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Episode 4: Indie App Development

In this episode Shawn and Brian talk about indie app development spurred by a bunch of 2014 "year in review" reports.

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Indie App Development By The Numbers

Our Take

  • It's crowded out there. The iOS App Store exceeded 1.2 million apps mid 2014. (TechCrunch)
  • If it's just about money, you have a way better shot making more taking a salaried job.
  • If you set your expectations correctly, being an indie app developer might be a good hobby business.

Overcast by Marco Arment

Overcast is a podcasting app. It is free to download and some features are either locked or unlimited. There is a single in-app purchase (IAP) for $4.99 to unlock everything.

2014 Overcast Sales Numbers

  • 46,940 in-app purchases (14.7%)
  • $164,134 gross revenue after Apple's cut but before taxes ($85,715 in the first month)
  • ~ $750/month in expenses for server

"For most people, the App Store won’t be a lottery windfall, but making a decent living is within reach for many."
- Marco Arment

"I can work in my nice home office, drink my fussy coffee, take a nap after lunch if I want to, and be present for my family as my kid grows up. That’s my definition of success."
- Marco Arment

Jared Sinclair's Response to Overcast's Numbers

"His list of expenses leave out one really big thing: marketing."
- Jared Sinclair

"One thing to me is clear, after having failed to turn Unread into a sustainable business: it takes a lot more than excellent design and development to make a living."
- Jared Sinclair


  • Marco has 78k+ Twitter followers
  • Advertising on Marco's podcast, Accidental Tech Podcast, is at least $3650 per episode
  • Conversational mentions on other podcasts like John Gruber's The Talk Show

Unread by Jared Sinclair

Jared sold Unread to Supertop shortly after publishing these numbers and took a new job.

Unread is a RSS reader with seperate iPhone and iPad versions. Jared sold the apps with a paid-up-front model.

Unread's Sales Numbers (July 2013 - July 2014)

  • $32k gross revenue for iPhone version ($16k in the first 5 days, the other $16k in the next 170 days)
  • $10.2k gross revenue for iPad version ($5k in the first 2 days)

His takeaways:

  • The paid-up-front app market is smaller than it may appear.
  • Coverage from influential bloggers can drive more sales than an App Store feature.
  • Paid-up-front business models don’t generate sustainable revenues.
  • If you want to make “real money” from a paid-up-front app, your launch week has to be be a box-office smash.
  • Don’t launch your paid-up-front app at a reduced price. Demand for your app will likely never be higher again. Price it accordingly.
  • Sustainable revenue must come from other sources than the original app purchase, either from consumable in-app purchases, or from recurring subscriptions.

Manual by William Wilkinson

2014 Manual Sales Numbers

  • 95,621 sales
  • $123,413 gross revenue after Apple's cut but before taxes ($91,773 in the first month)
  • No recurring expenses, $1500 up front costs

oScope, Octave, and Fourier by Alex Wiltschko

Reported on a Hacker News thread.
They produce "low 5-digit" annual revenue.

The Fourth Dimension by Drew Olbrich

Reported on a Hacker News thread.
2012 Numbers: $17,600 (launch year)
2013 Numbers: $3,900

This episode is brought to you by FUSE Coworking in Lincoln, Nebraska. FUSE Coworking provides a great space to work, whatever your needs, be it hosting a podcast for a few hours (like us) or spending the whole day getting things done. If you are in Lincoln, Nebraska and need a place to call your "work home" drop by their space in the Haymarket district.

Show Notes

  • Indie App Development [0:27]
  • The 7 Day Startup [1:01:29]