The number of apps in the App Store now exceeds 80,000, and though it's safe to assume that there is a fair amount of dross there, it is still a daunting task to get your app noticed by users, however good it is.
This makes an appearance in one of the App Store's featured apps lists, or even better in a print or TV ad for the iPhone, all the more valuable. There is no guaranteed way to achieve this, but what can app developers do to maximise their chances?
The value of featured apps: a few examples
- Sales of the Billminder app shot up from roughly around 300 per day to more than 1200 thanks to a feature in the App Store's 'What's Hot?' section.
- A print ad for an Anaytics app which appeared in the Wall Street Journal led to a subsequent 53% increase in sales.
- Thanks to a feature in an iPhone TV ad, the iBird Explorer app became the number one app in its category.
So what can developers do to increase their chances of a feature?
Create a useful and usable app
An obvious point, but with so much competition, new apps have to be good to stand a chance of becoming popular. A usable app means more chance of great reviews, and increases the chances of featuring in the App Store lists.
Of course, this doesn't apply to every great app; the Spotify app, one of the best to be released so far, has an undeserved average of just two out of five stars thanks to people complaining about the subscription price.
See this list of iPhone app best practice tips for more on designing a usable app.
Timing of the release
When the app is submitted to Apple, developers can set a desired release date. The best day to release apps is open for debate, some developers seem to favour a weekend release, others Monday. This may well depend on the type of app released.
Also, it's worth bearing in mind that, if you set one release date, and Apple approves it after that date, it will be displayed further down the just released list in its category, meaning less exposure.
Setting the date far enough ahead and allowing time for approval should avoid this problem, and you can always bring the date forward if the app is approved earlier.
Make sure the price is right
To some extent, the price you set for your app depends on what you want to achieve with the app. Publishers and brands looking for exposure, and to reach the largest possible audience will want to make apps free, as this guarantees the maximum number of downloads.
Producing a good app at a reasonable price will increase the chances of having it listed in the top paid apps section, while you can always drive sales to paid apps by releasing free (lite) versions.
Think about what looks good on the ads
There's no guaranteed method of getting in the TV ads, but producing an app that shows off the features of the iPhone is one idea. Using GPS, the shake feature, or 3GS features such as the compass in a fun way that is easy to demonstrate will give your app a better chance.
For example, Pizza Hut's app, which is featured in TV ads in the US, lets users shake unwanted toppings off their pizzas, something which looks good on TV and helps Apple to demonstrate the phone's features.
Word of mouth
Make it easy for users to share apps with friends by integrating with the phone's address book. Or, in the case of games like chess and Scrabble, make it easy to invite friends to play.
Get some reviews in
Get your app in front of the more influential blogs and review sites by providing demos and free versions to bloggers and journalists will guarantee a bit more publicity.
Find a niche
While many categories on the App Store, games for instance, are oversubscribed, making it hard to get your app noticed, you may find some success by targeting a smaller category, which improves your app's chances of being noticed.
Also, targeting specific countries / cities can help your chances, or just do something different, such as the Tube Exits app, which helps users to speed up their tube journeys.
If your app is a version of an existing website, then alert your users to the new iPhone app. This should increase the number of downloads from users who are already interested, and will help you to climb the App Store lists. One way to do this is to detect and target iPhone visitors.