What will be the future of Infinite Stories

Last week, I released two new version of my app Infinite Stories and I started thinking about what will be the end of the development of this simple tool. Now you can add labels to the videos which will stay there for the whole playback, not just for one 15 seconds slice, how you would be able to do it on Instagram right now. Then I thought about adding a feature to change the position of the labels in time, just like in Final Cut. I decided to leave that later especially because I’m going to Portugal for a week tomorrow and I wanted to release this version before I leave. So what I think is that this app will transform into a simpler video editor tool to help people make the best stories for Instagram. This won’t happen in a week but I really want to move in this direction in the next few months. I already learned how to handle videos and layers so I think it won’t be a problem in the technological point of view. This will be probably the biggest project I do since I started working as an indie, especially compared to how tiny was this when I started.

If you’re interested how it’ll evolve in the future just keep checking my blog because I’m planning to write about the progress and share my experiences.

So that’s it for now and see you in the next week, once I am back from Portugal!

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Engineered marketing

So in this week, I’m super busy learning Android development and Kotlin to ship my app I wrote before, Infinite Stories on the Google Play Store as soon as possible. Luckily the dev tools and the platform looks promising so I will keep working on it during the week.

Meanwhile, I have an idea that I really want to try out, which I read about a few months before. It’s called engineered marketing. The main point of it is, to create apps that solve problems for the same audience to reach more people in the same niche and then lead them to your main product. I really liked the article when I read it but I didn’t do anything with it, so let’s change this! My Instagram story generator app is already doing pretty well but still, I’m not even close to being the biggest player in this field, even though I believe my app is the best in the App Store right now. So I decided to release in the near future a few simple apps in this niche and see how things would work together.

These apps will be:

  • An app that helps you to repost images or videos with showing the original creator on the image
  • A simple analytics tool for your account
  • A tool to manage your hashtags
  • Post and story scheduling app

These are the main pain points for an Instagram Influencer at the moment. So what I think is that if I cross promote my apps for this audience, I can get much more downloads and more revenue in the long term. This is right now just an idea and I don’t have much time to experiment with it, but I’ll share the lessons learned from this in the next month, once I’ll have at least one app out from this list! Probably I’ll start with the easiest one to see how things are working

If you have any recommendations for other apps, please let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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Building the Baby Tracker app

 

So this could be an interesting one for you guys, because I’m not a dad and I’m not even close to the point where I’ll be one, therefore I’m not part of my target audience.

I watched Patrick McKenzie’s presentation about Marketing for Minorities and it really made me think how should I plan my future apps.

I really recommend you to watch it, it’s only 7 minutes:

The main point, in my opinion, is that developers like us tend to build something for us, developers. The only problem with this is basically that we will have a huge competition in this market. The solution is to create software for other groups of people. This is what led to me to ask around my friends and family that what’s their day-to-day struggles in their life and as I talked with one of my relative who has a small boy running around now, she mentioned to me that logging all the stuff about the baby when he was a newborn was a pain in the ass. It turned out that she had to write down all the logs of the baby such as the foods and the weight changes and a lot of different stuff.

This was an interesting topic to me especially after watching this presentation, so I decided to dive into this topic and I set up a lot of Skype calls with different moms, who I knew or somebody suggested. Slowly I collected enough information and learned a lot about how to take care of a newborn. (heck, this could be useful in the future!) In the same time I checked the app store for similar apps and what I found was really interesting. There was a couple of apps providing the same functionality, but all of that was really outdated, the market leader doesn’t even support the iPhone 6 size! So that was enough information for me to start working on a solution to this problem. The designing process wasn’t easy at all because I wanted to create a complex app which at the same time should be able to log everything in a few taps. You can check the end result in the app store but I’m happy with the result.

After this for the making, I decided to try Firebase for the first time. It was a great experience my only concern was that accessing the real-time database wasn’t really simple enough. As I saw now they released the Cloud Firestore which solves this problem now.

What I used was the database and the storage for my app and both worked great! The app is able to log the most common logs about the babies based on the data, I collected during the skype calls. After I was finished I decided to start testing it on the Hungarian market first, so I contacted a few Hungarian baby sites to ask them to write about my app.

Luckily one of the owners of these sites agreed to share a guest post so I wrote this:

Baby Tracker – Baba napló alkalmazás

(sorry it’s Hungarian!)

So this brought me to the 3rd place in the Medical category in the Hungarian App Store! This doesn’t mean too much downloads but I got a lot of real-world feedback what to change in the app so time spent contacting this sites paid off!

Even though I got a lot of feedbacks, ASO perspective the app ranks really poorly yet, which I think is because it’s relatively new so it’s gonna be better if I’m gonna stay consistent with the updated in the future too!

I also tried search adds but with an app like this, which is free and there is an in-app purchase in it, it’s really hard to make it work, so I decided to focus on more on ASO first.

 

So that’s it, I hope you liked the article or learned something, see you in the next week!

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What did I do in the last 4 months?

I really hate to say this in the beginning, but yeah I did not write anything for a while. I’m gonna focus more on writing here from now, but first I would like to summarize what I did in the previous months while I wasn’t sharing anything here.

I did travel to Slovenia and to Italy. I loved Slovenia, it’s a beautiful country. If you’re around here in Europe I would definitely recommend to check out the lake Bled and in general the whole country!

I released an app called Baby Tracker which is a tracker app for moms and dads in the first weeks. The app was not a big success yet, but I’ll get into the details in another post. In technological perspective, it was a great project, because this was the first time I used Firebase and I have to say it made my life so much easier.

I also updated almost all my apps to support iPhone X and iOS 11, which wasn’t that hard since I used autolayouts already. Now I still have 3 apps waiting for me to update them but my schedule is full right now but let’s talk about this later.

As I wrote about I really do think that AR will be something super important in the future so I already made two apps with some AR features. The first is How a Car Works and the second is a little update to my flashcards learning app called now Flashcards plus AR. I don’t really see how this will end up in the future, but I see how useful these apps will be with a glass, so my plan is to keep releasing new AR apps.

According to my sales, I don’t really know the reason but the sales skyrocketed and went back a bit, but as I wrote in my first post my goal was to reach $2k / months which I’m happy to tell you that I did in September. October was a bit lower but still close to this, so I’m really happy with the financial results.

What I do focus on nowadays is making my apps more complex other than releasing a new one in every single month. My current plan is to dominate the niches where my apps are and I’m gonna write about the reason for that in a separate post later.

So that’s it for now, you can expect the next post in next Monday about the Baby Tracker app!

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Building apps is about serving people

I just had one of my best days since I started this experience. I wanted to seem like a professional business. I used “we” instead of “I”, I also called my users in the app professionally. What I did change in the last months is that I changed my communication back to what I really am, as an indie dev, who has just trying to figure this out.

My sales are growing so it may be better to be honest about being small and not trying to impress everybody. I made a few changes, in the in-app purchases I tell to the users that by buying my app, he/she is supporting me personally to keep working on these apps.

I also started an experiment, I wanted to thank the people who spend some time suggesting features to me in emails. Of course, I replied to all of the emails I got, but I wanted something more. So I started thanking the suggestions in my release notes personally. This is not a big deal for me, it takes a few second, but sometimes it makes them smile when they read my update notes. Or at least I hope! There is some proof that this works as well. I got 5-star reviews from people who read my release notes.

This is helping my sales for sure, but what happened yesterday was different. About two weeks ago, I got an email from a guy from Brazil that he purchased the pro mode of my Instagram story creator app, Infinite Stories, but he can not place a square video in the middle. This was something I never tested, I don’t know why but I only used videos which had 16:9 ratio for testing the app. So I replied that yeah that is not working, but I’m on it and I’ll release a new version of the app as soon as possible. What I also wrote was that if it’s urgent, please send me the video and I’ll slice it up for your once I fixed the app, so he doesn’t have to wait for Apple’s review cycle. He was really happy that I offered this, we chatted back and forth, and once he sent me the video, I was already finished the bugfix, so I whilst I travelled with the metro to the gym, I instantly generated the sliced video, uploaded it to my google drive, and sent him a link to access it. It didn’t take me more than a minute.

This guy is an Instagram Influencer, he has almost 10k followers on the platform. After this, I also included it in my release note that this guy, Duca helped me spotting this bug. Yesterday he shared a story about my app and underlined that he was mentioned in the release notes. What I saw from the download and revenue numbers is that influencers have a power. The downloads are up than it was before, and for this app in sales term, this was the best day since it’s out.

So the biggest takeaway for me is building apps is about serving people, just like the title says and to be good at it requires the same as any other businesses, the best customer service you can give.

I wanted to share this story with you guys, cause it definitely made my day when I watched that story, and thanks Duca for this, I’ll release the next version of the app on the weekend, with some requested improvements and feature and I won’t forget to write a release note!

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The App Store of the AR apps

Apple just introduced ARKit in the WWDC this year. In my opinion, this is the most important thing they released this time. Of course, the new iMac Pro is awesome, but it doesn’t change the world in 5 years. This is what’s gonna happen with AR for sure.

Why do I think that? Let me explain it. Apps using ARKit could look really futuristic with AR integrations, but to be honest, it won’t be the best interface for them unless they are some multiplayer games or some corner cases. But! There were some rumors about that Apple is working on a new smart glass. After releasing this new feature, I’m pretty sure, what Apple is doing right now is building a new interface, and convince developers to create apps for a platform that does not exist right now. If you are still not impressed with ARKit just look at this:


This is right now a nice to have feature. The main interface of our mobile devices is the screen. It’s gonna change in the next few years and when Apple announce the glasses, they gonna have already a handful of apps which is optimized for a more futuristic interface, using AR. Could you imagine sitting down and sorting the Tinder cards just like real cards? Or having a Group Skype call with real 3D faces around you, just like in the Star Wars?

AR In Star Wars

This interface does not have the same constraints as the mobile screen such as size and 2 dimensions. We are talking about much more creative ways to do the same stuff we are doing right now. We can show 3D objects floating around in the room, or add posters to the walls of our room the options are endless. In the long term that means we don’t need any of the devices, we are using right now. Who needs a Kindle when I can project that to where I want and I don’t need to hold it at all. (I think this is only a danger for ebook readers, not real books) Also, we don’t need a computer with big screens because we can project that everywhere in the room without any problem. These changes are not in 2 years but I’m pretty sure it’s gonna happen.

Personally, I’m super excited about this and as soon as I ship the current project I’m working on and some planned updates for my existing apps, I’ll dive into this and start experimenting how I could use it.

What I suspect is that it’s gonna be another gold rush just like it was with the App Store, because there’s gonna be only a couple of apps ready when this will happen. If you build an AR app, that’s not just going to be cool to say and get some upvotes on Producthunt. It’s gonna be an investment for a platform in the future.

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How to post long and landscape videos to Instagram Story

Folks coming from Google here is an app that allows you to post landscape to your story: matekovacs.com/stories

This post will be about how I came up with an idea and how I solved it with an app. I would like to tell you how I created Infinite Stories which is available in the App Store.

This is definitely not a guide how to build profitable apps because before I built this app, I didn’t do any market research, I just needed a solution to a problem that occurred to me. The problem was that I wanted to post to my Instagram Story a video that I recorded earlier. This video was recorded in landscape mode and what Instagram does in this cases is that it crops the video and uploads only the center of it. In my case, this wasn’t a good option. I wanted to show the whole video fitted into a portrait video because that’s what Instagram supported. I quickly searched in the app store, but I didn’t find a good solution to my problem. Another problem that I faced that the maximum length of a video in your story could be 15 seconds, any video which is longer than that could cut after these seconds. My video was also longer than 15 seconds, and there was a few solution in the App Store for this problem, but I decided to build this feature into my app as well instead of going through 2 apps everytime I want to share a longer landscape video.

So this was the two problem that I wanted to solve. Nothing really complicated and definitely not a “house on fire” problem. I created the first version of the app in 3 days while I was doing support for my other apps, so as I logged my times, it wasn’t a full-time work on it, I would say it took me 14 hours to release it in the App Store. My workflow was pretty straightforward, I opened up Sketch and created a logo that shows to me the main functionality of the app and tries to tell that this is connected to the Instagram Stories as well. So I came up with this:

Infinite Stories Icon
Infinite Stories Icon

After that, I wanted to create the views in Sketch because that helps me to figure out the structure of the app before I begin coding. In this step, I decided that the whole app will be a bit different from a “normal” iOS app which uses the mainstream UITransitions to push views in a navigation controller or show them modally. I’m usually using them, but I wanted to get some experience in creating custom transitions. This looked like a simple enough app to experiment with.

In this step of the design process, I made another decision to change the monetization model a bit. First I wanted to make it a freemium app with ads in it until the user buys the “pro mode”. This sounded a good idea to me, but then I realized how much I make with my ads in my apps and how distracting and ugly are those. Ads today in these small niche apps doesn’t make too much money, while it shows to the users that you don’t value them and their time. This is especially true for the interstitial ads. God, I hate them! So I switched the model a bit and decided to offer the longer video feature for free and I put cropping feature behind a paywall. To be clear, I just checked my sales and yesterday I earned 47 USD with the sales in the store and 2.63 USD with my ads. It’s not even in the same league.

After I decided how and what to do in the app I implemented my ideas and quickly uploaded the app for review in the Itunes Connect. Two days later my app was ready for sale. I made some sales and it looks like my users are quite happy with the current version of the app.

This is how I came from a problem to a working app in the App Store in a week.  Right now I’m looking to get some traction to the app and trying to figure out how to reach the influencers on Instagram to show the app to my audience. My long term plan with this app is to eventually become the go-to application for Instagram Influencers to create and edit the content they post. This is obviously a lofty goal but I already started collecting some feedback from my users to figure out what else they would use in an app like this.

You can find the app here!

If you have some ideas please write me an email to me[at]matekovacs.com

 
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Is building apps a viable business?

The reason

I’m writing this post because I can hear from people that the gold rush of the App Store is over. This is absolutely true in a sense of building a shitty ios app probably makes you 0 revenue now. A lot of people are downloading less and less apps nowadays than a few years ago. Just read this twitter thread and you’ll get what I’m talking about:

This is definitely not a good sign when you want to start doing what I’m doing. Although I think this question is not that easy to answer. It’s something that we should not ignore of course, but my opinion is that this whole marketplace is more mature than it was a few years ago. Which means more competition and a more income for the winners.

What led to this conclusion

I think it’s easy to say nowadays that doing App Store Search Optimisation (ASO) is mandatory to get downloads. It’s still on of the best ways for sure, but I think it’s not enough. It also has some risk involving if all of your sales are coming from one source. What if Apple will change the algorithm? What if somebody will do it better than you and lose the first place? To be fair it’s absolutely true that the people are using the app store discovery and the search less and less. A good solution, in my opinion, is building other streams of downloads. This could be a blog doing SEO for the keywords which are related to the app. Or building up your online presence or creating Youtube videos to generate leads. Maybe using App Store Search Ads or cross promoting inside your applications. The conclusion is to create at least another channel to sell your apps. Personally, I’m really bad in this right now, because the majority of my downloads are coming from the App Store search, but I’m experimenting with the Search Ads and I started building my online presence as well as you can see here. I’ll write another post about the search ads as soon as I’ll have enough data to share but it looks like that it could work.

Bad signs

There are some examples that show that the App Store business is over. And there are articles telling the same thing.
There is nothing wrong with this article, but I would state that when you are talking about the people who are building apps are in two separate categories: The ones who are not really committed and the ones who are. I was in the first category for a long time, I had a few apps I built and even some revenue, but I never took it that seriously because I had another income stream, it was just a hobby. I believe there is always space for the second mentioned category, while the first one is increasing heavily with the newer tools and easier ways to publish apps. This is distorting all the data we have, and can not really say anything about the people who are 100% committed going indie.

So what is the way to succeed?

I wish I could know this! I’m still experiencing and trying to figure out what to do and how to improve my strategy, but in my opinion is that having multiple streams to generate downloads highly impact your success rate in this field. My strategy is that if there are 100s of other devs who are trying to sell their apps, the best thing I can do to stand out is finding those steps they are not comfortable taking. One of these is writing about my journey, including my failures as well! In long term, this is helping me being more structural with this process and maybe getting some awareness in this field too.

Possible outcomes

When I started this experiment, I considered it as a huge risk, because worst case I lose the money I could possibly earn in this year. Well, this is actually true, but my opinion about the size of the risk changed. How I see now, is this is an investment with a few possible outcomes. The best one is if I am able to build up a portfolio of apps that generates me enough money and I don’t really have to worry with this anymore. The second is that I fail to deliver what I planned and I need to go back to freelancing. This is still a win in long term because with the portfolio I’m building I can charge much more than I did before so still it’s a win. The third is if I don’t do anything and I have to just go back where I was before, I would still consider that as a win, because how many 25 years old guy can afford to spend all of his time what he likes to do and not worry about money. So basically I could have an awesome gap year. This is not happening for sure because I already started working on my own apps not just having fun in the library day by day. After all, for me, only the first two outcomes are possible now, which is not really a big risk.

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Why am I going indie?

This is the first post on this blog and I would like to explain the reason I am leaving freelancing a going into the indie world. This whole story is for me about the freedom and control what you could have over your life. When I started working as an employee it felt great to have a salary and it was the first moment in my life when I had that option to spend my own money. Before that my parents supported me so everytime I spent on something I needed to rationalize to myself that why I’m buying this and that. This was the first step of going into the direction that could lead me to an absolute freedom and control over how I spend my time. I did work for a startup and then to a more like a normal company. (having revenue and all the boring stuff) I worked there for a while and I learned a ton about how to do proper app development. In that time, I started thinking about this new movement called digital nomadism, which now is probably super bad sounding, thanks to all the drop shipping courses and life coaches who are trying to sell a dream to other people, but this is a different story.

Continue reading “Why am I going indie?”