Developing Perspective

#214: App Store Snowstorm.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective.

00:00:02   Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing news of note in iOS development, Apple and

00:00:06   the like.

00:00:07   I am your host, David Smith.

00:00:08   I am an independent iOS developer based in Herne, Virginia, and this is show number 214.

00:00:13   Today is Thursday, April 9th.

00:00:16   Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:20   All right.

00:00:21   So I am recording this right before we enter

00:00:27   into the next phase of the Apple Watch rollout.

00:00:30   Tonight at 3.01 AM, or I guess tomorrow morning at 3.01 AM,

00:00:36   at some very, very early hour, I will be pre-ordering my Apple

00:00:41   Watch to get started with.

00:00:43   I'm going to sort of pre-ordering it right

00:00:46   off the bat, just because I want to have one as soon as I can

00:00:49   to be working with real hardware.

00:00:51   And so I'm just going to go ahead and order

00:00:53   as soon as I can, hopefully get it on day one on April 24,

00:00:57   and hope for the best.

00:00:59   But that's not really what I'm going to be talking about today.

00:01:01   Today I'm going to be talking about being a special snowflake,

00:01:05   or at least feeling like a special snowflake.

00:01:08   And that's a bit of nothing to say,

00:01:10   but this is just a story that happened to me

00:01:13   over the last couple weeks that I think

00:01:17   an interesting point. So about two months ago or so, I was, you know, once I had gotten

00:01:25   a pretty good handle on WatchKit, I'd been developing it for with it for a while, I thought

00:01:29   it would be one of the things that I kept thinking about is what could I make for the

00:01:35   watch that was a game or something like a game, you know, I try I'm trying to not go

00:01:39   too crazy in terms of making lots and lots of new apps, have a lot of updates to existing

00:01:43   apps, things that I think can make them better.

00:01:46   And so far, I think that process has worked out.

00:01:48   But I want to make a few things new.

00:01:50   And I kept thinking, you know what I should do?

00:01:52   I should make a game, because I've never made a game on iOS.

00:01:57   I've made an app to do almost everything,

00:02:00   but I've never made a game.

00:02:01   And mostly because I'm not an artist.

00:02:04   Graphically, I'm not the most experienced

00:02:07   or the most qualified person.

00:02:09   And so it's always been a bit intimidating on iOS,

00:02:12   because I think users have a reasonable expectation

00:02:14   for a fairly complicated, or at least visually pleasing

00:02:19   experience on an iPhone for a game,

00:02:21   even if you think of something like Flappy Bird

00:02:23   or something like-- very simple.

00:02:24   But still, I would struggle, I think,

00:02:26   to graphically make something like that.

00:02:28   That's just not my forte.

00:02:29   That's fine.

00:02:30   But on WatchKit, there's not that much

00:02:32   you can do graphically.

00:02:34   You're very limited in your interaction

00:02:36   and what you can do.

00:02:38   And so I was like, you know, I wonder what I could make.

00:02:40   That would be a game.

00:02:41   And I thought, and I thought, you know, I struggled for a while and I came up with a few ideas and in the end I built two games.

00:02:47   But for the purposes of today's story, I'm just going to focus on one of them.

00:02:51   And this was an app that I, as, you know, it's a bit of a cliche, but it is actually how it happened.

00:02:58   I was taking a shower, and while I was in the shower thinking about Watch Kid apps, I was thinking, I came, thought came to me, I was like,

00:03:05   what, you could very easily make a pattern remembering game, sort of like Simon, if you

00:03:13   ever played with one of those, the game where it shows you a pattern, you hit buttons in

00:03:18   sequence and you have to remember and do a longer and longer sequence.

00:03:21   I was like, "I could do that.

00:03:23   That's just four buttons and you can do basic animations on the watch, so you could do this."

00:03:29   And I got all excited.

00:03:30   I was like, "Yeah, that'll be great.

00:03:32   Man, what a great idea for a watch app."

00:03:35   go downstairs and start working.

00:03:39   After a couple days, I had something working

00:03:40   that I thought was pretty good.

00:03:42   I had built a game on the Apple Watch.

00:03:44   And I'm super excited.

00:03:46   And I'm like, yeah, that's a great idea.

00:03:49   And all of this while, certainly in the back of my head,

00:03:51   I'm like, wow, how creative is that?

00:03:53   What a cool, unique, novel way to invent an app.

00:03:59   I'm all excited.

00:04:00   I come up with an icon, come up with a name,

00:04:03   And get the app ready to go to the store.

00:04:07   Show it to a few friends.

00:04:08   Show it to my wife.

00:04:10   A few people see me.

00:04:11   It's like, oh, yeah, it's a good idea.

00:04:12   Great.

00:04:13   So good confirmation.

00:04:15   Put it in the store.

00:04:17   Now, I think as I mentioned in my last episode,

00:04:21   I have been spending a lot of time in the developer forums

00:04:23   recently, because there's a lot of people just talking

00:04:26   about their experiences, things they're getting rejected for,

00:04:29   the review process, weird problems they're running into.

00:04:31   And it's helping me to make sure that I'm

00:04:33   aware of what's going on and reasonably comfortable

00:04:37   with what I'm going to encounter potentially

00:04:40   in the next couple of weeks with App Review, which I think

00:04:43   is an important thing to do.

00:04:44   But I'm in the developer forums.

00:04:46   And I see somebody who's talking about-- people

00:04:50   were having a discussion about the performance of loading

00:04:54   lots of animated images.

00:04:56   I think it was something like that.

00:04:57   But that's not particularly relevant.

00:04:58   What was relevant is someone had a link

00:05:00   promotional video for his application.

00:05:04   That he was like, do you think this works?

00:05:06   This is what it looks like in the simulator.

00:05:08   But what about-- what do you think

00:05:11   is how this would work in the store?

00:05:13   Do you think it would get approved?

00:05:13   I think it was this question.

00:05:15   And I clicked through, and my heart dropped a little.

00:05:19   Because he had built essentially the exact same app

00:05:24   that I had built. And fair enough,

00:05:27   The concept of having four colored buttons that you

00:05:32   have to remember the sequence for and punch the button back

00:05:36   as a game is not novel.

00:05:38   Like there's a company that makes a physical product

00:05:43   and has been doing it for years and has TV advertising for it

00:05:47   and all that.

00:05:47   And so it's not particularly new.

00:05:49   So in that sense, it doesn't sound

00:05:51   like I was ripped off.

00:05:53   But I was kind of sad because I, you know, all this time, all the time when I was working

00:05:58   and developing this thing, I'd been thinking to myself, wow, yeah, this is so cool.

00:06:03   You know, I'm a special snowflake.

00:06:04   I came up with this great idea.

00:06:06   And that's just the way that I think human nature is, that we tend to think and focus

00:06:10   on those kinds of things.

00:06:11   We tend to think what we're working on is new and novel without probably being realistic.

00:06:19   And so when I see someone else has built exactly the same thing that I had built, it was a

00:06:24   bit discouraging.

00:06:25   It was a bit sad.

00:06:28   Not surprising necessarily, but I think I had somewhat deluded myself into thinking

00:06:36   that this was going to be, "Hey, this could be really cool.

00:06:40   I've come up with this great idea."

00:06:42   And then it turns out simultaneous invention is a real thing.

00:06:46   is something that happens, honestly, probably quite a lot.

00:06:50   There's a lot of people thinking about the same ideas

00:06:53   and the same problems from the same direction that I am.

00:06:56   And so it's probably inevitable that we

00:06:57   are going to come to the same conclusion at the end.

00:07:02   And then this actually got even crazier

00:07:04   when a few days after that, some summer I

00:07:08   saw a link to a new set of WatchKit tutorials

00:07:11   that someone had submitted and published.

00:07:13   And I go look at the tutorial.

00:07:15   And the example app that the tutorial is walking through--

00:07:19   this is their example for how to build a WatchKit app--

00:07:23   was the exact same game again.

00:07:25   And so now if you're anybody who wants

00:07:27   to build an app exactly like this, here's a template.

00:07:30   Here's probably example code if you buy the tutorial

00:07:34   series for building an app.

00:07:37   And so suffice it to say, my expectations

00:07:39   for this application and its financial performance

00:07:43   the App Store have dropped rather substantially as a result of this experience.

00:07:48   And that's why I thought it would be interesting to talk about.

00:07:51   I think it is easy to get wrapped up in when you're working on something.

00:07:58   One of the things that can so easily motivate you is that feeling of that you're doing something

00:08:03   amazing and new and fresh that no one's ever done before.

00:08:08   And there are certainly instances where that is the case, where somebody is doing something

00:08:13   that is genuinely novel, genuinely unique, genuinely amazing.

00:08:19   But more often than not, that's not the case.

00:08:22   More often than not, what you're doing is in some ways derivative, in some ways a combination

00:08:27   potentially of other things that have already existed.

00:08:31   There's the old phrase, "everything is a remix," and there's a lot to that.

00:08:36   And it's probably I mentioned it on the show just as a reality check.

00:08:41   Because if you're making something that is primarily focused on, if the thing that makes

00:08:50   your app gives it a market, if the thing that makes it useful or viable is its uniqueness,

00:08:59   that is almost certainly not going to work in the App Store in any kind of hyper competitive

00:09:04   environment.

00:09:06   I think the app store is going to be, even for WatchKit apps,

00:09:09   is going to be hyper-competitive from day one.

00:09:13   From April 24, I think there are going

00:09:16   to be many, many thousands of apps probably covering almost

00:09:21   all of the things that are possible,

00:09:23   given the constrained nature of WatchKit,

00:09:26   that there's only so many things you can do,

00:09:28   and there's enough people trying to do all those things.

00:09:31   There are probably going to be very few truly

00:09:34   unique, interesting things.

00:09:35   And I'm sure they exist.

00:09:36   I'm sure there is somebody who's going

00:09:37   to come up with a WatchKit app that just blows us all away.

00:09:40   And I hope they do well.

00:09:42   I don't think that's going to be me, in terms of the experience

00:09:45   that I've had.

00:09:46   But I'm sure that person exists.

00:09:49   But it was definitely a wake-up call

00:09:51   insofar as when I was thinking about this app

00:09:53   and whether it was worth doing.

00:09:55   There is this part of me that's like, yeah,

00:09:57   this will be great because it's such a unique idea.

00:10:02   This is the lie I was telling myself, baby.

00:10:04   This is going to be so unique and special.

00:10:09   And the reality is, it isn't.

00:10:13   And I have clear empirical evidence

00:10:14   that many other people have had the exact same idea

00:10:17   that I've had.

00:10:18   And that's OK.

00:10:19   I mean, that's fine.

00:10:20   And it's a good learning experience for me.

00:10:23   But I think it emphasizes the importance of the thing

00:10:28   that you can't compete on just being unique.

00:10:32   It's like, if you're a special snowflake,

00:10:34   The problem is you're actually a snowflake in the middle of a--

00:10:37   the App Store is a snowstorm.

00:10:40   There are millions of special snowflakes just like you,

00:10:43   all doing the same things in some ways.

00:10:46   And so you just kind of have to have

00:10:48   that in the back of your mind.

00:10:49   And I don't know exactly what the final conclusion on it is.

00:10:53   I thought it was an interesting story.

00:10:55   But it's just something important to understand

00:10:58   that ultimately, building a business

00:10:59   is not about being unique.

00:11:01   It is about having good fundamentals,

00:11:03   Like having something that is useful,

00:11:04   having something that is built in a quality way,

00:11:07   finding a market for it, marketing it into that market,

00:11:11   and then not expecting there to be shortcuts.

00:11:14   Not expecting that you can somehow

00:11:16   short circuit all of the hard work that is usually required.

00:11:19   And maybe it will work for somebody.

00:11:21   Maybe you will have that amazing, unique idea.

00:11:23   But if your whole thing is predicated on that,

00:11:26   if that's what you think is going

00:11:27   to make your app a success, then there

00:11:32   there may be some harsh realizations.

00:11:34   And maybe even if it was truly unique and truly amazing,

00:11:37   and someone does come up with a truly amazing concept

00:11:40   for a watch app, the reality is it'll almost certainly

00:11:44   be copied immediately.

00:11:46   That's just the nature of the App Store.

00:11:47   There are enough people who are looking

00:11:49   to make a quick buck in the store

00:11:54   that if you come up with something that's truly unique

00:11:56   and truly cool, a couple days later,

00:11:58   someone's going to have submitted

00:11:59   a copy of it to the store.

00:12:01   So if that's all you have, if the only thing that

00:12:05   was driving it was your uniqueness,

00:12:08   you may have trouble.

00:12:10   But that's where we are.

00:12:11   And I'll still-- hopefully the app's currently

00:12:13   in review with Apple.

00:12:14   So we'll see if my game gets approved or not.

00:12:20   But if it does and it goes into the store, it's fun.

00:12:22   I'll be glad that I will have shipped a game.

00:12:24   And I actually have another one that wasn't this game.

00:12:27   So I have two games that I'm submitting.

00:12:28   And maybe it'll be fun to have a couple of games in the app

00:12:30   store.

00:12:31   I've never done that before.

00:12:32   But now we'll just wait and see.

00:12:37   And just as a side note, it's interesting to see.

00:12:39   It looks like the review process for watch apps

00:12:42   is working itself through.

00:12:44   The process seems to be sorting itself out.

00:12:47   Apple seems to be giving watch apps a lot of attention

00:12:49   and getting pretty quick turnarounds in terms

00:12:52   of if they find problems letting people know and letting

00:12:54   you resubmit with a fix in time.

00:12:57   I haven't heard too many stories so far as of-- this is Thursday,

00:13:00   April 9th, so we're still about two weeks away from the Apple

00:13:04   Watch launch.

00:13:04   I haven't heard too many stories of people's apps

00:13:07   actually getting approved yet.

00:13:09   I've had a few, but generally speaking,

00:13:11   I think we've got a little bit of waves

00:13:13   before we'll actually be sort of locked and loaded

00:13:15   for launch day.

00:13:16   But that process seems to be going pretty well.

00:13:19   And I think that's what I'll wrap up for today's show.

00:13:21   And as always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:13:23   or complaints, you can find me on Twitter.

00:13:25   I'm _DavidSmith there.

00:13:27   Or you can email me, david@developingperspective.com.

00:13:30   Thanks, have a great week. Enjoy getting up super early in the morning to order your Apple Watch if that's your thing, and otherwise I'll talk to you next week. Bye.