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Category Archives: iTunes App Store

According to a blog posting by Kim-Mai Cutler, Apple has once again changed the algorithm that it uses to create the Top Charts lists for both paid and free apps.  As one of the effects of the change is that Facebook is once again the #1 Free App, one theory is that actual usage of the app somehow plays into the ranking algorithm.  Previously, a weighted average of new downloads over the last 18 days played the largest factor in determining an apps ranking. Now, it appears, that high usage apps like Facebook and Skype have received a boost in the rankings while other apps such as Coin Dozer have had steep drops.

I question whether usage is actually being factored into the algorithm.  Instead, I think that the change in the ranking algorithm is mainly a defense against the pay-per-download marketing campaigns that attempt to game the popularity ranking system with less-than-honest downloads.  Something as simple as factoring in the percent of users who upgrade an app would provide enough information to send Facebook to the top.

The bottom line for developers is to create apps that have sticking power with users and aren’t just “download and delete” apps.  Whether the current App ranking algorithm works this way or not, it is an easy bet that Apple intends to tweak its ranking algorithm to reward quality apps that users continue to use.

Brain Blaze Word Roots Flashcards for GRE & SAT Prep

How is it that a flashcard app that focuses on learning the 156 most common Latin and Greek word roots and is normally priced at $3.99 becomes the #3 word game in the App Store and the #120 game?

The answer is …

because it’s FREE!

What a difference a price makes!  From relative obscurity to over 1000 downloads in one day.  App runs today are at 1000 already and it’s only 11 AM (must be those Brits who seem to have a passion for learning how the US has messed up their English).

I wonder if anyone will take the time to post a review.  You can visit the App Store to see.

Who Is The Smartest? (WITS) Vocabulary

Who Is The Smartest? (WITS) Vocabulary v1.0.0 is now available in the App Store!

See our previous blog post for more details!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New iPhone App Prepares Students for Upcoming SAT and GRE Exams

Austin, Texas – September 22, 2010 – IMAK Creations today announces Who Is The Smartest? (WITS) Vocabulary for iPhone and iPod touch users.  Fall 2010 marks the beginning of the college and graduate school admissions season with the next SAT and GRE tests scheduled for October 9 and 23 respectively.

With its game show-style theme, the new WITS Vocabulary app moves beyond flash cards and provides a fun way to review vocabulary words.  Integration with Apple’s new Game Center motivates users to keep studying to earn achievements and compare leaderboard scores with other players.  WITS Vocabulary has two modes of game play.  Game Show mode presents ten questions and challenges players to win $1 million.  Speed Champ mode allows players two minutes to win as much money as they can by correctly answering questions.

Feature Highlights:

  • 8 categories of questions: nouns, verbs, adjectives, definitions, antonyms/synonyms, spelling, word usage, and word roots
  • 3 difficulty levels of questions: easy, medium, hard
  • Over 1,000 words to learn
  • Over 2,500 questions
  • 2 game modes – Game Show and Speed Champ
  • Integration with Apple’s Game Center

Device Requirements:

  • iPhone or iPod touch
  • Requires iOS 4.1 or later
  • No Wi-Fi network required, except for Game Center functionality
  • 18 MB

Pricing and Availability:

Who’s The Smartest? Vocabulary is currently in review by Apple and will be released at an introductory price of $2.99 (USD), 40% off the regular price of $4.99.  It will be available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Word Games and Educational Games categories.  App Store promo codes are available upon request for press or professional reviewers (U.S. App Store only).

About IMAK Creations:

IMAK Creations is a family business based in Austin, Texas.  Since 2008, IMAK Creations has been developing educational applications exclusively for Apple iOS devices  IMAK produces educational and art-related apps. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone and iPod are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.

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Mason Weems
Sales, Marketing, and Programming
Austin, Texas USA
support @ IMAKcreations.com

IMAGES:

Who Is The Smartest? Vocab

Two different games!

Easy level word usage question

Don't forget your lifelines!

Blazing Whiz Achievement

Game Center Achievements

Apple’s Game Center is a social gaming network that is going to grow to dominate mobile social gaming over the next year.  While not completely ready for prime time when it was launched with iOS 4.1, it has enough functionality to make it worthwhile for both users and app developers.  Over 11,000 people have already posted their scores on the leaderboards of Fieldrunners, one of the most popular applications with Game Center support.  I thought this was high until I noticed over 18000 high scores for Word Scramble Challenge, over 34000 high scores for World Series of Poker, and a whopping 148408 high scores for Flight Control (I’m currently ranked #128662 – I guess I need to practice).

When Game Center launched on Sept. 8, the twitter feeds were full of Game Center friend requests.  Over the next few days, many people managed to gather a large number of friends.  However, to my knowledge, the highest number of friends  you can have is 501.

iDarkman with 501 Game Center friends

iDarkman's 501 Friend Limit

After reaching 500 friends, future friend requests that are accepted by your potential friends are ignored.  Getting to 501 friends may require someone to request your friendship.  I have seen no evidence of anyone having more than 501 friends.  If you or anyone you know has more than 501 Game Center friends, please post a comment to correct me.

So, the bottom line is, don’t be too promiscuous in sending and accepting friend requests.  While Apple may increase the 500 limit in the future, it is unlikely they are going to make it much higher – perhaps 999 one day.  There are other reasons to keep a short friend list.  When you invite multiplayer, your entire friend list is shown and there is no search feature.  So, unless you enjoy scrolling, don’t max out your friend list.

The median number of friends that people have is easily less than 10 and probably less than a handful.  The best way to find friends is to find a game with multiplayer support, such as Words Worth, and then invite friends from the leaderboard to be friends and play a multiplayer game.  This is how Apple intended the friend network to work – more like Facebook and less like twitter.

For the last couple of days, iPhone developers with apps on a top 100 list have become concerned that recent changes in the App Store ranking algorithm may be affecting their livelihood.  No one has provided conclusive proof one way or the other whether these ranking algorithm changes are a glitch in the system, or the latest attempt by Apple to make the App Store work for developers and consumers.  The end result is that many apps that haven’t seen a top-100 list position for months or ever, can now be found on a top 100 list.  Here’s what we know about the situation as it currently stands.

App Sales Information has been Delayed

Developers are reporting that their daily sales reports from Apple, which have been promptly delivered without interrupt daily for over a year (excluding the Christmas holiday break), are now running over 24 hours delayed.  This has never occurred before and is pointed to by some to indicate that there is a ‘glitch’ in the system.  The delayed sales data could then be the cause of the changes seen in the ranking algorithm.  The ranking algorithm depends on real-time sales data to calculate popularity.  If the real-time sales data is unavailable, or delayed for some reason, then this could explain why the popularity algorithm is confused.

All-Time Sales, whether Paid of Free, are weighted Higher than they used to be

Many of the apps that have jumped up in the rankings share a common feature – they have had a large number of sales in the past.  This could be due to being featured by Apple or due to the app being free. Two of IMAK Creations’ apps jumped into the top-100 of their category.

Hold On!, which was our 2nd app we created and on the store day 1, started out free and accumulated over 80,000 downloads while free. We then updated it to support multiplayer over Bluetooth and made it $0.99.  It has since had around 500 downloads while paid.  Yesterday, it jumped to #97 on the top-100 Productivity apps in the US App Store. Today it has fallen off of the top-100 list, but is still ranked much higher than it should be according to the old ranking algorithm.

Brain Blaze Divide is another one of our apps that we had free for a long time.  During this time, it accumulated over 65,000 downloads. While paid, it has had around 500 downloads as well. Yesterday, it jumped right next to one of our other Brain Blaze apps, BB Vocab, at #87 in educational games.  BB Divide is today still #90 and BB Vocab, which has been in the top 100 educational games list for months, is now off the list.

Free to Paid is Back ??

Early in the App Store days there was a loop-hole that could be exploited to get your app onto a top-100 paid list.  It was fairly simple. You just had to make your app free for a while.  At the time, free and paid downloads were treated equally. And since users prefer free apps over paid apps at a ratio of about 100 to 1 (based on our sales data), making your app free for even a day could dramatically increase your paid ranking once you made your app paid again.

In order to gain some insight into the current ranking algorithm, we changed the price of two of our free apps to paid.  That Ain’t It! Trivia – Lite Edition is the lite edition of our popular That Ain’t It! Trivia – Game Show.  It has been on the store for a number of months and has had a little over 20,000 downloads. It has been in the top 25 to top 50 of free trivia games in the US App Store during this time. After raising the price to $0.99 yesterday, it did not make it into the top-200 of paid trivia games (according to http://topappcharts.com/search.php?string=that+ain%27t+it&show=search&price=any).

However, our That Ain’t It!™ MJ Trivia special edition Michael Jackson trivia game, which has over 45,000 downloads since it was released in Oct. 2009, jumped onto the PAID music game list at #83 (in the US App Store).  This is conclusive proof that free app sales are currently being included, directly or indirectly (e.g. via rating or review count), in the calculation of paid app top-100 ranking positions.

One more data point which could be considered a control case is ColorTilt, our most popular application which has never been free.  It was once #3 in the US App Store and had 30,000 downloads during the first month of the App Store.  It then disappeared off of all top 100 lists and after a major update has risen again into the top 10 of educational games.  It has over 65,000 downloads total and has not appeared to have been affected at all by the latest ranking algorithm change.

CONCLUSIONS

By my analysis, the top 100 rankings have always been determined by a popularity metric that is based off of both an apps average daily sales over the lifetime of the app and an app’s average daily sales over the last 3 days (and probably some other time periods in between, like 2 weeks).  If there was a glitch in the sales tracking software that is causing a delay in reporting sales number to developers, then this glitch may have made it necessary to remove the 3-day sales average from the popularity equation and give a larger weight to all-time sales.  So, it may be that free app sales have been counted all along (obviously not 1-to-1 anymore, but perhaps 10 free equals 1 paid), but the weighting was too low to matter.  Once sales reports are produced in a timely fashion again, I predict that the ranking algorithm will return back to what it was a few days ago.  This may not help developers whose apps were knocked off of the top-100 list, because it’s much more difficult to climb onto a top 100 list than it is to fall off.

Our final entry in the  Great App Bake Off of 2009 is an AppCake of ColorTilt, our most popular application to date. ColorTilt is a finger painting app with a unique tilt-to-select-color feature. We released it when the App Store opened and were lucky enough to have it featured by Apple. This entry joins our first entry for Hold On!, our second entry for Dotty Shapes, and our third entry for That Ain’t It! Trivia.

ColorTilt AppCake by IMAK Creations

ColorTilt AppCake by IMAK Creations baked Dec. 20, 2009.

Here is our third entry in the  Great App Bake Off of 2009. It is for That Ain’t It! Trivia, which has 1111 original trivia questions written in a unique “That Ain’t It!” style. This entry joins our first entry for Hold On! and our second entry for Dotty Shapes.

That Ain't It! Trivia AppCake by IMAK Creations

That Ain't It! Trivia AppCake by IMAK Creations baked Dec. 20, 2009.

Here is our second entry in the  Great App Bake Off of 2009. It is for Dotty Shapes, a connect the dot application for preschoolers. It joins our first entry for Hold On!.

Dotty Shapes AppCake by IMAK Creations

Dotty Shapes AppCake by IMAK Creations, baked Dec. 20, 2009

Well, we missed the Great Indie Bake Off of 2008, an amazing brainstorm of Gavin Bowman of Retro Dreamer. We were determined not to miss the  Great App Bake Off of 2009.

Here is our first entry for bragging rights (only non-developers can compete for the iTunes gift cards and other prizes). It is for Hold On!, a “hold the button for as long as you can” application that was on the App Store the first day and attracted lots of attention. Most of the comments were about how Apple wasn’t screening apps properly to let something so non-functional be published on the App Store. Oh how things have changed.  Hold On! was developed by Anthony (the A of IMAK) who normally does all of our graphic designed. He has since updated Hold On! to include multiplayer over bluetooth.

Hold On! AppCake by IMAK Creations