October 15, 2015

In our previous post, we announced that we are retiring Photosmith and we offered a history of it’s development and the challenges we faced.  One thing that is surely true, is that we would have never gotten here without the support of the entire iOS developer community and the many FOSS libraries that help build it.  So in the spirit of giving back, for whatever it’s worth, here’s a look into our financials.  Note: these graphs were generated by Morse, who got a C in Statistics, so know going in that there’s rounding error, sampling error, observer bias, etc.  But I did try my best to be accurate and I’ll note in each if there are any known discrepancies.

Revenue

Those that have followed us for a long time likely think we’ve made millions off of the app. After all, we did hit the top grossing charts not once, but twice. However, we learned quickly that the “long-tail” of app sales begins about 36 hours after the app is released.  A day or two more if it’s a well received app, less if not.  Long-tail here refers to the fact that most of the sales happen very VERY quickly right at the begging and then you quickly fall to a long period of low but steady sales volume.  Here’s what that looks like in a chart.

gross_revenue

You can clearly see the v1 launch in Apr 2011, v2 in Apr 2012, and v3 barely even registers in Aug 2013. And if you add all those numbers up, they look like this:

Screenshot 2015-09-01 16.54.20

Undoubtedly, that is a lot of money and most iOS developers would gladly disassemble themselves for such a haul.  But consider that that total is spread over four years and has to pay contractors, advertising, cloud services, software licenses, and hardware devices it actually doesn’t go that far.  After all expenses the developers took home under $20,000 a year before taxes. A nice sum to be sure, but far short of a full-time wage especially considering we were working 40+ hours/week routinely.

Pricing

Photosmith’s pricing has probably been the most controversial aspect of the app.  Over and over we were told to drop the price and make it up in volume.  We did experiment with that a few times and always found that the support load of higher volume overwhelmed any positive revenue changes.  The raw-photo-import-and-sync market we were in just had too many complicated variables that required high quality support to go with a mass-market pricing strategy.  Over time in the app we focused more and more on doing things that would reduce the need for support and Mike spent many months creating the most complete support Knowledge Base of just about any app out there but we never got the goal of zero-support-required that we wanted to obtain –and in fact would have to attain– in order to go with a low-tier pricing strategy.

One interesting thing that we did find testing pricing is that Photosmith has an unexpected demand curve and was actually more successful at high price points.  The following chart does not show the associated support costs but they were directly correlated with volume and thus dropped as we increased price so our net revenues were far higher at $20 than they were at $10.

price_demand_curve

Usage and Analytics

Now that all the ugly money discussion is out of the way let’s have some fun spelunking into our anonymous usage statistics. *Most of these charts are grabbed from the last 100,000 events so there is definitely some recency bias involved, take it or leave it, that’s just what our analytics toolkit limits us to.

Imports:

Lightroom, unsurprisingly, is the clear winner. However, lots of effort went into the Eye-Fi and FTP import modules too and it looks like they’ve been put to very good use. FileXchange existed only a very short time before Apple introduced PhotoKit and broke it.

import_sourcesimport_sources_ex_lightroom

File Types:

Again, unsurprisingly, JPG is the clear winner. However, Canon having such a big lead over Nikon is surprising since they’re nearly equal in the market.  Also a surprise is Olympus representing so well.  Mike theorizes it’s because Photosmith was well liked in those camera brand’s representative forums and particularly in the case of Olympus, Photosmith supported ORF better than most other apps.

file_typesfile_types_ex_jpg

Exports:

Here’s where the burn really starts to set in.  The export modules took a huge amount of development work and testing and created more support tickets per user than anything except sync.  Yet, when compared to each other (below) and especially to other app functions (not shown) they represent just a tiny fraction of what users did in Photosmith.  Less than 3% of users ever exported at all.  And remember, for the majority of Photosmith’s lifetime, Apple’s share panel and photo extensions didn’t even exist yet.

export_types

Planned Anti-Obsolescence:

One of the things we love about technology is how fast it moves.  Everything changes so fast.  It’s also one of the things we hate.  So we decided to take a personal stand. We continued iPad 1 support right up through the very end.  There’s a few places were doing so cost us a lot of time but considering that those iPad 1 users were also the very first buyers of Photosmith, we felt like we owed them a debt.  I’m very happy to report that even still, four years later, early generations of iPad and iOS are still strongly represented in our most recent usages statistics (again, the most recent 100,000 events).

sessions_by_ipad_generationsfirmware_versions

Other stuff:

There’s lot of other interesting details in the analytics but they don’t lend themselves as well to quick charts.  Plus, I fear I’ve prattled on for far too long already anyway.  If you’d really like to know more –especially if you’re in the photograph app market– reach out and we’ll help you up with what we can.

Total usage:

Since we changed analytics providers twice during the lifetime of the app  cumulative numbers are hard to come by but we can still get a pretty good idea.

  • 30,000,000 photos imported
  • 10,500,000 Lightroom Syncs
    • Average import contains ~50 photos
    • Over 500 sessions imported more than 3,000 images at once
  • 580,000 photos imported via Eye-Fi
  • 7,000 photos exported (wow that’s small)

So what are we most proud of?

We set out to build an app that made it easy for photographers to import their pictures while on the road and get a head start on triaging the work before they get home.  In a lot of ways, we were successful at that.  There are still several rough areas in the workflow –most of them we can’t control but some we still could– but overall, it’s a useful tool and many people have written in to tell us it’s helped them.

 

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