Assumed audience: people who have been following my work as a Mac developer.
Last year, I set to build an Internet speed testing app for OS X. Between a full-time job and summer vacations, it took me about 6 months to wrap up a 1.0 using the SpeedOfMe free-while-in-beta API. Speedster was born.
Speed tests are a tricky business. I wasn’t convinced that the app would work for everyone, so I made it free. I also capped the number of daily tests per user to not get my API key revoked, and added an IAP to remove that limitation for good measure.
Shortly after submitting 1.0 for review, the app was rejected for violating section 2.9 of the review guidelines:
2.9 Apps that are “demo”, “trial”, or “test” versions will be rejected. Beta Apps may only be submitted through TestFlight and must follow the TestFlight guidelines
It seems like I wasn’t the only one sailing uncharted waters here. After a couple of back and forths, the app went live on February 1st. Here are some relevant numbers from the first month:
- Downloads: 14k.
- IAP: 212 units.
- Revenue: $620.
- API usage: 20k requests.
- Conversion: 1.5%.
Most of the revenue was generated during the first 2 weeks as the weekly average dropped from $285 to $23 by the end of the month.
On February 20th, I woke up to an email from SpeedOfMe announcing their pricing plans and prompting me to update my billing information.
SpeedOfMe API plans.
Going with the Pro plan as the only reasonable option, I projected cumulative revenue and costs for the next 12 months, as they taught me in business school:
Projected cumulative revenue/costs (purple/orange).
This did not bode well. Even an optimistic revenue projection wasn’t enough to offset the costs for more than 3 months. Without recurring revenue, Speedster would not be sustainable on the long run.
After 24 hours of hesitation, I pulled the trigger on the Speedster Hero IAP and replaced it with consumable tests packs in 1.1. Here’s how things went since:
Daily revenue between March 1st and May 12th. Total: $148.
Oops. Consumables aren’t popular outside of games for a reason. The app made a measly $148 since March 1st and the pricing tweaks I did in the course of the last two months did not move the needle.
Remember that projection graph from earlier? Now it looks like this:
Readjusted cumulative revenue and costs projection (purple and orange respectively).
Did these changes make things worse? Absolutely. Do I have a clue why? Maybe. Let’s look at some ★☆☆☆☆ reviews:
I would stay away from this. Says free but its more like test three times and you must buy it. — Jatilq no ping and 3x per day? — Ojaste Why pay for a speed test when there are dozens of websites that provide this for free? limit the free version to 3 daily tests? $4 for unlimited? I will use speedtest.net for free — Legatony
The list goes on, but I will stop here. The gist of it is that the vast majority of users do not see enough value to justify paying for a consumable IAP.
With downloads hovering around a weekly average of 600, the prospects of a surge in revenue are bleak. Something’s gotta give.
Weekly downloads. Total as of May 12th: 21442.
In my last attempt to make this work, I am introducing some breaking changes in 2.0. Here’s an outline:
- The app will no longer be free.
- Users will be prompted to use their own SpeedOfMe API keys.
- Existing Hero customers will be grand-fathered until further notice.
- Test packs will remain as a secondary option for those who don’t want to manage their own API keys.
Will these changes net me a few more ★☆☆☆☆ reviews? I betcha. But at this point that is the least of my concerns.
To be continued.