For those of you who don’t know what ScoreMo is, it is a Score keeping app designed with card/board gamer’s in mind. It was my first iphone app that I started as a 2010 fourth of July weekend project. The goal was to code and submit an app to apple shortly after paying my developer fees to ensure I would keep up with app development (it worked).
The app had humble beginnings as a stock UI, 2 tab/ 1 configuration scoring system but has evolved to a CoreData powered app with multiple game configurations and a customized UI. Back in August of last year I added a free version since sales were a little slower than I wanted them to be.
After reading Marco Arment’s Instipaper Free takedown post today, I went back and took stock of the current lite version of ScoreMo. After a lot of reflection, I have come to the conclusion that I should take the app off the app store for now.
The lite version of ScoreMo has not been updated since it’s initial release while the main app has received 2 major updates. This really leaves ScoreMo Lite as a bad impression of what the paid app has to offer. ScoreMo Lite has about 75% of the features of the full app but is missing a few features that I consider critical for the app to be truly useful for the problem it is trying to solve. For me this leaves the lite app (in it’s current state) to be a negative reflection of the paid app which is a much more polished product.
So Why Not Update It?
As a green developer I had decided to make separate projects for both the paid/free versions of the app where I should have just made a new build target or branch for the lite version. Adding a new target or branching would have allowed me to simply update both versions at the same time. Since I never bothered keeping the app release synced at this point the codebases are very different and bringing the app up to date would be more work that I would ever see a return on.
I don’t like ads
Actually, I hate ads. While iAds are less intrusive and more interesting than other ads on the platform, I still find that whenever there is an app with ads I will purchase the paid version or the in-app perchance to remove them. I am hoping to appeal to users with similar sensibilities as I have. This leaves me stuck in a situation where I can’t offer the removal of ads since the paid and free versions of the app are so fragmented in the code base as explained above. It also is not an option to make the main app free with this feature since I do not want to double charge my current customers. The inclusion of ads themselves also has been a limiting factor for the UI design has my options to make full use of the scoring screen. Dropping ScoreMo Lite allows me to reclaim the whole scoring screen again.
Also, The monetization of ads doesn’t work for the app. Since an internet connection is required to pull an ad but not to use the ScoreMo Lite itself, it is very easy to circumvent the incentive for me to offer a free app for users. While a big part of my motivation for offering a free app was to get the app into users hands and not money, I have recently come to the conclusion that if I ever want to be able to make it as a full-time independent software vendor in the future I need practice making money in order to reach that goal.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Since my apps are just a hobby at this point, a big part of the reward is getting positive feedback and user input on features. ScoreMo lite has been downloaded about 300 times with no feedback or reviews and no confirmed upsells (though I have speculated there might be a few) so dropping the product will relieve quite a few mental blocks it has put on development of the paid app.
The free app was a good experiment and learning experience as a developer to learn a new framework, but it is time to recognize it as a failure and to move on. This past month my ad revenue for an average of 20-40 daily impressions yielded me a total of 6 cents and has only earned me $7.00 since it’s launch. While this is passive income and it might seem strange to take that off the table, I feel that the lite version of the app has enough baggage to where it might be hurting sales of the more polished, paid product.
TL;DR: ScoreMo Lite is off the app store due to my dissatisfaction with the aging/not updated product and how I maintained the codebase. If I can find a way to make a free version work and keep it maintainable it may return in the future.