Friday, June 17, 2011

Turning Free into Paid....harder than it sounds

Ok so I just found out that it is not "possible" to turn a free android app into a paid app on the android marketplace. You can't simply go change it. Once you go free, you're stuck with free. You can get around it a few ways though.

Firstly, their is always the option of putting ads in your app to generate revenue. Unfortunately, I have not found a solid way of incorporating an add program such as ad mob within app inventor...yet. I can, however, put in my own custom ads but creating revenue from that would be kind of a pain because you need to find your own advertisers. (If anyone wants to buy the ad spot at the bottom of my app, let me know).

Another option is to simply unpublish and republish the app. This is not a good way to accomplish this because it would erase all download counts and all history of comments and ratings. It also would disconnect any existing users from getting any updates to the app. Additionally, it would require going back and changing the official name of the apk file as that would no longer be unique. So this is not really a good option either.

I thnk the route that I will likely take is to create a second version of the app. I will simply rename the current version to "Text 2 Speech (LITE)" and make the new app called "Text 2 Speech (FULL)". Do you think "Full" sounds better or "Pro"? Anyway, the issue that I now have is I need a way to create value in my pro version. If it's the same as the free version then nobody will buy it. Their needs to be some kind of upgrade to it.

Now this upgrade can come in the form of pleasure or pain. What I mean is I can ether add features to the pro app or remove annoyances from the old app. One common way of doing this is to have the paid version remove the ads. What I will likely do is ad some kind of splash page advertisement when loading the program as well as a banner at the bottom advertising the pro version. The pro version will remove both of those. Additionally, I will probably do something like maybe limit the character count in the lite version to only allow enough text for say one sentance worth or so, while the pro version will have unlimited. I would like to figure out how to add different voices/accents to the pro version or different languages, but I have not yet found a good way to do that.

The only problem with this LITE verson and PRO version plan is that by adding in banners and ads and limiting the text field, I am essentially nerfing my current program. This means that any user currently using the free version would actually not benefit from updating to the latest version. They would be better off NOT updating their version. I would feel bad for those who use it and then updated only to find out that the app got "worse" by adding annoyances. Not sure how that will go over with users. Maybe it's not such a good idea? I think I mainly need to focus on figuring out how to add more value to the pro version to justify the cost. Even if it only costs 99 cents or 50 cents, I need to somehow justify that it's worth it instead of using it for free.


Well it's been over a week since my little text 2 speech app launched. I decided to pop onto the marketplace site and see if I had any feedback. I was shocked to find that I was already up to 452 total downloads! WOAH! It looks like 48% of those are active installs which I am assuming means that about half of the people ended up uninstalling it. I figure that's not too bad considering the app is pretty basic. This is exciting news! Also on an interesting note, it looks like only about 60% of my active installs are "English" while the rest are other languages including quite a few from India and Germany. I am guessing this is based on the language version of Android they are running on their device. Well this is pretty exciting for me becase it means that over 220 people actually using this application on their device! Imagine if my app was even cooler!

I also checked on my errors that were reported and so far there have been none, which is good I suppose. I have 4 ratings so far with an average of 4.5 stars which seems pretty good and the one comment I received so far was in what appears to be spanish. My best guess at translation is that they like the app and it serves their need but wish it had options for other voices. That's certainly something I can look into trying to figure out. Not sure if that's available or not but I will defanitely look into it.

Now my next step is to test what happens if I make the app a paid app. Will it continue to get downloads? Will the download rate drop off? Will people see enough value in it to keep the application or will I find that people uninstall right away for their money back? I think what I will do is wait a while and see if I can get the app to over 500 downloads first as that puts me into the next bracket. I noticed this because the app market shows number of downloads as "100-500". I'm guessing the next bracket is probably something like "500-1000" and I think that the number of downloads has some effect on the SEO ranking within the marketplace. Hopefully my next blog will be about the money I have made with it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Text 2 Speech version 1.1 release

Ok so I figured out why my app didn't work. Someone told me it worked on their phone so I figured out that it wasn't anything wrong with my app but rather with the settings on my phone. To get it to work you have to enable and download the text-to-speech data app from the phones voice output settings. Once I did that, it worked! YAY!

So I did an update on the app. I added the instructions on how to enable that setting so it was very clear how to get it to work if it doesnt work initially. I also updated a few other things. I put in a visual "speaking" indicator. The reason for that is so you can see visually when it is talking in case your phone is on mute. I wouldn't want someone to think it's not working just because they turned off their volume. Also, I fixed a couple things that were bugging me with the layout. That being the fact that I pinned it to portrait. This is now fixed so that it can be used in landscape mode as well, which is easier to type for fat fingers like mine. I also moved stuff around a bit and put the button up top so that it doesn't get covered up by the on-screen keyboard.

Overall these were fairly minor, but welcome updates to my happy little first application. I'm happy with how it works now and excited to hear if it actually gets used. I know I won't actually use it much but perhaps someone out there will like it and have it fill a need and find it useful. This was a great opportunity for me to learn how to post an application to the market as well as how to update an application that is already on the market. I'm excited to try another app!


Today I created my very first app for Android and it's already up on the android marketplace!! YAHOO!! ...although it doesnt work yet. =)

I had no idea I would be able to actually get a full application up on the marketplace so quickly and easily. Although.... I kind of feel like I cheated. See I found a new development environment that google is creating which is meant to make it super easy to create apps for android. After playing around with it a bit and doing some research I realized just how simple it was and also how limiting it currently is. The functionality is currently very minimal and does not have many plug-ins/components that you are able to use. Hopefully Google can follow through on its claim to allow third party components to be created with Java that can be included into it for use. Until then, I will play around with what I've got.

So my first attempt at an app is called "Speech 2 Text". You can find it on the android market by searching "Speech 2 Text Rainwater" and it will come right up at the top. Funny enough, I rushed it out to the marketplace because I wanted the thrill of seeing MY app on there and to my laughter, it doesn't even do what it says it does. It worked fine in the emulator but on the actual phone it doesn't work yet. So I will have to play around with it and see what I did wrong. But hey, it's still an app and it's still on the marketplace so I'm calling this first attempt a success.

Interestingly enough, the App Inventor development environment by Google is not even set up yet to allow you to post the apps to the marketplace. I did find a workaround though. Some guy created a pc application he calls App2Market which allows you to take the apk file, decompile it, stamp it with your signature info and all required market information, recompile it, zip it, and package it back up in a format that allows it to be uploaded to the market. It's quite easy and quite genious. Here is a link to his page explaining how to do it...

Onward we go! I suppose now I should try and fix my new app so it actually works before I get bad ratings huh.  =)

Let the fun begin

So I have purchased several books and checked out a whole bunch of tutorials and I decided that I want to be an android application developer. What does that mean for me? Well first that means I should learn Java. On my initial research it seems pretty straight forward and very similar to C/C++ which I learned in college. Secondly I should get some kind of instructor led training so I have some kind of mentor to help me when I have a problem. I am planning to attend an informational meeting on June 20th at the University of Washington regarding a new "Android Application Developement Certification" that they are offering next year. And Lastly, I should probably try to develop some kind of application from start to finish just to see if I can figure it out on my own. So that's just what I set out to do.

After a week of painfully trying to get the development environment of Eclipse working right, I was just about ready to pull my hair out dealing with all the AVDs and SDKs and JDKs and all those funny accronyms that I must now learn. Nothing seems to be compatible. Oracle downloads don't seem to mesh up with Eclipse software. It's just a nightmere. I'm starting to think creating the apps is the easy part and the hard part is just getting the development environment working. I did manage to get one of Eclipse competitors, called Netbeans, up and running. I was able to successfully get a "Hello World" app to run in it although I was not able to compile it into anything actually executable outside of the development environment (IDE).