Monday, 9 September 2013

Kickstarter and iOS Apps

Some Kickstarters are about creating mobile apps and others use mobile apps to give some extra value as part of a stretch goal or add-on.

Getting your Android app to your backers is relatively simple - you just point them at a secret URL and let them side load it.  But for iOS apps, that's not so easy and you can't assume that all your users have a Jailbroken phone - I'm a developer and I don't have a jailbroken phone.

If you promise an iOS app to your backers and you intend to charge for your iOS app, there's a few important notes to consider:

  • If you gift an app to someone, even if you created it (or are the legal owners of it), you can't do this for free.  You'll be charged the full amount and then Apple take their cut before giving you the money for it (a couple of months later).  Apple don't want you cutting them out of the financial loop at any stage and even though it's your app, you're playing in their sandbox.  That's a bit like expecting retail stores to take delivery of your stock and distribute it to people who pre-paid through some other channel.  
  • You can't gift apps across App Stores.  Someone in the US can't gift an app to someone in the UK.   Well, that's not strictly true.  If the sender has an iTunes Store account for the destination country and has a credit card registered to an address there then you can select the destination store and gift it directly.  There are some countries which you can gift to direct from the US store, but it's not clear which countries can be gifted to directly from other stores.
  • You can't gift free apps.
  • You're limited to 50 100 promotion codes per version of the app.  If you artificially roll your app version too many times for this purpose your app will be kicked out of the App Store.
So what strategies can you use?

One option is to make the apps Tier 1 price for a day, generate all the gift codes and then up the price to whatever is required on subsequent days.  However, you still have the problem of cross-store gifting.

The most common approach is to make the apps free for a short period, notifying backers well in advance, and then change the app to a paid app later.

Finally, consider not charging anything for your app, period.  Or rather, adopt a freemium model.  A lot of the the top grossing apps are free with in-app purchases, so it's food for thought.  Deliver what your Kickstarter backers are expecting and put it on the App Store for free, but make sure to let them know it's not exclusive, and then add new functionality that people will want to buy later.

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