as anyone, but why programmers don’t use this system to get rich themselves, that’s what I’d like to know…

    If this is this easy. They wouldn’t have to take the risk of paying the money to develop an app because they can do it themselves. If I was a programmer, I would spend my living hours doing just that, web sites, apps, whatever… and I’d do like Tim and travel the world (after I quit my job).

    Tim, I read your book last year, and now work 3 days of the week from home. (I had to give in my resignation though before my boss accepted this request). So thank you for giving me just the little push I needed to go all the way! ;o)

    Like

    • Hi Sisley- There are a lot of programmers building their own apps and making money. Coding isn’t one of my strengths, and I don’t have any desire to become an expert programmer. I wanted to focus on doing market research, coming up with new ideas, and improving my marketing. In other words, freeing up my day to do the stuff I enjoy. Coding takes a lot of time, and if that becomes your primary focus, it will typically be much harder to run and grow your app business.

      Like

  15. Hi All,

    I already delivered an application in outsourcing.

    I want to present my idea it’s pretty based on two concepts:

    – Keep It Simple …stupid!… (KISS)
    – Everybody want to have 15 minutes of fame

    So once I said this, i want to develop/outsource an application that can transform videos in an easily and cool way allowing users to share them with just one touch.

    The transformation consist into apply/concatenate to the video recorded by the user some audience reaction, for example a stadium, audience at a concert, people at parlament.

    So for example you can record your friend speaking at his birthday and then transform the video in a way that it seems that your friend is inside the parliament and all the members are insulting him….

    Or recording you while playing football and then transformate the video in a way it seems you are at the Camp Nou of Barcelona and all the audience is getting crazy for you.

    The application will use in app purchase.

    The application will be free, and just the special packets (further explained) will cost something.

    The navigation menu must be just of depth 3.

    So first navigation with a cool REC button or choose video from your library.

    Once the video is recorded or loaded from the library the second navigation menu is presented to the user, and allow him/her choosing the best package to apply to that video (or buying new package with in app purchase).

    Free package will be sport:
    – Stadium with the audience applauding
    – Stadium with the audience insulting and throwing things

    Paid Packets:
    – RockStar packet
    – Politics packet
    – Hollywood star

    Once the user choosed the package he/she can watch the video and then share it on facebook, twitter, upload on youtube etc….

    Like

  16. Hi Chad & Tim:

    Chad–Thanks so much for this great info and Tim–I appreciate you as always for posting. Here is my idea for an app: “See Me Thin!” The existing apps for visualizing weight loss–such as VirtualWeight (paid) and VirtualWeight Lite (free)–fall short of what most dieters are looking for. They are limited in model types, skin tones, hairstyles, wardrobes and ability to save information.

    My idea for an app is to emulate/create a better option by including the following: ability to link to popular weight loss apps like myfitnesspal.com, loseit, etc.; ability to load measurements in addition to height and weight to create more realistic figure changes as weight decreases, and add wardrobe options and hair styles so that your weight loss model looks more like the real you.

    I think this app would be very appealing to many folks–Slow Carb dieters and others–as there is a huge weight loss market. None of the existing apps of this type in the IPhone App store average over 2 stars so I know there is room for improvement and creativity. Thank you for this opportunity to present my app idea!
    Sincerely,
    Cheryl

    Like

  17. CNBC TV has been running App World program featuring app programmers for almost two years now… Othewise, good info if you dont have a TV set at home.

    Like

  18. No more texting and driving…

    TextGoggles or EyesOnTheRoad…

    Detects when user is moving at a high rate of speed, and then slows down text input in any app.

    Users must turn this on prior to driving at some point, and cannot turn it off unless movement stops, or if the user dials 911 or another code. Parents can set this code for younger drivers who borrow their phone before going off to college, for example.

    Visual Chart of how it works:

    http://www.sparsegroup.com/maximumconversions/2012/04/23/new-app-in-possible-development-eyesontheroad/

    Like

  19. Awesome article Chad and Tim. Chad, regarding business models for your apps… do any rely only on the price of the download as the source of revenue? Or is it the in-app purchases/advertising that are the big moneymakers?

    Like

    • I’ve used both models. It’s really easy to get people to download free apps. The next step is providing a valuable in-app purchase. Advertising and affiliate commissions can make up a significant source of revenue, but in my experience, the initial app download and in-app purchases are the biggest moneymakers.

      Like

      • Great post Chad and Tim!

        Question: Is it better to start with developing an app for the iPhone or iPad?

        Could the code used for the iPhone app also be used for the iPad app, or does it have to be completely redesigned?

        Like

  20. Helloooo!

    Brilliant article. I’ve been inspired and so here’s my idea.

    This app targets IG users but could be used on any social networking website. Combines apps such as Framestastic, photogene2 and your own camera function to create personalized Quote Pictures with various font options including your own handwriting.

    Users will have the option to choose or leave out frames, various backgrounds and themes (including pictures from their camera roll – altered via the app or untouched). They will then be able to scroll through famous quotes or create their own. Once completed they have the option to save the Quote Pic to their Camera roll or export directly to which ever Social network they want.

    That’s it really. Thanks for reading.

    Like

  21. Hi Tim/Chad

    I’m in love with apps. Every day I check the App Store for new cool stuff. I’ve had a bunch of ideas for different apps, but this is the one I will really use myself.

    I’m tired of snoozing and oversleeping. And I’m tired of those cheesy alarm clock apps in which you have to solve puzzles or shake the phone 30 times to stop it. Not useful, you just shake your phone and back to sleep. Kid’s play.

    I’ve got a better way to GET UP EVERY MORNING and it’s called WakePal (open to suggestions hehe)

    RESEARCH > I downloaded every alarm clock app in the market. Morning Worm, iHome+sleep, WaveAlarm, BestAlarm, iHandy, Alarm Clock, Sleep Cycle Alarm clock. I’ve observed the interface, the way it works and the way they monetize it (basically, nag screens offering a NO ADS version, or new ringtones/obstacles to wake up like new puzzles).

    Besides, I’ve also downloaded and studied GymPact – I use it every week. The app locates your gym and if you don’t go X times a week (you decide which number X is), you pay a small fee. If you go, you earn a small cash reward.

    I’ve seen the UI design, process and website. It’s a great role model.

    PROBLEM > I’m kind of obsessed with getting up at the right time because it is so important – it has a great influence on the rest of my day. Still, I haven’t mastered the skill. I even have the Jawbone Up wristband to track my sleep and wake up at the best possible time, but I can’t do it. 15 minutes of oversleeping can ruin your whole day, but when you are comfy in bed, you don’t realize this. You just press snooze over and over again.

    SOLUTION > A real obstacle, that will ‘affect’ you permanently if you refuse to wake up: Money.

    WAKEPAL! > Basically, the app works like this: you set your wake up time, your stake (how much you’ll loose if you don’t wake up) and slide/press the ‘Go to bed’ button. When the alarm triggers, the music will start. You’ll have the option to snooze for 5 minutes, or stop the alarm. If you snooze, you’ll loose your stake. If you stop the alarm you must wake up, or you will sleep for hours and be late to job/school/college/anything with a schedule. (Maybe the app will need an extra feature to assure you wake up)

    *EXTRA FEATURES* You can choose your alarm music from your iTunes library, and automate the process by choosing which days you have to wake up early.

    Some images (drawings) of the app UI going through different actions:

    >> http://explozial.com/albiazul/1.jpg
    >> http://explozial.com/albiazul/2.jpg

    CONCLUSION > Fairly simple app, I believe it can be done with the $5k mark. Easy to make a MVP and then expand if successful, easy to test, and hey.. IT REALLY WORKS. Besides, its for all ages and niches (massive market), and in one of the most profitable categories of apps – utilities, like the one Chad created first.

    Bye, thanks for the opportunity and great article!

    Gonzalo.

    ##

    Sory for my english, spanish is my native language.

    Like

  22. Great post! As always Tim, thanks for bringing your readers “the best of the best”.

    Contest entry:

    Field tool for creative real estate investors. This is something that is actually in the works and something we intend to launch in the next month. The app takes our two page property evaluation sheet and turns it into an app that does all the math and allows you to compare properties side-by-side. Includes check-off lists for property features, ability to catalog photos of damage directly in-app, enter financial information about the property, calculate NOI, IRR, etc. So it’s a complete property inspection checklist with financial analysis included. Allows scheduling of follow up with the owner/Realtor, tracks progress of the deal, etc.

    Again, great post. Whether you select us or not, this gives us some great tips we will use for launching our iOS app!

    Like

  23. Brilliant – thanks for sharing this!

    I’m too late for the competition as my app went live today. It’s actually my second.. Shame, I would have loved to have entered.

    Anyway, here’s the new app and I’m really excited about it
    ‘Celebrity Baby Names’
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/celebrity-baby-names/id519632225?mt=8

    Having recently had my first child and cringed at the thought of my wife buying a baby name book I’ve been working on a series of baby name apps. The first was Celtic Baby Names – more to follow shortly.

    Great advice, thanks for taking the time to write this and share.

    Like

  24. Here is my app idea…
    Name: ColorMe, the Color Identifier for Artists & Creative Professionals

    Function: The app allows the user to take a photo, zoom in and identify the colors in the photo by the 6 digit html color code or RGB code.

    Who wants it: A web designer who wants to know the exact shade of blue to match her logo with a background photo. The decorator who wants his wall to contrast perfectly with his ceiling trim. The clothing designer who wants to order the exact right shade of fabric for her new shirt. Any creative person who cares about colors!

    Competition: There are several other color identifier apps out there. “Color Identifier”, “Color ID Free” ($9.99?), and iColorNamer4″ are made for color blind people to identify colors. They just give the name of a color, not the color code, none of them work well and all are rated poorly.

    “ColorVisor” does identify colors by RGB and CMYK codes but it has no free version, no html color codes, and doesn’t let you zoom in.

    None of the competitors have had many downloads, judging by the volume of comments, but I think that’s because they are poorly made and not marketed well. I think I can do better!

    Why I think it will sell: Reason 1, I will use it! Reason 2, I have had several different artist/designer friends literally say, “I wish there was an app where you could just take a photo and it would give you the color code”.

    I do have a drawing/layout of what I want it to look like, but I don’t think I can paste it in the comments section.

    Great article, thanks for the useful tips and the inspiration!

    Matt

    Like

  25. Thanks Tim and Chad! What an amazing post. I’ve been reading Chad’s book App Empire (http://appempirebook.com) and it’s been a huge help to be as I’ve been working on building my own apps. Chad’s such an inspiration both in terms of what he’s endured physically and what he’s been able to accomplish professionally. I’m excited to keep developing and am looking forward to whatever comes next. Thanks again guys!

    Like

  26. Wonderful Article! Interesting that you wrote it just as I was designing an app!

    My Idea:

    An intelligent day planner.

    Much time is wasted each day looking over lists of things to do, thinking about what order we should do things, and generally stressing about our day.

    Much in the way GPS navigation can give you turn by turn instructions, I am creating a day planner that gives you task by task instructions. Think of a traditional calendar like a map, and ours like turned based navigation for your day.

    Main User Experience:

    1) The phone looks at the location of your first action of the day and your current location, calculates the time required to make the drive, adds to this your preferred amount of time to get ready, and calculates a time to set an alarm.

    2) Alarm goes off.

    3) Hit i’m awake button on the alarm page.

    4) The phone shows a page that says “Get Ready! you have to leave for (whatever your first appointment is) in X minutes”, and counts down.

    5) Alarm sound when time is out, stop it by pressing the “I’m leaving button”

    6) Once the button is pressed, a GPS map comes up with directions to the appointment.

    7) The phone senses your arrival via GPS or the user clicking an “I’m here button”

    8) While you are in the appointment, your phone can auto silence, or change other settings for the duration of the appointment.

    9) When you click the “I’m done” button, the phone calculates the drive time it will take to get to your next appointment from your current position, and sets an alarm to go off at the time you need to leave.

    10) Repeat from step 5 for all appointments.

    11) The last appointment of the day is always “fall asleep”, the time for which is calculated by counting back the number of prefered sleep hours from the alarm time for the next morning.

    12) repeat from step one

    13) Freedom 😉

    Like

  27. Great information! Here is an app idea that I have, which I haven’t had the time to do myself yet.

    “The Lunchenator”, which is an app that allows people to connect via the phone contacts, Facebook contacts, etc. to go and grab lunch. Each person would put in their top three cuisines that they want for lunch. Then the app uses Google Maps to locate places to eat in the area that matches their choices. You could even get driving directions. This would be very useful because individuals always have a hard time coming up with a place to eat that everyone agrees on. It would also be very useful if the individuals using the app were far apart from each other because it could find a place to eat that was located in between each person so they can meet in the middle.

    For instance, let’s say I want Italian, Mexican, or Japanese and my buddy wants American, Japanese, or Chinese. The app would choose Japanese since both people had that in their lists and then it would look for a place that is convenient for both. It would provide driving directions and display an estimated time of arrival for each person. You could even expand it to make reservations, do dinner, etc.

    I haven’t seen anything like this before and I feel it could be very useful and fun at the same time.

    Like

  28. Chad, Just picked up your book this morning, and here you are on Tim’s blog. Must be a reason =)

    This app comes from a night when i wanted to play a game of pick up ball, but all my buddies weren’t able to break away from the family. Every Gym in the area I visited had recreation leagues. I knew a game was close, but I didn’t know where.

    My App would be called Game On. This is an app that lets you post a wanted game such as a pick up game of basketball or anything really, as well as respond to other posted games around you.

    It would use the Google Maps API and allow you to post that you are either looking for or hosting a game.

    It would have an in app search feature that lets you look for those with similar interests and skill levels and invite them to play or put a game together at a future date.

    You could set privacy settings, have friends within the app, set requirements for things like skill level, and even incorporate social gaming aspects like awards and badges etc.

    You could use the phone to engage in real time games against other players and comparing stats.

    A secondary function of the app, is the ability of athletes to have social profiles where they can post up their stats, game film etc. for the purpose of getting the attention of recruiting teams for getting scholarship offers.

    Like

  29. Hi Tim,

    Great article. Is there anyway that we can submit our ideas off this chain of comments? Do you have an email address/or private comment box that we can use to submit our ideas?

    Thanks,
    Andy

    Like

  30. Contest Entry: Bar Code Scanner linked to Amazon One-Click.

    The app would use the camera to take a photo of a bar code, process the image to determine the UPC code, look up the UPC code up on Amazon, and display The Amazon product page (with Associate tag). After that the user would be able to one-click to buy or add it to the cart just like normal. Simple, easy.

    The key would be marketing this as something to use in your daily life as needed. Almost our of baby diapers? Snap a photo of the bar code, one-click to buy, and more are on their way. Eating the last of the oatmeal or cereal? Snap a photo, one-click. Not much laundry detergent left? Snap and click.

    Since Amazon Prime was introduced (free shipping) you don’t really need to worry about paying too much multiple shipments. So why not eliminate extra trips to the grocery store or mall by buying through your phone. Especially handy for new mothers, single moms, busy students, and anyone who has trouble remembering what was on the shopping list.

    Similar applications already exist (including one made by Amazon), but I don’t know anyone who uses them. That tells me they aren’t being marketed correctly.

    Thanks Tim and Chad, another great post!

    Like

  31. Today I submitted an Idea with my team at the venture-labs.org class.

    We got handed out an idea marked as “worst idea” and given the challenge to make a good commercial of it.

    Check it out at: http://www.slideshare.net/gurunor/venture-labs-houseopedia-app

    To find the best possible housing solution has always been a challenge with tons of providers to search through.

    Finding the right house is one of life’s biggest investment decisions and we spend so much time on thinking and finding the best house. One has to approach newspapers, real estate agents, banks or websites to search for the best solution.

    Houseopedia for the iPhone solves your challenges on the go, giving you a all-in-one app for purchasing and renting out real estate. Helping you optimise your searching, by putting it all in an easy to use app.

    -Find available houses for sale/rent by searching in your City or chosen areas.
    -We get daily / hourly updates from over 1500+ real estate brokers, newspapers and personal sell/rent ads submitted via the app or on our website.
    -Subscribe to houses that become listed in your chosen favourite areas. You can set up your own preferences.
    -Sell or rent out your house in 1-2-3. Write a short summary and add price, snap some photos with your phone, publish.

    We actually did not have an idea to commercialize this since it was an assignment to make the best out of what somebody called a bad idea.
    its cool to put it out here to get some feedback.

    -Bendik

    Like

  32. I love iOS and the possibilities it opens for developers and thinkers alike. This article is perfect and hopefully opens new doors for many people. I am not a developer, but rather one of the thinkers, and here’s what I think…

    Evo.

    Evo is a new game (with a new twist) on the old “eat to grow” games. Based in outer space, the player controls a planet by tilting their iOS device to navigate the final frontier. In navigating there are many sights to be seen ranging from asteroids, planets, stars, even entire galaxies. As the planet, the player must collide themselves with smaller entities to grow in the universe (very similar to spore or the many flash eat or be eaten games). Beautiful graphics + an interactive soundtrack + intuitive touch less interface = a new beginning for this type of game.

    Also introduced (never before seen in these games to my knowledge) is the leader board! Seamlessly integrated with open feint and game center, evo calculates a score based on speed of play and size of player to make for a game that allows a 20 minute sitting or a 2 minute dash.

    Play for five, fight to strive.

    Evo.

    For more details (sketches, explanations, ideas, etc) visit http://www.ShinePhotos.com/evo.html

    Like

  33. Contest Entry;

    App is called

    My Two Cents

    It is similar to ChaCha but improves on all of its short comings and expands on its strengths.

    Key features.
    Free.
    No Ads. Ever.
    Simple GUI
    Locale Function
    Guru Rating System
    You choose the Guru
    Galleries
    Rotatable on the Ipad/iphone
    QA database
    Residual Income able

    Profit Model

    1 QPoint = 5 cents
    Simple Question costs 1 QPoint
    Complex Question Costs 10 QPoints

    Pays you
    1 cent per question answered no matter what
    2 cents if answered satisfactorily

    25/35 cents respectively for Complex questions

    Gallery
    Free to submit to gallery (at least 10 pix must be sent), Free to Share low res pix, 1 QPoint to download Hi Res images on device.

    Here is the link to the video explaining it in more detail with visual concepts of the GUI.

    let me know what you guys think

    Like

  34. My app is based on the Wunderlist task app. It’s basically a to do list. The problem with their app is that it doesn’t support re-spawning tasks so you have to manually input tasks that you do every day. My app would solve this market deficiency and completely focus on re-spawning/reoccurring tasks. This idea is validated because there are numerous posts on their support forum asking for this feature but they have failed to deliver. Here is a very crude rough draft of what the app would look like.

    Like

  35. Another incredible post and you have to give big props to Chad for his willingness to share all this awesome content for free.

    If you’re seriously interested in making apps then I would HIGHLY recommend you immediately pick up a copy of App Empire by Chad.

    It’s way more in depth and I also found his inspirational chapters to be very motivating to get your butt in gear. Let’s create something!

    Like

  36. Great article!!

    I have started to learn iOS coding for my own engineering and business apps since I got the impression through research that the coding costs would be out of my reach, but maybe (probably) I’m wrong!!

    Anyone, for the contest, here is my app concept and a link to the full spec on Google Docs:
    ************************************************************
    In some industries (including manufacturing, mining, construction and vehicle fleet management), a management of physical assets is a significant part of the business in terms of cost and impact on revenue.

    Management of assets like manufacturing plant, mining machines, construction equipment, buses, trucks and other vehicles involves assessing the condition of the equipment to decide whether any repairs or maintenance is required.

    In some plants and on some pieces of equipment, there are on-board technologies such as sensors and telemetry that sends equipment condition to a central location. Sensors generally measure physical properties such as temperature and pressure. However, in almost all industries, this is only part of the process required for managing physical assets.

    Virtually all capital-intensive equipment benefits from inspections of some nature to assess the condition of the equipment. Visual inspections help to locate conditions such as rust, cracks, leaks, accident damage and other physical degradation that is not measured in any way by a remote sensor. Degradation can eventually result in the breakdown of the asset when it is least expected, and therefore results in a financial impact to the business (lost revenue from the “out-of-service” asset, and costs to repair the asset).
    Visual inspections require an “inspector” to conduct the “inspection”, and some form of “recording” any “defects” that are found during the inspection. Sophistication of the “recording” can vary from a scrap of paper or a paper “defect recording form” that needs to be completed, through to a hardened tablet computer that guides the input and transmission of the defect to a central database.

    The “recording” of a defect requires that the inspector translate, into words, the visual condition of the asset. Generally this information is used by other maintenance professionals (who may not be the inspector) to determine the “complaint”, the “cause” and any remedial “correction” action.

    Smartphones are routinely used to photograph the condition of the asset (“picture tells a thousand words”) to help others in the organisation understand the “context” around the written words. In reality, photographs generally provide sufficient and “better” context to the description of the complaint than any expanded text will provide. This is due to the various ways the same defect can be described with written words.

    As a result, an opportunity to develop an iPhone application to facilitate visual inspections of physical assets is evident. A suitable application to perform this dedicated function could not be located in the App Store as of 30 March 2012.

    This application would perform the following functions:
    1. Record the details of the particular plant under investigation
    2. Time and date stamp the report
    3. Record the location of the inspector
    4. Create individual records of defects within the report that are located by the inspector:
    a. Generate a defect record identification reference number
    b. Select a general location of the defect on the plant (top, bottom, left right etc)
    c. Select or enter a defect “type” (cracked, rusty, leaking etc)
    d. Capture a photograph/s of the defect
    5. Repeat step 4 as many times as required for the plant under inspection
    6. Generate a report with the above data ready for off-board transmission
    7. Permit off-board transmission of the report from the device to other locations

    This application idea suits the iPhone platform better than iPad as the iPad must be carried in the hands or in a bag, rather than stored in a pocket. This is a consideration as large physical assets require the inspector to climb ladders or staircases to access the plant. The requirement to carry a device (which is no different to a clipboard) impacts the inspector’s ability to safety navigate the plant.
    ************************************************************
    https://docs.google.com/open?id=1QiUQxBPL9Cg-jjoX5NHdhQr-99OA8zPKB4lzSjwEzuHbCRyHaQrKYxwa0fRH

    Like

  37. I call my app “SketchBox.”

    SketchBox is a simple drawing app that allows you to upload your creations to several social media sites (or all of them!) at the push of a button.

    Apps like Draw Anything are wildly successful (50 million downloads in 50 days). We know that over %50 of tweets and %40 of Facebook updates are done via mobile devices. This app will satisfy artists and people looking to communicate visual information quickly and easily.

    Click the link to see a mock-up –> [IMG]http://i42.tinypic.com/riw5n5.jpg[/IMG]

    Like

  38. Holy spimolee! Kick-ass article Chad. This is a such a great guide to start any iphone app venture. Thanks to you for sharing such detail! And thanks to Tim for posting this up! And as for those wondering if their idea will get “stolen” by posting it on here…remember that what you think and say manifest. So instead of thinking about lack, think abundance, and share your ideas. With an abundance mentality, you can only prosper. Great luck to everyone entering the contest!

    Like

  39. Hi Tim,
    Thanks for giving us a great post. You have shared with us a great topic and introduced us to a great entrepreneur. I usually don’t post comments and usually passively take in the information you provide but this time I had to comment.

    Thanks!

    Chad,
    Thank you for sharing a great deal on how you do your work. I am always happy to see someone come up from being at the lowest point and end up high up.

    iPhone Game Idea – Madd Clouds
    =========================
    Madd Clouds is a simple, addicting and enjoyable concentration game. The player has to maneuver Smiley the Sun through the Madd Clouds with out hitting them or touching the borders. The clouds will be randomly moving and bouncing around the screen. As time progresses in the game, more Madd Clouds will appear, additionally, the speed of the Madd Clouds will increase with time.

    Here is a very quick ms paint mock up of the game screen

    Also, I decided to go all out and make a more detailed design
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/22115790/Madd_Clouds_Design.pdf

    Thanks!
    Himal.B

    Like

  40. What if someone steals an idea off these comments, isn’t there a special contest Email address we can send our ideas to? Remember step 6: NDA right?

    Like

  41. Hey Chad – great inspiring stuff. The first step is always the hardest, and you’ve convinced me to give it a go. So….

    ** Look More Professional, and Save Yourself Hundreds of $$ Each Month **

    Prominently displaying a phone number on your website will substantially increase conversions. But displaying a mobile number makes you look like a one-man show. So how do you retain your globe trotting lifestyle, running your one-man business, looking pro, while keeping the costs down?

    Introducing the iCallU Button.

    Customers can click a button on your website, and you’ll be instantly notified on your smart phone to call them back!

    The big benefit here is that many serious mobile business/lifestyles operators have an unlimited phone plan – which you can get in Australia for about $100 / month. Using a 1300/1800 number (up to $30 / month) then paying the redirection fees per call, can add up to some hundreds of dollars each month very quickly. (I know this from experience!!)

    If you were calling them, instead of them calling you, you’ll save ALL of the costs of the hosted/redirected line. This immediately adds to your bottom line.

    Add to that the fact that most customers are using mobiles instead of landlines, they get charged more for calling landlines than mobiles, and get charged for calling “toll free / fixed rate” numbers anyway, and you’ll see the huge benefit for your customers too So they’re even more likely to talk to you, resulting in more conversions than ever before!

    And a final benefit for the customer is that they never have to hold. You’ll only call them back as soon as you’re available to talk to them, so they won’t get frustrated listening to “how important their call is to you”.

    Mockup of basic design is here:

    General interface should be in a similar style to the built-in phone system of iOS / Android, but use a different colour so it is obviously different (so users don’t get confused if they are using the normal phone, or the iCallU app). Interface only needs to be very simple.

    Handy functionality would be to log calls – whether you’ve returned the call, whether you’ve attempted to return call etc. Also online account management required, to see list of all calls and their statuses. Would be good to have some time based rules – e.g. only active call backs 8am-5pm Mon-Fri etc. If the system could send you a repeat notification for calls you haven’t actioned after a set period – this would be useful (maybe premium).

    Potential residual income from premium version that connects calls, international use with low rates for travellers, multi-answer points, SMS notification for use in non-3G locations, recording of call and archiving for future reference, and more.

    I’d use it. 4 friends with online businesses I just rang this afternoon would use it. I actually really need this…..

    Loving your work.

    Cheers
    Trav

    Like

  42. Incredible article. I’ve done a little freelancing on the issue myself, and have been considering getting into it as a real business. Thanks for showing me the business side of everything.

    Like

  43. Thanks Tim for finding the best guests to contribute to your blog

    Chad, this was a great post. As a side note I wanted to let you know that I recently bought your book and I had a few questions to ask your support staff. They provide great service.

    Wow….there are a lot of great ideas here.

    I realised recently that getting rid of some of my self-limiting inner blocks are crucial to having a consistent app business. This is something I have been working on too.

    In the past I would be trying really hard to come up with new and original ideas. Only to be disappointed when I found they already existed. I finally realised that there is no need to re-invent the wheel to be successful.

    As the CEO of Zynga said recently, “It’s not about being first to the market, it’s about being the best to market.”

    Keeping that in mind, my app idea is in the game market.

    Why?

    Because if you browse the ITunes App store you will quickly realise that games generally have the most downloads. People want an escape. They want to be entertained. Games provide that for long stretches at a time.

    In fact, that’s the only category that already has sub-category’s laid out for us.
    Plus you need only to look in the top paid and free apps sections to see the number of games present.

    Having said that, the game that I want to create is an “endless” type of game.
    This is the type of game that just keeps going and where your main aim is to get the highest score.

    Like the game Doodle Jump.

    There are no levels, like you find in Angry Birds. Creating new levels becomes expensive.

    “Endless” games are much cheaper to make.

    One of the hottest “endless” games out there right now is Temple Run by Imangi Studios.
    Its very addictive….most of my friends play it.

    It has been downloaded more than 40 million times.

    I want to develop a game very similar to Temple Run but with a space theme. The backdrop will be the star filled galaxy. The main character (wearing a space suit) will run from aliens as he/she collects space valuables.

    As you progress, the character will even have the option to temporarily ride a fast gliding hover board (just like the ones in Back to the Future!)

    The aim is to keep running for as long as you can which keeps increasing your score, while collecting points and avoiding booby traps and avoiding plunging into space.
    Should there be any need for additional funding, I will contribute to the 5k investment.

    In fact, I will go and get a quote from freelancers on guru.com right now to find out how much it was will cost.

    Picture this…but in space:

    http://bit.ly/I22ySN

    Sources:
    http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/temple-run/

    Like

    • Andy – it’s good to get some reality into the mix. I guess what you are saying is you need a little ‘hype’ to make it into some decent numbers.

      …and i guess that is why entering this competition might get you that…look forward to seeing your entry 🙂

      Like

      • Jono,

        The thought of writing software where: $0.99 is considered expensive, I can’t charge for upgrades and the payment processor keeps 30% just isn’t attractive. I develop and sell a successful niche product to Windows and Mac users. I charge $30-300 per licence, charge for major upgrades and pay approx 5% to the payment processor.

        NB/ I’m not saying that no-one should write Apps for the App store. Just that you should be realistic about your chance of making a decent return on your inestment, especially if you are having to pay someone else to do the programming.

        Like

    • Andy – you make a very good point that far too many on this list will obviously be blind to. It’s eerily similar to the restaurant business. Everybody thinks they can do it because they have been to hundreds of restaurants and they know what they like and don’t like about their usual hangouts. Few have the drive to do the dirty work and fewer still will have the luck that it takes to avoid some unforeseen catastrophes. Tim does a nice service here, but by only promoting the top 0.01% of success cases he paints a severely distorted picture.

      Like

  44. Hi there! This was an excellent read, very interesting and informative and certainly motivating.
    I would like to take part in the contest and here is my entry:

    Legend
    An app that combines the exploding market of photography with the (almost) guilty pleasure of meme-making. Put meme-like captions on your own photos and share them with everyone.
    There are apps that generate memes and there are apps that do beautiful things with photographs (one only has to look at the amazing price instagr.am was bought at, a cool billion dollars). So why not bring the two together? Legend is an easy-to-use, lightweight app that lets you put meme-like captions on your own photos and helps you share them over a variety of media (Facebook, Twitter, email, mms etc.)

    It will be based on the freemium model. The free version will only have the classic all-caps meme font but no other restrctions, whereas the paid version will also have lower-case letters, more fonts, more colours and more options of text placement.

    Here is a mock-up of the free version http://www.freeimagehosting.net/2a6ni

    Like

  45. Tim: Awesome, and timely as usual.
    Chad: I cannot tell you how unbelievably useful this information is, as I’ve been developing an idea for an app with a few friends for a while now, and I am on the cusp of trying to get it programmed, as in, this week. Thank you so much for your brilliant advice.

    Like

  46. Name of App: Analyze the compatibility your relationship Silently,

    Description: This app will help the individuals to find out the life partners according to their own ideals. At start, 10 questions of multiple choice (4 choices for each) will be asked about the dream partner you want.
    Then, based on the analysis of different combinations of answers, you will be asked to note different habits and behaviors of his life mate silently. if these habits and behaviors are according to the psychology of the one’s ideal, then one can go ahead and take him/her as life partner otherwise, a caution will be given about the quality relationship in future.

    Like

  47. Hi,
    The timing that you put this post up is so uncanny! I took a step of faith into the app world a couple of weeks back and I’m still looking for results.

    I have this great idea but my funds are short. I’m currently building cheaper ones, hoping that one day, they’ll provide revenue for bigger projects.

    This idea came about because I live in a city and transportation never gets any cheaper, better or more efficient. Cost of living usually spikes partly due to transportation. Then, it hit me.

    Why not, build a an app that connects the common drivers (eg. people with personal cars) and service providers (eg. cab drivers) to commuters? Think about it as something like hitch-hiking. The app will be a platform where commuters who are travelling in the same direction as other drivers (with empty seats) can hitch a ride at a lower cost compared to those service providers.

    For example, I want to travel from point A to B. It costs me $7 on a cab. But with the app, it costs me $3 to hitch a ride on a random guy travelling the same way, from A to B. It is a win-win. The driver earns some cash just for picking up me, a random stranger, and I get a huge discount!

    What I propose is an app format that is as user friendly as possible.

    The commuter/driver has to sign up with their real name, contact number and IC Number. Upon signing up, there will only be 2 tabs, commuter or driver.

    Picking “commuter” will allow the user to tap a button that sends information about the “commuter”, which includes his destination, to drivers in a 1km radius. The first driver that accepts the “job” can pick up the commuter with the commuter’s acceptance.

    To put it another way, it will be the first social app about transport. How awesome is that?! I’m really psyched about this idea but I need cash to make it happen. I’m really open to honest criticisms too. It’s only with failure that we can grow 🙂

    Like

    • Love this idea, good luck with it & don’t sweat the production costs, plenty of ways to make this happen, just believe in yourself. Might be nice to have an eBay style rating on both parties for safety sake. Royce

      Like

  48. My App suggestion is a challenge/bet app.

    Name maybe: I bet ya!

    The concept:-
    You challenge or bet a friend they won’t or can’t do something.
    e.g. I bet you won’t lose 2 stone by Christmas (like the 4 hour body connection).
    OR
    Challenges could go out to groups or globally to accept.

    There could be a payment option (maybe link in with paypal).
    e.g. you bet a friend $50 they can’t lose 2 stone by Christmas.
    OR
    A global challenge could be $50 to the first person that does something or the first 10 people or just the first to accept the challenge.

    Other points:-
    1.Description of challenge and criteria.
    2.Payment or reward for meeting challenge.
    3.Open challenge or to someone specific.
    4.Time frame for a challenge/bet.
    5.Reminders could be set to remind a challenger and an acceptor of a challenge in progress.
    6.Pictures or videos of the challenge or result could be added.
    7.Option to list/serach for challenges to undertake.
    8.A mechanism to agree if a challenge was met or not (this could involve a 3rd party).

    Thanks

    Gary.

    Like

  49. Great article. Here’s my idea: SignPost – an augmented reality Twitter-like app. Using the phone’s GPS and a Layar-like platform, you can post messages or photos at specific places. Others using the app can see your posts at that spot through the phone’s camera. You can choose to view all SignPosts, or only those of your friends. You can also choose to “friend” authors of posts you see and like. Voila.

    Like

  50. Hey guys,

    First of all, I must say that was a great read. Especially so because I’m in the midst of trying to get my app done up!

    I know you’ll have a ton of comments to wade through, so I will try to be concise:

    >> PEEK – Peek into another world

    Take a glimpse into the world of someone across the globe. For a period of 24 hours, PEEK will pair you up with someone somewhere else in the world.

    In that time span, you can send photos (with captions) and receive them – you can be looking at real-time photos of Paris, Maldives, Singapore, Tokyo, Cambodia, and even places you’ve never heard of! After 24 hours, you’ll be then paired up with someone else somewhere else, and the mini-journey begins again.

    – – –

    >> Pricing & Marketing Strategy

    1. We will methodically select 100 users across the world as beta users. This is to ensure a good quality pool of locations and content exchange – which in a social app is extremely vital
    2. Release the app free with a 3-day trial, after which, the user will have to pay to continue using the app
    3. Charge a slightly higher price (e.g. $2.99) to weed out trollers or users who bring no value to the table

    – – –

    >> Why You Should Pick Me

    1. The entire app has been completely designed (you can preview the design here: http://mocku.ps/pa2pbc). A rough guide for programming has also been done up.
    2. I’m a freelance graphic designer (www.melewi.net), so the design is fantastic!
    3. This is a photo-sharing social app; which is the best time to have launched, riding off the coattails of the Instagram acquisition fuss, as well as the buzz surrounding Pair and Path
    4. I’ve a fairly strong understanding of the app world and human psychology, which is seen in the app (basic functionality first, bells and whistles come later; pre-emptive measures to ward off trolls; but most importantly: creating a terrific user experience)
    5. I’m a little bit broke because I’m traveling the world and am bootstrapping a few projects on my own! 🙂

    – – –

    >> Why You Should Pick Me II: About Me

    1. I’m really good at what I do
    2. I am shamelessly promoting myself to try to win this
    3. I’m 21, a nomad, and my own boss
    4. I’m a good person, and hopefully also somewhat amusing
    5. I was in a helicopter about 5 days ago (cause that’s how I roll)
    6. I value the chance for a chat more than the cash
    7. I made the effort to detail out you why you should pick me and my (pretty awesome) idea
    8. My passion overrides my attempt to be concise!

    – – –

    Hoping to hear back from you guys. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Melissa

    Like

  51. This is a great summary of some of the best app creation advice out there. Still a marketplace where much money can be made. I’d also strongly advocate the use of an email list pre-launch to gather contact details of those interested in your app and then once you hit the launch, email your list and that will give you a big initial boost to downloads that really helps with getting your app up the rankings and improves your chances of being featured by Apple. Services such as Launch Effect App and Launch Rock are perfect for achieving this and spreading word of mouth.

    I also run a course on how to create and launch highly successful apps.

    Like

  52. <<>>> App Idea

    Pretty basic, I’m not going to lie. Everyone know’s what a tally mark is right? A simple mark designed to keep track of something. You mark off four, then you do one diagonally for five, then move onto the next block of five.

    That’s essentially what I’d like to create.

    The user would download the app. They would then create a “board” and title it whatever they are keep track of, say girls I’ve slept with or number of times they curse in this movie. Users can have multiple boards to keep track of whatever they want.

    Then once the board has been created/selected. The user would just run their fingers down the screen of the iphone to make a tally mark.

    The app would register the finger slide as a tally, geostamp it with time/date/location information and place the tally on the board. At a glance the user could see how many tally’s they’ve made in total on that board.

    Optional, the boards could be designed in themes i.e a bedpost, chalkboard, belt etc….

    I know it’s simple, but sometimes simple is the way to go.

    Name of the app: Tally or Notch

    Loved the article, good luck to everyone!

    Like

  53. More apps need to utilize the iOS gyroscopic function.

    I took a few years off since I programmed 3D apps (have a 2 year old and 4 months old) but now I’m going to start creating 3D apps again since ipad gyro works quite well and many people have them.

    My current idea is to create some kind of tunnel game in which you have to keep turning and twisting your body around to navigate through it.

    Vaguely speaking it’s similar in concept to something like http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/games/missilegame3d
    with the control like

    Depending on funding and/or success. This could evolve into a dance dance revolution type of game to help you work out.

    I think people enjoy holding the device like it is a window into a virtual world. Touching and swiping the screen then seeing on screen effects gives added satisfaction. Wish me luck !

    I published some early concepts using unity3d at my worldlearningtree blog but I won’t link to it here.

    Like

  54. Love the post, I’ve always wanted to start making apps but putting it off because I thought you had to have a certain level of programming knowledge before starting.

    Here’s my app idea based on combining two app concepts that I’ve been looking at. I’m very into personal tracking and logging but so far apps that I’ve come across are either too bloated or to tedious to use on a daily basis.

    Txt Track: Uses two concepts- the todo.txt concept and personal tracking for a simple fuss-free personal tracking app. The todo.txt philosophy aims at simple todo list using a simple .txt file. Using simplicity as a principle, Txt Track will be an app that allows the user to track anything (i.e. diet, exercise, errands) using simple lines of text. In the conceptualization, I also looked at Tap Log, an android-only app that focused on a fuss-free personal logging experience simply through tapping the different categories.

    With Txt Track, there are three levels of categories namely the topline, the subline/s and the root. The topline will be the first page of categories that the user will always see when entering the app. These are usually the broad categories that a user can personally enter namely food, exercise, sleep, tasks etc. The subline/s will be categories that a user enters in each of the broad categories. For example, under food, a user can create sub-categories like snacks, lunch, dinner. The user can continue making sub-categories within sub-categories. The root wil be the final page where the user will be required to input the data that the user wishes to track. At the root, the user can input a timestamp (date and time), quantity (numerical value), check (a checkbox to indicate if a certain task or goal was ahieved or not) and details (text description).

    Further to this, Txt Track has two view modes: category and daily. The category view allows the user to set the frontpage of Txt Track to view the topline(main categories). The user then inputs data by clicking on the respective categories.

    The daily view instead sets the frontpage to display all the root categories in an ordered list. In this way, the user can have a full view of what are the items being tracked each day.

    The final thing about Txt Track is that the data being tracked will sync with a track.txt file in your dropbox, where the daily inputs are constantly being updated in the track.txt file. The track.txt is a sort of master log file that the user can use as reference.

    Txt Track is a simple, text-only, no-frills and fuss-free personal tracking app. It’s for productivity users who just want a simple tracking app without the bloat.

    Like

  55. Hi!

    If anyone is interested in doing something like a “Beginner App Master Mind” group, I’d love to hear from you (feyyaz {at} hackingfresh {dot} com).

    I figured it could be difficult for beginners to find the right answers to difficult questions and maybe we can help each other out! 🙂

    Cheers!

    P.S.: Chad – bought the book after I read the article, read it from cover to cover, awesome read.

    P.P.S.: Tim – Thanks for bringing Chad on!

    Like

  56. My app idea for contest submission:

    The Ultimate Insulter: This would be an entertaining app that would be chocked full of fun and funny insults both vocalized and text. These could be stored as ring/notification tones or sent to your friends (or enemies). Insults within the app would be searchable by both category and “similar to”. You would also be able to rate insults making it easier to recall past favorites. An “insult of the day” would also be available.

    Like

  57. Great article – it’s been said by everyone already.

    Here’s my idea:

    Temple Israel Run

    This will be a parody of Temple Run, but the main character is a Bar Mitzvah boy trying to escape from Temple. He will be pursued by his Mother and Aunts, and he’ll need to avoid obstacles such as the Rabbi, Cantor, 13 year old girls, and hurdling Kiddush tables. If you’re not careful, you might fall into a river of Shirley Temples.

    There’s a lot of kitsch opportunity, and if we act fast we can still benefit from the hype of Temple Run. So many people have suffered through Bar Mitzvah’s (both Jews and non-Jews) that it will have appeal. The app will cost $0.99, and there will also be in-app purchases like the real Temple Run.

    Like

  58. Great article, very well made…THANK YOU CHAD!
    I just started working for a company, social marketing pays, that creates customized app for restaurants and small business, and your article arrived just at the right time to inspire me.
    and thank you Tim for posting it!

    Like

  59. Thank you so much Chad and Tim for sharing this information!!!!! I am one of those persons who has had many ideas for apps, even prior to the invention of the apps world and now have a forum to use these ideas. I am so excited about growing an app empire!

    I have already started the initial process and have gone through Appsinminded.com for guidance to become a successful Apple app developer. Since I am doing this alone and really not a developer, programmer, etc. (Just an idea person) I have been hesitant at times thinking I don’t know enough or I’m not tech savvy enough. Could you please give me your opinion of Appsinminded.com?

    Also, how do I get past the fear of my ideas being stolen? I find it paralyzing at times and now I am stuck. I am afraid of moving foward. I trust no one. Help!

    Thanks for whatever advise you may offer.

    Like

  60. My App:
    Fit Deck
    Skeuomorphic deck of playing cards with various body weight exercises on them.
    Choose work out length and difficulty you will be dealt a semi randomized hand of exercises. Users will touch to begin timer begin performing the exercise. A tone will indicate that the rest period has begun and users will input their # of reps. And be shown the next card until the routine has completed. Achievements will be available for using the app consistently, progressing, and for particular feats (100 in one session, 1000 total squats). Charts and progress trackers will be available as a fremium upgrade.

    Like

  61. Mobile App Idea:

    The Posterizer

    With the tap of a button, this app converts your digital photos into printable large format posters.

    How does it work?

    The app dices up the original image into smaller pieces and then blows each diced image up into a standard 8.5 X 11 .PDF page that is conveniently mailed to your inbox and ready for printing from a standard inkjet or laser printer.

    Works well with Instagram and every other photography app.

    Can anyone say inkjet cartridge affiliate marketing?

    Like

  62. Great article, thanks for sharing Tim. I also watched Chad’s interview on Mixergy.

    Here’s an idea a buddy of mine and I thought about. A purely location based app; like a break-the-ice type of service. Imagine you’re in a bar or any type of social setting (even a subway station) and it shows the app users who are in the vicinity. Then you ‘buzz’ or ‘beep’ the profiles you’re interested, and if they accept then it’s an instant interaction or even a date.

    Users can log into via Facebook so they don’t have to create a separate profile. I know okcupid has their own app that shows who is in the vicinity, but it’s not as efficient. This app can be a an added feature to dating sites or Facebook.

    Problem it solves: guys who are shy to make the first move. I live in San Francisco so I know first hand how hard dating or even meeting new people can be.

    A name could be the “Bip bip app” (beep beep was taken).

    Thanks!
    -Henry

    Like

  63. An app that let’s you dial numbers on a rotary dial. The rotary appears on the screen with the numbers, you place your finger on the number you want to dial and have to hold your finger on the screen while you rotate it. When you lift your finger off the screen the rotary returns to starting position.

    Like

  64. My idea is called HeyNeighbor. It is a social database of “borrowables” that you and your friends and neighbors are willing to loan to each other (tools, books, etc.). Because, really – you use a basin wrench maybe three times in your life. Why should your buddy buy one when he can borrow the one collecting dust in your garage? Seed spreader, contractor saw, compressor, that old copy of Gravity’s Rainbow from college…

    The DB could be organized by category, and would be searchable. You invite people in, they contribute their lists (initially online, most likely – Excel upload?) and update inventory as necessary. Records check-in/check-out, displays current “holder” of a given item.

    Like

  65. As a fighter and fitness coach i realised that for weight loss,the most common diet error is that the people don’t stick to new habits on a long term.
    I developed for them a small piece of paper,with certain daily tasks which they have to perform like drinking enough water or eat a certain amount of vegetables.
    For every day with all tasks completet they receive one point.
    After a certain time frame(mostly 1-2 month), if gained enough points they receive their price,like buying themselves a certain item they wanted or taking a trip somewhere.
    With a price in mind,they think twice about their choices.Also if they have the results of their actions on a piece of paper(app) infront of them,they see if and why they failed before.
    As for the interface,a calender like view would be perfect,with each days tasks and every week a main goal.
    I already made a small word document that i can send you.
    Also the reason is that there is a huge market of fitness,but recently they concentrate only on short term succes instead of creating long lasting and especialy proven methods for creating habits.

    Like

  66. Awesome article Chad & Tim, thank you for going into so much detail about the app development process.

    As for my idea:

    Background:
    With today’s rising gas prices miles per gallon is a particularly important features in new cars today. One of the crucial elements to maintaining high MPG’s is driving at a constant speed.

    The App:
    This app will use your iPhone’s accelerometer to keep track of how much you accelerate and turn it into a game. You accrue points for driving smoothly at a constant speed. This leads to improved gas mileage and saving money.

    How to use:
    1) Have the app running in the background while you drive and check your score afterwards.
    2) If you have a dashboard mount, put your phone up and keep an eye on the large easy to read indicator which turns from green, when you are driving at smooth speed, to red when you are accelerating too much.

    The Game:
    – The app will log your score so you can try and beat it the next day! Save money and turn your boring morning commute into a game!
    – Increasing levels of complexity. Level up if you constantly improve over 5 days. Once your progress plateaus, the added element of commute time can be a new challenge.

    This app will appeal to anyone trying to save money and improve their weekday commute!

    Like

  67. I’m an Executive Assistant and I would love this app. . .

    Executive Assistant App with 2 versions.. . .

    A good assistant knows virtually everything there is to know about their boss including, but not limited to, family birthdays, anniversaries, corporate credit card numbers, frequent travel numbers and favorite airlines, favorite coffee order, favorite foods, restaurants, travel locations, doctor’s contact details (you would be surprised by how many doctors I have to keep track of and have contact with), passwords to various accounts such as linkedin, twitter, etc., personal advisor details-investments, accountants, etc. The list goes on.
    When I started this job last May, it would have been more useful if I had a database that contained all of this information rather than having to waste time asking my boss for the details when it was needed. I would like to create an app that has two versions: a free version for the boss to use solely with just the essential information (top 10 main contacts, frequent traveler details, restaurants, birthdays, anniversaries) in order to help them stay organized and then a pay version that would be a password protected assistant accessible app which the password can be changed only by the boss (just in case the assistant leaves). The boss can choose from a pick list which categories he/she would like to keep private or make public from his assistant and/or personally utilize. This will serve a few use cases:
    1. I, the assistant, working from home and the boss is travelling, need access to details in a quick fashion but am not at my pc, so I can just quickly pull up the app, choose the category containing the information and access it.
    2. It’s the evening and I need to book a last minute flight; having his favorite airlines and frequent traveler numbers handy makes booking a snap, not having to logon to my pc, and I look good for adding all of the appropriate travel numbers for him to accumulate points.
    3. Anniversaries and birthdays-a reminder/alarm pops up to remind them the big day is approaching so they don’t upset the wife and so the assistant can remind them.
    4. The boss can use the app to keep all of his important details for quick reference at his fingertips
    The categories will include a call button and map/directions where relevant, i.e. restaurants, hotels, main personal contacts, etc. The app should only be opened with a 4 digit passcode just in case the phones are stolen or lost.
    In the end, this app will reduce ramp up time for new admins, allow admins to be more effective especially during off hours or when not immediately near their PC, and reduce time for the boss to look up pertinent information, just to name a few.
    Research-I tried to find an app of similar nature having two versions of the same app, user and user’s assistant, and I was unable to find it. Sure there are several types of travel apps, finance apps, etc. but not one that has all of these categories in one. The app could/should possibly link to a website to allow easy entry of information by the boss, basically creating an account that synchs over the cloud.

    Mock ups are currently being drawn up.

    Thanks for considering!

    Like

  68. I’m game (all puns intended)! Here is my idea:

    Attack of the Killer Garden Gnomes: This app pits righteous looking garden gnomes (intro splash screen features your choice of attire and gnome color, with primary colors featured) against vicious garden gophers with 2x disproportionately sized teeth. The player chooses his or her gnome, and then does battle with (and earns points by) defeating gophers using garden tools left out by careless humans. The more points you earn, the better the tools you can use – starting with a trowel and ending up with a John Deere to mow the little suckers down with.

    Tools include: garden trowel, rake, hoe, shovel, lawnmower, gopher death spikes, pipe bombs (OK, so its not a garden tool, call it artistic license!) for the gopher holes, tractors, tractors with combines, and air planes with anti-gopher crop dusters.

    The gardens are simple, but growing to add interest (similar to the multicolored fruits in Fruit Ninja). Each should be simple to make games fast paced and easy to learn. When a gopher dies, its little feet stick straight up in the air and its eyes turn to xxs, while points show on the left side of the screen.

    When a gnome earns more points, it gets taller and gets a large “gnome hat”.

    For research, I looked at Time’s top apps of 2011 and spent time on the App Store on my phone. I also looked at the games I play, and what I like and dislike about them. Next, I looked at what my teenaged daughter plays and why.

    As a bonus, maybe we could even get Bill Murray to let us use his image for the splash screen that comes up when the gopher is being nuked.

    If I get more time, I will try and add some drawings. Much of this is in my head right now.

    Like

  69. My idea is for a self development app. Most out there seem to be along the lines of affirmations and inspiring phrases. My idea is something more interactive, which helps people to work on what they are thinking about today.

    Like

  70. I am currently an MD/PhD student at the University of Southern California and am involved with exercise physiology research. I have worked with the USC Body Computing Center on social media, technology, entertainment, and its intersection in health and am also writing for ScriptPhD. I have been fascinated with the idea of apps and technology and want to really develop tools that can be used like Nike Run+ apps, etc. One quick idea I had was an unlock app that can only be triggered by performing set requirements for physical activity. I.E. the phone must somehow acknowledge walking for 15 min, doing 10 pushups, etc. Then the phone can be unlocked for a certain amount of time before the requirements must be done again. I think it’s a great way to have people integrated with the program and something they use everyday– and probably every hour. I think smartphones already have this capability built in and the programming should not be that hard. I would love to hear any comments or suggestions on ways to make this a reality!

    Thanks,

    Brian

    Like

  71. Thanks Chad and Tim! Great post and contest. I would LOVE to develop an App for the wine industry. I have come up with an idea that would be hugely beneficial for both the consumer and the winery. Could follow the freebie model with ads in place or $.99…

    My App:

    SmarTastings

    (App sample image: http://i48.tinypic.com/fvk0au.jpg)

    Background

    The SmarTastings application and service will enable wine novices and enthusiasts alike to learn about wines, track wine preferences, and share these preferences with peers via social media platforms. Smartastings proposes a dual strategy in which QRCodes can be used to market wines to any smart phone while a specialized iOS application utilizes those same QRCodes for advanced wine tasting services once the app is picked up by the winery.

    A wine-tasting application would give wineries an exciting and unique opportunity to connect with their current customers and draw in new ones. To make the most of this opportunity, Smartastings is seeking a mobile solutions partner with the experience, knowledge, and capabilities for this project.

    Smart Tastings Features

    QR Codes

    Small QR codes can be added to wineries existing tasting menus in one of the margins or cards with QR codes can be distributed with wines at wine tastings or for store displays. Customers can scan the QR code to view a page of information about the wine.

    If the QR code is scanned outside of the app, the web page will be opened in the phone’s browser. Within the app, the user can touch a button to scan a QR code, and the resulting web page will appear as a web view in the application. In addition, the application will display a side panel with options for rating, commenting, and sharing, as well as storing purchased wines for Cellar Tracker accounts or home library reference.

    Ratings and Comments

    Users will be able to add ratings and comments for wines as they try them. They can choose to save their comments and ratings locally. For wines that they have already tried, users will be able to edit their previous ratings and comments. Ratings could be a simple Like/Dislike system or something more elaborate, such as 0 to 5 stars or 50-100 points.

    Sharing

    Users will be able to share their thoughts on the wines that they have tasted through Facebook or Twitter. The messages can automatically include the rating and comments, but users would be able to edit them before posting.

    An optional sharing feature would allow users to share their entire list of wines, with their comments and ratings, through email.

    Journal

    The app will display a list of all the wines that the user has rated or commented on. When the user selects a wine, the application presents a page with the user’s previous ratings and comments.

    Subsequent Phases

    In later releases, we could implement more sophisticated features. For example, the application could recommend wines to users based on their previous ratings. The application could also allow users to access and redeem coupons through the application. Surveys, in-app ads, and mobile web-tracking could also make for a richer app with greater monetization potential.

    Thanks for reading! Would love to hear thoughts on the idea. And thanks to everyone posting.. Good luck to all!

    -Ryan

    Like

  72. Have wanted to create this app for sometime;

    App Name: Phone Home

    This app would provide for automatic calling of a designated number, send a pre-written or custom text message to the designated number when the phone arrives at a predetermined destination.

    You can use the app to program your teenagers or elderly parents phone to automatically call you when they arrive at a pre-determined destination.

    Like

  73. My idea is a productivity app called Time Suck or maybe Meeting Pie.

    It is an app that allows people to enter their recurring meetings and show the affect on their overall productivity via a big pie chart.

    A two-hour weekly meeting is five percent of the time of a person who works 40 hours weekly. Likewise, an all-day (8-hour) offsite held once a month, is 4.8% of a person’s annual time (based on a 40-hour work week and two weeks vacation).

    Collect multiple recurring meetings and you can start to quantify for yourself or others the affect that meetings have on you, your team, your business. Define your salary or hourly rate in and you can quantify the investment in real — not perceived dollars.

    Categorizing meetings by function allows you to track time commitment by large categories.

    It also enables you to see how much time you actually have available on a regular basis to use and your discretion and GET STUFF DONE!

    The plan would be to develop a free app with advertising and a premium version with enhanced functionality (e.g., different views by week, month, quarter or year; ability to email data and charts; etc.)

    Like

  74. Chad, I loved this post! I generally enjoy the ‘this is the holy grail and these are the steps you need to take to find it’ format, and this was one I find particularly interesting, especially the process of hiring someone to program the app. Thank you for sharing this information! I’ve got a few ideas for apps and am currently researching the app store to see what kinds of apps work and what kinds don’t.

    There’s one thing about researching the app store that I’ve been thinking about. Your method is to look at the top apps and their characteristics, and to base your apps on these characteristics of the top apps.

    It seems to me that this way you are asking yourself something like this: Given that an app is in the top 20 most downloaded/highest revenue apps, what characteristics do I find? As an example, you may find that if an app is in the top 20 it is more likely to be a game than not.

    If you conclude from this that for your new app you should emulate a game, you’re not taking into account the following question:

    Given that my app is a game, how likely is it to end up in the top 20?

    This is a different question, and one you can only answer by looking at all of the game apps, not just the ones in the top 20.

    You want to be able to say, if my app is a game it is more likely to end up in the top 20.

    To be able to make that assumption, you should also look at apps that do badly. What if in the bottom 20 apps, you also find that these are most likely to be games?

    That would mean that the app being a game does not improve your chance of ending up in the top 20 any more than it does your chance of ending up in the bottom 20.

    This is a bit of a coarse example I guess, but the point I’m trying to make is that I believe researching the app store should include the characteristics of all apps in the store. If you know that 60% of the apps are games in the entire store, but in the top 20 apps, 80% are games, I believe you’ve got a better reason to start emulating games than if you just know that in the top 20 apps, 80% are games.

    My question to you is, do you also look at the characteristics of the entire app store compared to the characteristics of only the top apps? Do you think doing so improves the research?

    Like

  75. Hi,

    Thanks for the how-to guide! This could not be more helpful.

    App: Street Hustler

    Description: Similar to Mafia Wars in style and mechanics, but targeted to entrepreneurs that want to learn these basic business mechanics that engages them in the learning process much in the same way that playing the stock market with fake money teaches the rules of that world. Items, attacks, defenses, land, and personnel/vechicles equate to NDAs, Contracts, Suppliers, Marketing, Fulfillment, Virtual Assistants etc, which grant bonuses in Time Units which are consumed when performing any action.

    Gameplay: Again, much like Mafia Wars, except each starting type will give bonuses in various aspects of play, from market penetration via advertising or cheaper supply chains through effective negotiation.

    I had originally thought of something along the lines of InstaBusiness, providing resources for conducting any step in the process of muse-creation, but the market for games is much larger and I believe advertising in the game can provide the same information while engaging the user, with an in-app purchase for a more comprehensive list a la InstaBusiness.

    Thank you for the contest. I’ve had some difficulty getting my own muse started and the notion of a single app to help with everything seems almost too dry to sell, but making a game out of it sounds promising.

    Good luck with your empire. Perhaps Street Hustler and InstaBusiness can help you with yours in the future 🙂

    Like

  76. THE App idea: “Oh the Places” – An organizer for all the places you’d like to visit in the world, combined with a journal of the places you’ve already been.

    Concept: My app will improve upon travel apps currently in the market like Everplaces, Foursquare or Places I’ve Traveled. After researching these apps I found that the thing they all were missing was a simple way to list all the places you’ve been and all the places you plan to travel to. This is a way for people to organize and keep track of dream vacations they want to take. By sharing your lists with friends and family, you can ask someone who’s already visited a location for advice. My app will provide not just cross reference with Facebook check-ins, but also with a specific travel site that sends the user current flight or hotel deals for the place they want to visit.

    My app will have 2 basic lists, with points on a world map. The first list will be titled “Oh the Places I’ve Been”, listing all the places you’ve traveled to throughout the world. Within the specific city you can provide more detail like when you visited there, which attractions you went to, a restaurant you liked, or a photo you took of the place. The second list will be titled “Oh the Places I’ll Go” which is a dream list of the trips you plan on taking. The app will remind you that it’s been X amount of days since you said you wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival. It will send you current travel deals and hint that it’s time to make a move on your plans. Users can create separate lists within Oh the Places I’ll Go, like a major league baseball stadium list to visit or a concert venue list.

    What will make this app stand apart from current “places apps” is the simplicity of organizing the awesome locations you plan to visit without forgetting about them, while also keeping a record of where you’ve been to share with others. It’s not just about checking into a bar. It’s about jotting down your future dream destinations so you don’t forget that small city in Ireland your cousin said you HAD to visit that one drunken night. It’s about making sure you don’t wait until retirement to see this amazing world.

    I already reached out to people with this idea to get feedback. What I’m realizing is everyone loves the idea because A) It’s an organizer for future itineraries that most other apps don’t provide, B) It marketable because of the connection with travel sites for deals, and C) People obviously don’t think the other apps are doing a good enough job because not enough people are buying into them. This isn’t meant to be like Facebook’s “Where I’ve Been” which is a competition between users to brag about how many countries they’ve been in. This is a way for people to be reminded of their plans for world travel, and to give them the drive to pursue it.

    This WILL be a success and I hope you guys will be a part of the initial stages of the app development.

    Your time is much obliged.
    -Jeff Romeo

    Like

  77. Chad and Tim,

    Very interesting and informative article. Chad, I truly enjoyed learning about your experiences in building all of these apps.

    My idea: A real-time task completion app called UDoMyWork. Users log into the app, enable location, and are presented with a simple choice:
    1. List a job/task they need done (can add pictures/text) and the price.
    2. Complete tasks listed by others.

    Payment would be completely handled through the app upon completion of the task. Additionally, users would be able to enable notifications letting them know when a task has been listed nearby so they can “claim” it.

    Its a simple idea but would be incredibly scalable within cities or on college campuses.

    Currently, Task Rabbit and Zaarly are in this space but Task Rabbit tasks have to be completely by a pre-certified worker, which commands a premium and limits scalability. Zaarly is mostly structured around buying goods rather than posting services or tasks that need to get completed.

    Please let me know what you think.

    Thanks,

    -Alex

    Like

  78. My App Submission:

    So. Like most iPhone users. I drink alcohol sometimes (maybe more often than sometimes). I have found that rather than being a trusted ally in my late night binge endeavors, my iPhone is actually more of that enabling bad influence who leads me to do things I regret the next day. Via Facebook I message, “Wanna bang” to the female half of my friend group, thus diminishing it’s number rapidly. After that master plan is completed. I’ll just start calling ex girl-friends until one picks up and then harass her. When she hangs up and ignores the next 10 calls, I abandon that desperation and go on Voxer or Heytell and send a ridiculous number of voice messages to my friends.

    Sometimes…. My iPhone wielding friends are in the exact same boat as me. Drunk and on their iPhones. The times we have those Voxer run-ins end up being the funnest parts of the night, and the best companion to breakfast the next day listening to the ludicrous conversations we had, recalling our various nocturnal hijinks.

    That makes up for about 3% of the messages sent. 97% end up in the inbox of a sleeping friend who had to work that morning. Who messages me back on their way to work to say, “Dude you woke me up at 5am with all those messages I had to be to work, not cool”. Which wakes me up with a massive hangover and forces me to respond, “Dude your message just woke me up at 9am, and now I am too hungover to fall asleep, not cool”.

    The moral of the story, we need to be contained. What’s great about us drunk people is that we have pretty simple tastes. We want someone to talk to us, so they can hear the deep philosophical insights we’ve discovered and our views on religion. Sober people don’t want to talk to us. We need a verifiable way to reach other drunk people.

    Enter: (Working title, don’t have a settled name yet) DrunkTank, DrunkTalk, DrunkDial, I Am Not Drunk, Drunk.ly

    It’s the app for drunk dialing. No more desperately vying for affection with people I know, bring on the strange! Within the App you can see Who’s Online via a map with geotagging of users. Giving you the option to drunk chatting people in your area, or people all across the globe. Connecting with your other social networks like Facebook and Twitter will allow you to see which of your friends is also drunk. If you’ve ever been drunk in bed in California and felt, “man I wish I could get into a shouting match with some drunk NY yuppie about Tupac and Biggie”, now you can.

    The “I’m Sober” feature will silence the App (no push notifications) your friends can still send you messages, but you won’t receive them until you push the, “I’m Drunk” button to check back in.

    The app offers varying levels of privacy. Via SuperPrivate you will only be able to be contacted by your friend list. Via Semi-private, anyone can contact you, but you must friend them before they will see all of your information. Via Open for Business your information will be available to anyone. (I am not a privacy expert and expect that the privacy levels will need a bit more thought than I have given them)

    The messages are recorded so you can have that enjoyable recall of talking to complete strangers and friends during your following day.

    A separate feature I had an idea for that seems like it could be integrated in easy enough would be a place where you can specifically send a message to a demographic type like guys in your area or girls in your area around your age. You could pick Age > Gender > Proximity and chat away to a complete stranger. Or maybe have a “random” button to send a message to a random recipient who is online.

    No more need for the desperate lonely Apple geeks to call that ex girlfriend. Now you can, “spit game to the ladies” while once again, laying helplessly alone in bed.

    Welcome to paradise!

    P.S Chad if you travel to Thailand anytime the first 10 drinks are on me :).

    Like

  79. Chad, Excellent post!
    We have a great idea that we want to share but at this point not with the entire internet community …..Is there any way for us to protect ourselves and take advantage of this wonderful opportunity??
    DCJC

    Like

  80. Excellent post. I wish I was one of the break out success stories that you always hear about, but alas I haven’t been. This is not to say that I am not making money on my apps, or am not happy. Far from it! I love the business even though I haven’t made enough to be able to leave my full time job.

    Coming up on the 2 year mark in the iTunes app store. I basically went from knowing nothing to knowing enough to get several apps in the store! With my most recent app I have started to outsource the coding.

    If I could start over again, I think I would have started outsourcing a little earlier, but I still think knowing a lot about the process has helped me.

    Thanks for the post!! Great motivation even for those of us that are already making apps!

    Like

  81. Hey Chuck,

    This is my first attempt at an app idea so I decided to keep it easy and go for a light entertainment based app called…

    `Emoji Ninja`

    This idea came about through researching the current best selling games and the evident craze for emoticons (Thanks for the inspiration in the article!). Since I don’t have any device to use apps on (sometimes I can borrow my girlfriends ipod touch if I`m lucky) I relied on information and reviews from appspy.com and topappcharts.com.

    After a bit of research it became evident many popular games involve throwing, slicing, hitting and generally aiming at something while judging speed and distance. For example Angry Birds, Flick Home Run and Fruit Ninja. The other thing they offer is a cool variety of settings and backgrounds for the level.

    Reminds me of what made Lemmings so addictive back in the day!

    That got me thinking…

    What better than a game that combines all of your cool emoticons with easy addictive game play?? NOTHING that’s what!

    The idea is the game will use your own emoji library (or preset emoji if you have none) to create heads of the games characters, the emoji ninja. These little e-ninja can then only be killed by throwing the same type emoji ninja-star at them. For example…

    Down drops SAD FACE NINJA! The only way to kill him is a head shot using your SAD FACE NINJA-STAR… and so on.

    Other cool in-game bonuses will include:

    ? A nice selection of power-ups that can be upgraded for greater effect.
    ? Unlockable bonus levels with fun pop-references
    ? Create you own ninja emoji character
    ? Simple, observation and reflex gameplay.

    It may not be deep or complex, but its simple, its fun and who wouldn`t get a kick out of battling against evil emoji ninja?

    But anyway enough of the boring explanation.. Check out the cool video I made instead!

    Thanks and I hope you can send 5g my way so I can create THE…BEST….SELLING….GAME…OF….ALL….TIME!…Muahahahahahaaa

    Like

  82. I want to develope a message app that lets you set a specific time to send a message. For example if it is 10 am and you want to send a message at 3 pm you can type the message and recipient and then set the time you want that message transmitted. In turn you will also be able to set a specific date a well.

    So often have I wanted to send a message at a later time but have that message in my head at that moment. So I have to write the text and it keeps it as a draft and then I have to remember to open the message and send it later.

    I think this will work with email as well.

    Like

  83. Chad,
    Thanks for the article and inspiration. My idea for an app is this:

    Photo app called “Phoot” It is a camera photo picture overlay. Remember seeing the squirrel or the travelocity gnome in peoples vacation photos? This app has an overlay that when you take a picture the overlay automatically appears in the picture. There would be several free overlays, squirel, sock monkey, etc. and then paid overlays. You could license ones like Hello Kitty and the travelocity gnome. etc.

    Like

  84. Something to share, there is a course, for free, on Udemy.com

    http://www.udemy.com/paper-prototyping/

    about how to create software prototypes with paper. for those of us without much coding knowledge, this could be a great way to rapid prototype and get a very rough feel of what you want your app to be/ look like and will most likely be a godsend to the programmer/developer you are working with.

    course is really 3 articles, but good info!

    good luck all!

    Regards,

    Jordan

    Like

  85. — My App Idea (and sales copy) —
    DreamBuilder – The simple dreams and goals picture book

    * Looking for some inspiration during your day?
    * Need some reminding of why you are doing this all for?
    * How about an extra bit of motivation before your next big meeting?

    DreamBuilder helps you keep focused by giving you a quick and easy way to review all your top dreams and goals.

    If you have had enough of complicated task and goal management apps, use DreamBuilder so you can just get on with what you really should be doing.

    Features
    * Flick through your dreams like a photo album
    * Quickly scan your dreams in a numbered list view
    * Add a custom image and description to each of your dreams
    * Change the order of your dreams just by dragging and dropping
    * Save up to 100 of your wildest and most incredible dreams
    * Create and edit your top dreams and goals quickly and easily. Forget about to-do lists, categories, or due dates.

    — Specifications —
    I have created a detailed specification that is ready for development. The spec includes a Balsamiq mockup, screenshots and a UI flow diagram. See the specification here – http://www.lifepix.com.au/sample_work/dreambuilder_specification.pdf

    — Market Research —

    The target market for this app are network marketers, business owners and personal development/motivational junkies.

    In network marketing, there is a process called ‘dream building’ where you review your dreams and goals in order to get yourself motivated to make the next sales call and keep developing the business. One ‘dream building’ technique is to compile a scrapbook of dreams where you list your goals and cut out images of them too. The idea is to get to 100 dreams as this makes you dream things you never would have before. The network marketing niche is rabid for anything that will help them stay motivated and grow their business. But this app would be equally appealing to users that keep a list of goals in physical book instead of digital form.

    There already exist many similar apps such as goal lists, to do lists, bucket lists and vision boards, but most are overly complicated with due dates, categories, etc. And they usually don’t present the images in a nice clean format (similar to the iOS Photo app but with text) which can also be displayed in list form.

    Cheers!

    Like

    • Hi Andy,

      I love this idea! Your mockup with wireframes and UI diagram is beautiful. Would love to ask you a few questions if you have the time. Shoot me an email.

      Thanks for sharing!
      -Ryan

      Like

  86. And I’m back…. I have been looking into odesk and posted a job like you said. I am amazed by the feedback I am getting, thank you so much for passing on your knowledge to all of us…. really am blown away by how you can do things if you just look outside the square.

    So here is my idea for an App

    *Billy’s Boatshed*

    Billy’s Boatshed is a my own brand out of Australia that has 2 adorable preschool books.
    I want to create an app for children that incorporates a virtual book, a talking book, a virtual sticker book and a colouring book.
    The great thing about the app is that it also allows the kids to print and share their colouring masterpieces.

    Here is an example of the kind of app I’m talking about.

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/peter-pan-disney-classics/id499621108?mt=8

    As you can see from the above it has been tried and tested, by Disney of all companies, so I know it works. Expanding on their idea I have added the ability to share your work from the App.

    The idea also comes from having all the cool books that kids love into one – picture book, touch and feel book – as it is interactive, colouring book and sticker book – which I think it great for kids.

    Billy’s Boatshed already has ibooks which are great –
    http://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/aimee-atkins/id504677313?mt=11

    I would really like the kids to have an interactive experience with my book and an App that they can download and have fun with.

    You can check out an animation and other cool things that I would also integrate into the App at http://www.billysboatshed.com

    Look forward to hearing from you soon guys…

    Aimee

    Like

  87. Mobile apps are hot today. But hiring a programmer is too expensive. I used snappii.com to make apps. It’s really easy, the web service allows to make mobile apps in minutes, and without programming skills at all.

    Like

  88. Hi Chad,

    Think ‘Draw Something’ + ‘Instagram’ + ‘Paper’.

    This is an app that lets users share their drawings, Instagram-style, artistic merit notwithstanding. Also comes with much better drawing tools. Yes, I’m talking to you, ‘Draw Something’. I’m sure you guys know what I’m talking about.

    May also have potential as a communication tool, where instead of typing or using emoticons, you could just draw something and send it as a private message to another user.

    Obvious monetization strategy is to put out a basic free app, but allowing for in-app purchases of additional drawing tools. I would personally try to minimize or even do away with ads as it usually means compromising the beautiful UI I imagine this app should have. I believe that value added in-app purchases, if well executed, should be more than enough to monetize this product. Users would definitely appreciate it too, which would lead to better brand perception. Win-win.

    I hope this short description perks your imagination on what is possible. We could have a quick chat if you’re interested.

    Tim

    Like

  89. Great article, Chad/Tim. Thanks to the Four Hour Work Week I’ve been a full time app developer for over 2 years now and have never looked back. The next step is to create a quality app of my own for which this article helps a lot. Thanks a lot !

    Like