Graham Spencer

678 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university and connoisseur of great TV shows. With a particular passion for telling stories with the aid of data and visualizations, there is a high likelihood that he wrote a story if you see a graph on MacStories.

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Yep, Apple’s ‘Stickers’ Ad Gave MacBook Sticker Sellers a Huge Boost

When Apple published their new 'Stickers' ad for the MacBook Air last week, I presumed it would be a boon for sellers of MacBook stickers and decals. So earlier this week I decided to reach out to a few sellers of MacBook stickers and decals to see what kind of impact the ad from Apple has had on their store visits and sales.

Now this was not an in-depth investigation and the result is probably what you would have guessed: visits and sales rose dramatically last week when Apple's ad was released. It was the universal reaction I got from the sellers I talked to.

One of the sellers that was willing to give me more detailed information was Benjamin Clark from The Decal Guru. They saw a quadrupling of orders for MacBook decals since the airing of Apple's ad. In terms of unique visitors they saw an increase from a steady 500 per day (prior to the ad) to 4,500 at its highest last week.

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Apple Refreshes Retina MacBook Pro With Faster Processor, Doubled RAM on Two Models

Apple this morning refreshed their MacBook Pro with Retina display models with the latest generation of Intel's Haswell processors. All things considered, it's a minor update with each of the five base models receiving a 0.2GHz processor speed bump. All that means is the base model goes from 2.4GHz to 2.6GHz, whilst the most powerful preconfigured model goes from 3.5GHz to 3.7GHz. The other notable hardware change is the doubling of RAM for the base model 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (from 4GB to 8GB) and base model 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro (from 8GB to 16GB). Finally, the 15-inch 2.5GHz model gets a price drop of $100, now selling for US$2,499.

“People love their MacBook Pro because of the thin and light, aluminum unibody design, beautiful Retina display, all day battery life and deep integration with OS X,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “The MacBook Pro with Retina display gets even better with faster processors, more memory, more affordable configurations and a free upgrade to OS X Yosemite this fall.”

Also worth noting is that Apple today also dropped the price of the MacBook Pro (without the Retina display) by $100, so it now sells for $1,099. For those of you considering purchasing one of the new MacBook Pros, and live in the northern hemisphere, keep in mind that Apple's Back to School promotion is currently running. So if you purchase one of these new Retina MacBook Pros (or any other Mac) before September 9 you'll get a $100 Apple Store card.

Read Apple's Press Release or view the new models on Apple's website.


A Candid Look at Unread’s First Year

Unread for iPhone has earned a total of $32K in App Store sales. Unread for iPad has earned $10K. After subtracting 40 percent in self-employment taxes and $350/month for health care premiums (times 12 months), the actual take-home pay from the combined sales of both apps is: $21,000, or $1,750/month.

Considering the enormous amount of effort I have put into these apps over the past year, that’s a depressing figure. I try not to think about the salary I could earn if I worked for another company, with my skills and qualifications. It’s also a solid piece of evidence that shows that paid-up-front app sales are not a sustainable way to make money on the App Store.

The story of Unread is not one of failure, we were big fans of the app and it has made money. But for the creator of Unread, Jared Sinclair, it has not been a success either. The income that Unread has generated just isn't sustainable on a long-term basis. The story about Unread's first year is fascinating thanks to Sinclair's transparency and I'd highly recommend you read it, particularly if you are developer considering to go 'indie' on the App Store.

Sinclair's story clearly hit a nerve because since his post earlier today, there have been a number of others who have written about the situation with their own perspectives. For example, Benjamin Mayo makes some perhaps obvious points that I think deserve reinforcement:

Betting on apps of incredibly large scale means you bear proportionately more risk, with the possibility of no return whatsoever. If you want to maximise your profitability, make small apps that do a few things well. The amount of effort you put into an app has very little to do with how much of the market will buy it. This means that making big apps exposes you to substantially more risk, which is not fairly counterbalanced by significantly higher earnings potential.

At this point, you may be despairing at the reality of the situation and Cezar Carvalho Pereira offers some commentary on that, in a sense giving a reality check on what it means to go indie on the App Store:

So, while I believe the mythical indie is far from dead, I think the path to going indie is a lot less glamorous than what most have come to expect. A beautiful idea followed by a great execution doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.

If you want even more, Stephen Hackett, Tyler Hall, Ben Brooks, and Brent Simmons have all also posted stories on a similar theme today.

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What Makes a Name in the App Store?

I looked at the top 200 apps in each category for both paid and free iPhone apps, 8400 apps in total. Although some developers use up to 49 words (and all 255 characters), the majority are around 4-5 words (24-35 characters). Around one third of apps use a delimiter / separator like 'Flipboard: Your Social News Magazine'.

Stuart Hall takes a brief but interesting look at what exactly makes a name for apps in the App Store. Specifically, he is talking about the full app store name such as 'Wish - Shopping Made Fun'. Whilst Apple allows a name with as many as 255 characters (remember a tweet is only 140 characters), a big chunk of developers stay under 30 characters - which is about as long as it can be on an iPhone before the App Store cuts the name.

Hall also offers some suggestions for coming up with an app name, which are fairly straightforward and make a lot of sense. But one thing missing from the post (through no real fault of Hall's) is some anecdotal evidence from App developers who may have experimented with different length or style of App names - I'd love to hear how it affected their sales (if at all).

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FiftyThree Releases SDK for Their Pencil Stylus

The FiftyThree SDK has been implemented by Procreate, allowing it to fully support the Pencil Stylus

The FiftyThree SDK has been implemented by Procreate, allowing it to fully support the Pencil Stylus

FiftyThree, the company behind the popular 'Paper' sketching app, have today released an SDK for their 'Pencil' stylus which is now available internationally. The SDK incorporates advanced features enabled by the Pencil that were previously limited to FiftyThree's own Paper app. In preparation for today's release, FiftyThree has worked with the developers of Procreate, Noteshelf, and Squiggle which will offer full support for the FiftyThree SDK.

With the FiftyThree SDK, developers worldwide can now tap into Pencil’s industry­leading technologies and find support from a team that values true partnerships. Developers are already discovering new ways of using Pencil to bring the power of natural creativity to their apps, from professional drawing to making music, starting with our partners Procreate, Noteshelf, and Squiggle.

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Apple Q3 2014 Results: $37.4 Billion Revenue, 35.2 Million iPhones, 13.3 Million iPads Sold

Apple has published their Q3 2014 financial results for the quarter that ended June 28. The company posted revenue of $37.4 billion. The company sold 13.3 million iPads, 35.2 million iPhones, and 4.4 million Macs, earning a quarterly net profit of $6.9 billion.

“Our record June quarter revenue was fueled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and the continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem, driving our highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We are incredibly excited about the upcoming releases of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, as well as other new products and services that we can’t wait to introduce.”

Notably, Apple's gross margin jumped back up to 39.4% this quarter, compared to 36.9% in the year-ago quarter. International sales also accounted for 59% of all Apple's revenue. You can see all our usual earnings call charts below.

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Stickers Are Front and Center in Apple’s New MacBook Air Ad

Apple today posted a new ad for the MacBook Air, and it has a very different style to what we've seen in recent MacBook ads. Titled 'Stickers', this short and simple ad, filmed mostly with stop-motion, focuses on the back of the MacBook Air's display where it is covered in dozens of different stickers. The ad features music from Hudson Mohawke and ends with the slogan "The notebook people love".

You can view the full advert below, on Apple's website or on their YouTube channel.

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The Eighth Annual iTunes Festival Returns to London This September

Apple today announced that their annual iTunes Festival will once again return to London's iconic Roundhouse for the eighth year. The month long festival will happen throughout September and will feature Maroon 5, David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Beck, Sam Smith, Blondie, Kylie, 5 Seconds of Summer, Chrissie Hynde and many more of the world’s biggest artists.

“The iTunes Festival in London is back with another stunning line-up of world class performers and tremendous new acts,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “These live shows capture the heart and soul of iTunes and we love bringing them to our customers in the Roundhouse, as well as to the millions of people watching all over the world for free.”

Apple will once again stream the festival live as well as offer the performances on demand to iOS, iTunes and Apple TV users - just as they have for previous iTunes Festivals, including earlier this year in their first SXSW iTunes Festival. For those looking to attend the festival, Apple will be giving tickets away through iTunes and select media partners including Global Radio and the London Evening Standard.

You can read more information in Apple's Press Release or keep an eye on the iTunes Festival website for more information in the coming weeks.


Sue Wagner Elected To Apple’s Board of Directors, Bill Campbell Retires

Apple's board of directors received a slight change yesterday when Sue Wagner was elected and Bill Campbell retired from the board. Apple's chairman, Art Levinson, says the election of Sue Wagner to Apple's board comes after an exhaustive search by the company, in which they sought to "further strengthen our board’s breadth of talent and background".

Sue is a pioneer in the financial industry and we are excited to welcome her to Apple’s board of directors,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We believe her strong experience, especially in M&A and building a global business across both developed and emerging markets, will be extremely valuable as Apple continues to grow around the world.

Wagner is the co-founder and director of BlackRock, one of the world's most successful asset-management companies, and also serves on the boards of BlackRock, DSP BlackRock (India), Swiss Re, Wellesley College and Hackley School.
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