Hello everyone, this is Chris Flammer, the owner of Fishington Studios. Today’s post is going to be a little off topic from the usual (and very infrequent) posts that we do on this blog. As some of you may already know, App Gratis, a company which offers people 1 paid app made free every day, has had their apps pulled off the store. I won’t go into all the details or speculations, as there is plenty of that out there already. Rather, I just wanted to write briefly, and share MY experience with App Gratis as a small indie developer. I am not looking for controversy or to throw my opinions around, I deeply respect both App Gratis and Apple as companies. Rather, i am writing this post because I feel like I can’t just sit and do nothing.
That being said, I am a programmer, which is basically the opposite of a writer, so this post will likely contain a lot of bad grammar, spelling, and word usage. Please bare with me
I first heard of App Gratis around the beginning of 2012. Fishington Studios had one hired employee back then, which was myself. I ran the whole operation from a desk in my bedroom using a macbook, and the company did alright. It made enough to pay the rent and other bills, and not much more than that. At the time, I had just launched an application called Draw Pad Pro. I was doing everything I could to try and promote it when I got an email from a Developer Relations representative from App Gratis. His name was Pierre, and he told me that the company he worked for (App Gratis) wanted to feature my app.
I was incredibly skeptical at first. As an indie developer, I am constantly bombarded by emails and services wanting to “promote” my app. Most of the packages these other companies offered came at a pretty hefty prices, and the ones that I have fallen for in the past yielded no results. In spite of this, I agreed to make my app free for a day, and did so on Jan 25th, 2012. Again, I was not expecting much to happen, and so I was completely floored the next day to see that the app had received over 375,390 downloads. I couldn’t believe it! In one day, the app surpassed all the goals I’d set for the entire year. The app continued to do well over the next few days, bringing a total of 1,716,535 downloads before I made it paid again on the 5th of February.
I’ve attached an image below showing the results of the campaign. This is a line graph which depicts the growth of Draw Pad Pro’s user base at this time.
Basically, I remember this day because it marked the end of Fishington Studios as a one man developing team, and allowed Fishington Studios to become a company. The capital which followed my campaign with App Gratis gave my company the push it so desperately needed to grow. I stopped working from a desk in my bedroom, and got an office-space with a desktop computer. I was also able to hire 5 incredible and hard working people. We’ve continued to work ever since, and things have continued to grow. App Gratis has 45 employees, but they are responsible for a little more job creation than they realize.
And for all of this, App Gratis never asked for or received a dime from me. Contrast this with firms like ComboApp, who at the time of writing this, charge $49,900.00 for a package in which they “guarantee” placement in the top 25 free charts for 1 country. Most iOS developers don’t have that kind of spare change laying around. I certainly didn’t. Nor am I sure of the results I would have gotten even if I did.
But there is one thing I am very certain about: With or without App Gratis, big companies and corporations will still find a way to force their way up the charts in the app store. They will still have the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed for costly pay-per-install campaigns and big time advertising promotions to create that level of exposure. As for App Gratis, even with the financial backing they recently received, it seems that they still featured apps by small companies and indie developers like myself. Their work may have even allowed quite a few of us to go head-to-head with big brands that we would have never had the money to compete with in any other case.
I’ve never personally met or spoken to Simon Dawlat, but I feel that the man was a friend to the little guy. I know I at least probably owe him a drink or two if we ever do meet up :). Though I can understand the need for Apple to protect the App Store ecosystem, I can’t help but feel that removing the App Gratis app comes as a huge loss to many of the small developers and companies trying to create quality apps they can continue to update and market. I am also wondering what I would do tomorrow if Apple decided that they didn’t like productivity apps anymore.