We had some big debates about when to call the app finished and let it go live on the app store. We had uploaded it a few times and then realized it was crashing (due to the terrible design of Objective C, Apple’s required programming language), and had to cancel the submission and try to fix the out-of-memory errors. I’d say it wasn’t worth it to let the app go live with some thing or another not how we wanted it, and John would argue that it was better just to let it go up sooner, as it was.
When we finally agreed on a good-enough build and got it submitted, approved, and on the app store, there were a handful of other photo apps (I think about 50 total) but they all did things like general image adjustments, nothing like vintage camera filters. We set the price at $5 originally - there wasn’t much precedent for app pricing so it seemed reasonable at the time. We just had no idea what the response would be, so we were extremely anxious to check out the numbers after the first day of sales. I believe we sold somewhere around 100-200 copies that first day, which we were really happy about since that extrapolated to making maybe $20,000 or $30,000 per month off of this app that took us really only about a month of full-time work to make.
A few days after the launch, I was looking at the app store in iTunes and found to my great surprise that CameraBag was chosen as a featured app on the front page of the app store. John and I had driven the day before from where we were living in Seattle down to our parents’ house in Utah, so the whole family began watching intently to see what would happen with the sales numbers after being featured. We could see CameraBag moving quickly up the top apps list, but the sales numbers for a given day don’t post until very late at night or early the next morning so you can imagine the suspense. We got the numbers at 3 or 4 in the morning, everyone was still up, and it came to somewhere around $8,000 for the day. Not bad for 3.5 employees!
CameraBag kept rising, and it maxed out at the number 2 spot of all paid apps. It’s possible it reached number 1 briefly, but I don’t think I ever personally saw it there. But it was definitely clear that this was going to be a popular category of app. We didn’t know how long we’d stay up in that rarefied position, so there was never a sense of striking it rich. We mostly enjoyed the flexibility the money would give us for the time being, but anxiously watched to see how long it would last.
As we’ve learned with several apps since the launch of the original CameraBag, after you stop being featured by Apple your numbers usually start dropping right away, quite steadily, for a long time. A few apps have seemed to find a way to stay at the top, but not many. If you start high enough though, that can still be very fruitful for a very long time.
In the final installation of this series, Part 3, I’ll talk about watching what happened when people everywhere started using CameraBag.
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