Graham Spencer

734 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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The World of Indie App Developers

Here at MacStories we write about apps. A lot. Many of those we write about, perhaps even most, are created by individuals and small teams. And typically, those hard-working individuals remain unknown to the public who just know an app as something they use. Today we want to bring a bunch those indie developers to the forefront.

I wasn’t sure exactly where it would lead, but last month I asked on Twitter for independent developers to @ reply me and say hi. Amplified by retweets by Federico and many others, I got dozens and dozens of replies, ultimately totalling just under 200 responses.[1] That’s both a pretty huge number (trust me, it was a time consuming process documenting them all) and also incredibly tiny (there are around 250,000 active developers and over a million apps for sale).

It would be completely ridiculous to perform any kind of analysis on such a small sample size, but it was nonetheless great to have a relatively varied spread of developers from all over the world (illustrated in the above graphic). But more valuable was the list of developers and their Twitter accounts. So I’ve created a Twitter list that includes every developer that @ replied me. We’ve also included the full table of every developer we collated, links to their apps, location and Twitter account (see below). Please note that developers and apps shown in the full list does not mean they are endorsed by me, Federico or MacStories. If a developer met some very minimal criteria, they were included.

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The Shape of the App Store

Charles Perry of Metakite Software spent some time digging through the Overcast sales and rankings data (provided by Marco Arment last week) and extrapolated some interesting findings about the distribution of App Store income:

At the top of the long tail, in position 871 on the U.S. Top Grossing list, an app still makes over $700 in revenue per day. That’s almost $260,000 per year. Even number 1,908 on the U.S. Top Grossing list makes over $100,000 per year. In fact all apps above number 3,175 on the U.S. Top Grossing list produce enough revenue to at least make its developer the United States household median income for 2014 ($53,891).

That's the good news, because the bad news is that there are well over a million apps for sale and the earnings quickly fall as you go down the rankings. But Perry also makes the important point that many indie developers have multiple apps for sale simultaneously which can make a big difference.

So, with even fewer people than I expected making “yacht and helicopter money” in the App Store, I remain hopeful for my fellow developers. There’s a lot money circulating in the ecosystem, and a developer operating at indie scale only needs a little bit of it. It seems that even with the revenue curve tilted so heavily towards the big hits, the shape of the App Store still allows room for sustainable businesses to develop in the long tail. It seems that developers who work hard, mind the details, and treat their business like a business have a real chance of making it.

Keep in mind that Perry's conclusions are extrapolated from just the one data source, being Overcast. I'd be interested to see if the sales and rankings patterns from other apps fit along Perry's curve.

[via Hosam Hassan]

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A History of Apple News and Rumors During CES

To those of us who follow technology news closely, this time of the year is dominated by the barrage of CES news. But it often seems as though Apple, which doesn’t attend the exhibition, also has some of its biggest days in the press – coincidentally, or not. This was brought to light again yesterday as Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac published details of a rumoured 12" MacBook Air and a timeline for the Apple Watch launch. I have no idea whether the information leaked to Gurman was timed to coincide with CES or not – it may very well just be completely unrelated.[1]

But regardless of the intention of Gurman’s leaker, I was curious to see whether Apple really did have big news days during CES in past years as I had remembered. So I ventured over to Techmeme (which links to big technology stories every day) and went into their archives to look at what was on their front page at 7:10 PM on every day of CES since 2007. Whenever a big Apple news story appeared, I made a note of it. This is the result.

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Emoji Type: A Predictive Emoji Keyboard

Emoji have really taken off this year, and on the iPhone and iPad it is easier than ever to use them thanks to iOS 8’s custom keyboards. Like many people, I’ve been using and enjoying the fantastic Emoji++ from David Smith (you can read our review here). But as someone who is admittedly a bit of a novice when it comes to emoji, the wall of emoji in Emoji++, whilst a massive improvement over the default emoji keyboard, is still a bit intimidating at times. This is particularly the case when searching for an emoji, with no idea if it exists or where it might be.

Emoji Type, which launched today, is a new predictive emoji keyboard. That means you can start typing koala and Emoji Type will pull up the koala emoji in a bar similar to the QuickType suggestion bar from iOS 8’s default keyboard. There’s a whole dictionary of words associated with the various emoji that has been built into Emoji Type. So, as an example, you can get to the koala emoji by typing koala or Australia and you can get to the heart emojis by typing heart or love. And you don’t have to type the whole word for the emoji to appear, emojis start appearing after typing two letters and each letter you type after that will continue to narrow the selection (which is horizontally scrollable).

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Apple Adds More Channels to Apple TV, YouTube Channel Gets a New Design

Click image for full resolution version

Click image for full resolution version

The Apple TV yesterday received four more channels, with UFC, The Scene, Fusion and Dailymotion joining the dozens of other channels available on the device. The above image is an update to our original article that visualizes the addition of Apple TV channels since the Apple TV 2 launched (the original black puck version).

The Apple TV also got an update to the long-standing YouTube channel, featuring a new design and new features. The highlights of this update includes predictive search, personalized recommendations and the ability to subscribe to channels. It probably wouldn't be considered a 'feature', but the updated YouTube channel now also supports advertisements before videos. You can watch a brief promotional video from Google that talks about the update below.

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Apple Debuts ‘Change’ Advert for the iPad Air 2

Overnight Apple published a new advert for the iPad Air 2 called 'Change'. Unlike their previous 'Your Verse' iPad adverts, which focused on how one person or small group used the iPad, this latest advert is a fast-paced montage of many different people using the iPad in many different ways.

Those apps featured in the advert include iStopMotion, AutoCAD 360, Molecules, Animation Creator HD, and many more. In fact along with the advert is a new page on Apple's website that is dedicated to highlighting every single app that was featured in the advert.

You can view the advert on YouTube or on Apple's website, as well as embedded below.

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Apple Posts “Best of 2014″ App Store and iTunes Store Lists

Apple has today published their "Best of 2014" iTunes and App Store lists, which include editorial picks for the best releases in apps, music, movies, TV shows, books and podcasts from 2014.

For the best apps and games, Apple has picked Elevate and Threes for the iPhone, Pixelmator and Monument Valley for the iPad and Notability and Tomb Raider for the Mac. Runners up were Hyperlapse and Leo's Fortune for iPhone, Storehouse and Hearthstone for iPad and Affinity Designer and Transistor for Mac.

Some of the winners in the other categories include 1989 by Taylor Swift as the best music album, Guardians of the Galaxy as the best blockbuster movie, Fargo as TV show of the year, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr as the best fiction book, and Serial as the best new podcast. Although keep in mind that some of these lists vary from country to country.

Last year, Apple picked Wunderlist and XCOM: Enemy Unknown as winners for the Mac; Disney Animated and BADLAND for the iPad; and Duolingo and Ridiculous Fishing for the iPhone. In 2012, Apple picked Day One and Deus Ex: Human Revolution as winners for the Mac; Paper and The Room for the iPad; and Action Movie FX and Rayman Jungle Run for the iPhone.

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Snapchat’s ‘Our Story’ Events Are a Captivating Experiment

I use a lot of apps, but there are only a few that I open every single day, and over the past few months Snapchat has become one of those elite few for me. If you told me this back in January, I wouldn’t have believed you and probably would have laughed at the idea too. Why the drastic change in opinion of Snapchat? Well, I eventually signed up when a few of my friends convinced me to, but my usage really skyrocketed with the launch of their (relatively) recent feature called ‘Our Story’. But first, an explanation of Snapchat and how it has rapidly evolved into a number of different features.

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Apple Debuts Two New iPhone 6 Adverts Featuring Gaming and Continuity

Overnight Apple released two new adverts for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. One, called 'Gamers', features the new iOS game Vain Glory and the other, 'Reservations', demoes the ability to make and receive phone calls on an iPhone, iPad or Mac with Continuity's Phone Relay feature.

These new iPhone 6 adverts continue to be narrated by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake and are the fifth and sixth adverts in the series. Previous iPhone 6 adverts included Duo, Health, Cameras and Huge.

We've embedded the adverts below, but you can also view them in YouTube (Gamers and Reservations).

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