For an app developer struggling to increase visibility and downloads, a feature in Apple’s App Store can make all the difference. In fact it can increase sales 10,000 percent, and result in a much higher rank. But being featured in the App Store can feel like winning the lottery – even app developers who have been featured admit they have no idea how it happened. Some startups are aiming to help app developers get exposure without being featured in App Store, while at the same time improving the app discovery experience for iOS app users.
Today startup Iddiction is launching App-o-Day, billed as the “Groupon for apps.” The app deal and discovery tool offers one app deal per day, curated by the company’s staff. The deal is either a paid app offered for free, or a free app with a special in-app purchase offering. Users can access the deals via the iPhone app, website or Twitter/Facebook accounts, and can redeem the deal in the App Store (web and iPad versions will be launched later this year).
Iddiction founder Andrej Nabergoj is the former founding CEO of Outfit7, an app development company behind the Talking Friends series with over 320 million downloads. While at Outfit7 he discovered that users don’t search for apps, they learn about them from their friends, the media, and social circles. He based the company around one question: How can we surface the right app to the right user at the right time? “My whole point was there has to be a better way for users to discover and learn about apps,” he said in an interview. He raised $3.5 million for Iddiction in November 2011 from investors including Comcast Ventures and Felicis Ventures.
Nabergoj said App-o-Day will be heavily curated, and will only feature high-quality apps, something he says will set them apart from competitors. He says competitors’ offerings are “horrible, ugly, non-functional poorly-engineered apps.” He says his team of 15 people will be looking for “the hard-to-find, the up-and-comers, the unexpected.” They already have a month of apps lined up with partners including Azumio and Apptly. “It’s kind of the opposite of what Apple wants to do. They want to find a way to showcase as many apps as possible. We want to find a way to showcase as few as possible – one at a time, and make sure we curate the right one,” he said.
The app discovery space is already competitive. Apple just acquired Chomp to increase its internal app discovery tools, and sites like Free App a Day already offer daily app deals, with GreatApps launching recently and Kinetik expanding to a web version. The difference between those sites and App-o-Day, Nabergoj says, is that his site only features one app per day, and they have a heavy focus on curation. He says his team will search the App Store, app review sites and other sources to make sure they feature high-quality apps. “We are only going to offer deals for apps we love, that we feel passionate about,” he said.
But for these discovery tools, promoting an app doesn’t come for free. Competitor Free App a Day has been criticized for charging developers a steep flat rate for being featured, with one developer quoting a $7000 charge in December 2011, and others saying they took a cut of the app’s profits after they ran a deal. While Nabergoj says details about the pricing structure are confidential, he says their funding allows them to feature apps from up-and-coming or indie developers for free. He does admit that they will charge a “nominal fee” to most developers, and sometimes will operate on a revenue-sharing model.
Ken Seto, founder of app development studio Endloop and creator of iPhone game Please Stay Calm, said in an interview that he feels the current App Store is missing out on core features like social discovery and smart profiling based on a user’s current app tastes. “It does a great job of presenting the top tier apps that Apple’s editorial team regards highly and while that’s useful, it does lull the general public into not bothering to look beyond the Top 25 lists,” he said. Seto used OpenFeint’s Free Game a Day for one of his apps, a service similar to App-o-Day. He said it gave them a “decent one-time push” that did a “decent to good job” of boosting rankings due to a download spike. He said whether it’s worth it is dependent on the deal the developer makes with the service. “I find most of these services have pretty arbitrary pricing dependent entirely on demand so timing and good negotiation skills are key to deciding if it’s worth it,” he said.
With “Groupon for x” companies launching at an increasing pace and the daily deal industry weathering criticism from merchants, comparing itself with the deals giant might not be the smartest idea. And with companies like AppSumo already offering deals for tech geeks (though they aren’t focused entirely on apps), and app developers routinely putting their apps on sale to drive downloads and attention, App-o-Day is merely one place users can find app deals. And if “Groupon for apps” becomes Groupon offering deals on apps, then App-o-Day’s biggest competition will be the site it compares itself to.