Thursday, November 18, 2010


This summer I commissioned an app based on an idea I had: What if you could create a virtual mail carrier, put a message and/or photo in its mailbag, and pass it (physically) to a friend, then they could add a message and/or photo and pass it to someone else, and so on? You could also track your pet's journeys around the world and see all the places and people it has interacted with. That was the idea behind PetPass...kind of a chain mail Twitter with cute animals, leveraging the Bump API.

It's been a rocky road getting this thing produced, but we finally got it submitted to Apple yesterday. It's still a little rough around the edges (especially when it comes to handling poor network connectivity). Here's how it works:

The app is free. You get 100 credits with the free download. It costs 10 credits to create a new pet. You choose a pet type (monkey, panda, robot, etc.) and give it a unique name. Then you add a message and (optionally) a photo to its mailbag. You click Pass Pet. A friend of yours who also has the app on their device clicks Receive Pet. You shake your phones near each other and the pet passes from your phone to theirs. You earn 1 credit for each pet you pass, though you can't earn more credits by passing the same pet multiple times. You can also purchase 10 credits for $0.99.

Will people like and use this app? I really don't know. I thought the idea sounded cool at the time. I'd been wanting to produce a social networking app, and one that used both in-app purchases and the Bump API. But who knows?

It is implemented reasonably well, and it is free. Though I've found that ironically users tend to be even harsher on free apps than they are on paid ones. You do get a lot more downloads with a free app, so the chances of it catching on are increased by the price tag. It should take another week or so for the app to be approved (or rejected). If the app does reasonably well on the iPhone, I will develop an Android version. The Bump API allows for transactions between iPhone and Android devices. But we'll have to see how it does first.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why Microsoft's New Mobile Phone Platform Poses No Threat, and Who Was the Ad Wizard That Came Up With That?

Wired has a ridiculous article entitled Why Windows Phone 7 Will Make Android Look Chaotic.
The crucial part of Microsoft’s new phone strategy is the quality control it imposes onto its hardware partners. Rather than code an operating system and allow manufacturers to do whatever they want with it — like Google is doing with Android — Microsoft is requiring hardware partners to meet a rigid criteria in order to run Windows Phone 7.

Each device must feature three standard hardware buttons, for example, and before they can ship with Windows Phone 7, they have to pass a series of tests directed by Microsoft.


The effort to control quality and consistency may be just what Microsoft needs to regain some ground in the phone battle.
Yep, I'm sure a more closed, rigid OS is exactly what's needed to gain more market share. Good grief.

Microsoft may carve out a marginal slice of the smartphone market share. It's a rapidly expanding market with lots of room. But they are not going to pose a serious threat to Android's trajectory to become the dominant player in the market. The two main reasons are: apps and specs. Microsoft has actually done a pretty good job providing the necessary tools to devs to make cool apps for the platform. But there has to be some intrinsic appeal to cause devs to cross-port or migrate. With Android it was an obvious platform to lure devs away from iOS because it is a less restrictive development and publishing environment. The two things that are going to lure a dev to a new platform are either money or coolness. Android initially didn't have the first, but it had the second. What does WP7 have? If the app store ramps up and they get enough phones into people's hands this holiday season to make it seem like a viable decision to port apps over, then Microsoft might be able to muscle into a minority market share.

But the other big issue is the one highlighted in the article, which actually works against them: hardware.

As one commenter pointed out, when you put more restrictions on the hardware manufacturers, you get more consistency, but you limit the range of devices and the speed of adoption to new hardware. The new WP7 devices are shipping with chipsets that are already second-best in the market. That gap is only going to get worse as the development cycle for WP7 phones lags while Android devices flood the market at blinding speeds. This is the same reason Android will continue to chew away market share from the iPhone. The rate of innovation for Android, both in terms of the OS and hardware, will drastically outpace other restrictive platforms. Very soon we'll be seeing dual-core chipsets in devices running Android, with version 3.0 and a revamped market. Android will be on a broader spectrum of devices, meaning a wider demographic will be able to buy the phone for their budget, and the high-end devices will be clearly superior spec-wise than models with competing OSs.

And Microsoft's head-scratching marketing campain won't help either. Check this out:

The commercial is well done, if what you want to do is make people feel bad or guilty for using their smartphones. It would be a great public service announcement to spend more time and pay more attention to your loved ones. What they're sort of trying to say is that their phones are so efficient you won't want to use them. I think that's pretty counter to the motivations of most users and buyers, though. This is exactly the opposite of "There's an app for that", or the Droid's campaign of morphing you into a next-level cybernetic entity by augmenting you with their device. The WP7 campaign isn't saying you'll want to spend more time with your device because of all the cool stuff it can do, but that you'll want to do less with it. I understand the strategy, but it's a horrible one.

I'm always ready to eat some crow when it comes to prediction, but in this case I'll be very surprised if WP7 is able to carve out even 5% of the smartphone market.

Monday, October 4, 2010

WordWise for iPhone 1.01 Update Released

Our release of WordWise for iPhone was rocky, to say the least. That first version probably shouldn't have been submitted or made it through review. We really rushed to try to be first-to-market with Android/iPhone cross-compatibility, and the quality suffered.

But today 1.01 of WordWise for iPhone was approved, and most of the major issues should be fixed. Specifically, the game was crashing on most older phones and the iPod touch when loading games with lots of tiles, such as a game near completion. This was a memory issues and should now be resolved. There was an issue with loading games that should have affected all versions, but was particularly problematic on the iPad, keeping games from being launched at all. This should be fixed. And overall, performance in terms of moving and dropping tiles should be smoother.

Thanks a heap to the guys over at In a Day Development for their help. Go check out their apps (and buy some)!

As mentioned in an earlier post, while testing, we reverted to the development keys for notification, and forgot to change them back to production keys, so notifications are likely broken. We're going to submit yet another update (sigh) to get those working again. Hopefully the game is much more playable and those of you who want to play between Android and iPhone should be able to.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

WordWise for iPhone Issues

WordWise was developed primarily on iPhone OS 3, and we tested it on iOS 4, but we're getting reports of issues in two main areas:

1) Error connecting to server
2) Crashes loading the game after several moves are made

The first issue is likely to do with storing and using authentication information. What's probably happening is that the authentication used to log into our servers is timing out, and we need to fix the app to either refresh or fetch new credentials.

The second is most likely a memory issue. Each tile is a separate graphic, and since the crash is occurring later in games, while attempting to load, it is likely because the memory required to render a larger number of tiles is causing the crash. This is probably mostly occurring on older devices.

Sorry for the issues. We're going to get them fixed as soon as we can. In the meantime, if you do have problems, if you could email us at and let us know what happened and what device and OS you're using, that would really help us troubleshoot.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WordWise for iPhone Released!

The wait is over...WordWise for iPhone is now available in the iTunes App Store for just 99 cents!

Judging by the amount of emails I get requesting Android/iPhone cross-platform play, there is pretty big demand for a game of this type. So if you've got an iPhone, check it out. If your friends have iPhones, tell them to check it out.

And remember this is v1.00, so it's not going to be nearly as polished or feature-rich as it will with a few more updates. But it will get you started on playing between Android and iPhone.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Polyclef is Interviewed for Newsweek Article

So a reporter from Newsweek contacted me a couple of weeks ago asking if I'd be willing to answer a few questions about the app business on Android.

It's not really an article...more like a featurette. It's called How to Build a Better App: Mobile app makers share tips on creating a successful app. From the intro:
So what does it take for a new app maker to get in on this action? We asked two entrepreneurs who have already done it. Ilene Jones, 38, is cofounder of Kitty Code, maker of iPhone’s Hurricane storm-tracking app, which has logged 60,000 downloads at $3.99 a pop. Derek James, 39, who runs Polyclef Software, has created paid games for Android that have clocked more than 50,000 downloads.
And my Android-specific advice that made it in?
1. Think local
When it comes to picking a developer, says James, it may be better to hire someone you can work with directly, as opposed to someone in Mumbai. To find the right person, he suggests checking out Craigslist, contacting local tech groups, and leaving fliers at nearby universities.

2. Go where the app lovers are
In 2009, James was a graduate student looking to make “pizza money” when he got into the app game. To figure out what to make, he began reading Android forums and looking for mentions of popular games that users wanted as apps. He started with card games—first Spades and then Hearts.

3. In chaos lies opportunity
Unlike Apple, Google doesn’t review every app. Developers basically upload and push “publish,” says James. And with fewer apps than Apple, Android has more unexploited niches. That said, any Android app will have to be written in multiple versions to accommodate various smart phones.

4. Experiment with pricing
James tinkers with his games to find the right price point. He’s started some games at $2.99, then lowered them to 99 cents for a week to see how that affects downloads. Most settle at $1.99, but WordWise, a game he invented, draws about 40% more downloads a day at 99 cents than at $1.99.

5. Use search to your advantage
James decided to make apps based on games consumers could easily identify. “Someone searches ‘domino,’ and my [Domino] app comes up,” he says. For WordWise, he put a mention of Scrabble in the description so it would show up in related searches.
I haven't seen the print version, but I'm assuming it's the same. Either way, it's nice to have the exposure in a national publication.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Would Anyone Choose Android over iPhone?

MG Siegler over at TechCrunch has a pretty stupid article in which he follows up on another silly article in which he rhetorically wondered out loud if the reason why Android was overtaking the iPhone in market share was because of AT&T exclusivity for the iPhone.

In that first article, he wrote:

While I obviously understand that people have different tastes, I can’t see how you can objectively say that the overall experience of using an Android phone isn’t worse than using an iPhone.

In response to this, people then proceeded to give reasons other than AT&T that the Android experience is better than the iPhone. In the second article, he picks what he perceives as the primary reason: openness. He then proceeds to say that the idea that Android is more open than the iPhone is "a load of crap".

His justification? Recent demo models of Android phones he has received come with a bunch of pre-installed apps he doesn't want.

There's also this:

From what we’re hearing, Verizon is also planning to launch this store on their Android phones as well in the future. Obviously, this store would be pre-installed, and it would likely be more prominently displayed than Android’s own Market for apps.

Um, V Cast is already included on Verizon phones, as a channel in the Android Market alongside existing ones. I guess it's possible that Verizon would replace the official Android Market with their own, but I highly doubt it. I don't think Siegler has a clue what he's talking about here.

Then he talks about how certain models of Android phones don't allow the installation of non-market apps. Then he talks about how tethering is not available via the native support for it in 2.2. Hint: You can buy EasyTether and tether away to your hearts content.

Then he goes on to bash the carriers for not updating Android to the most current OS version fast enough. Look, I wish every Android phone was running 2.2, but here's the situation: Android devices are coming out at a breakneck speed, with bigger and better specs all the time. Older devices (and we're just talking 6-12 months old) often don't have the hardware hefty enough to run the latest version of Android optimally. There's a trade-off here. You can either have rapid innovation and a certain amount of buyer's remorse when the phone you bought 6 months ago is eclipsed by the newest phone with much better specs, or we can just slow down the pace of innovation so better devices only come out once a year or so. Which would you prefer? I'll take the rapid innovation, personally. As a dev it makes compatibility a bigger problem, and as a consumer you may feel like you're getting left in the dust, but I'd take than any day over a much slower pace of increasing specs.

Realistically compare this to the PC market. If you buy the newest PC, within a relatively short amount of time it will no longer be the best and brightest. You can upgrade the OS and hardware yourself (though your average consumer won't), but you certainly don't get automatic updates to an entirely new version for free, mediated by your ISP. I think it is reasonably for the average Android user to expect 1-2 full version upgrades in the lifetime of their device.

Anyway, back to one core question: Is Android more open? Of course it is.

You can tether on Android, without rooting, either by being on a support OS/carrier, or buying a tethering app (which would never make it onto the iTunes market). Steve Jobs derisively talked about a "porn store" on Android, and guess what? A lot of people like porn. If you don't want Apple to be your nanny when it comes to app content, you might just prefer an Android device. It is simply an irrefutable fact that in terms of functionality and content of apps, Android allows a wider range than the iPhone. No one in their right mind would dispute this, and it is a far more sensible metric of openness than any that Siegler gives.

So what about the other big question originally raised by Siegler: Why would anyone in their right mind choose an Android phone over an iPhone?

Here are a few:

1) Choice. The iPhone only has a few models, and only one newest model. With Android, besides having your choice of carrier, you also have your choice of hardware. Do you want a hardware keyboard? Do you want a huge display? A small one? Is the camera especially important to you? The point is that with Android you have a vast array of choices in terms of specs, features, and price, and that spectrum is only getting larger.

2) Price. You can get a budget Android phone or go for top-of-the-line. Not everyone wants to fork out the max amount for the best available phone. In this respect, Android has a huge edge that is analogous to the PC market. Some consumers prefer to trade features and specs for a bit of money in savings.

3) Google. Yes, the iPhone allows some Google apps to run (but apparently not others, such as Google Voice). If you are already an avid user of Google's web-based services, you just might want the tight integration with things like GMail and Google Calender that the Android environment provides.

These are three big ones off the top of my head. There are others, such as the liberal Android Market return policy that is very consumer-friendly. But look, the iPhone is a great device, very well designed and very user friendly. But it is not perfect, and it is currently no longer the objectively best smartphone on the market. In terms of specs and functionality, the newest Android devices, such as the Evo and Droid X are better. The gap has closed, and the scary thing for Apple is that soon there will be Android devices that are clearly superior to the iPhone in virtually every respect. Android innovation is not on a yearly schedule like the iPhone. By this holiday season, there will be new Android devices with specs that outperform the iPhone in every category. Android 3.0 (Gingerbread) will be released this year as well, along with the improved Android Market with over-the-air purchases and installs and integration with Google's new music service. Apple apologists can currently continue to make arguments that the iPhone is at or near the top of the heap, but very, very soon that argument will simply be made obsolete by the steady march of better and better Android devices.

So while there are already good reasons to prefer an Android device over an iPhone, right now to a large degree it is personal preference. Over the next 6 months that will no longer be the case and the chasm will widen. The iPhone won't fall away, but it will be relegated to a much smaller market share, just as in the PC market. And I'm sure guys like Siegler will be whining louder than ever.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Android Market and Taxes

A fellow developer wrote me today and said:
I have had some success with one of my apps and I'm starting to get concerned on how I should be handling taxes. Do you have any links you could suggest on how I should be reporting income and sales tax?
Disclaimer here: It is entirely possible I have no clue what I'm talking about, so you should take everything I say with a huge grain of salt.

Near the end of 2009, when my apps started doing reasonably well, I began to investigate tax issues. It's hard to find decent information and get clarification from Google, so your best bet is to find either a good tax attorney, CPA, or both if you are generating enough revenue to be worried about it. If your apps are making less than $5K a year, then you're probably well under the radar.

Anyway, last summer I formed an LLC as the sole member, and basically my taxes on my company's income were treated the same as an individual. This year I've hired a local CPA who advised forming an S corporation, which will supposedly save on paying self-employment taxes and end up costing me less in taxes than I would as an LLC. No matter how you handle it, if you're making a substantial amount of money, you need to be declaring it and paying taxes on it.

As for sales tax, that's pretty murky. I searched around quite a lot in various forums, and ended up with the following understanding: Developers selling apps through the Android Market are responsible for collecting any associated sales tax as a result of each sale. I am based in Louisiana, so I contacted the Louisiana Department of Revenue and the representative I spoke with confirmed that I am responsible for collecting sales tax on transactions that take place in the same state in which my company is based. So basically I collect the 4% sales tax on app sales in Louisiana. I file monthly sales tax reports through the LDR website, basically reporting $X in gross sales minus $Y in interstate and international sales, which are exempt from taxation in Louisiana. The sales tax can be set up in the Google Checkout console (Settings tab, Tax Setup). Then, because reporting is so abysmal in Google Checkout, I manually look up the number of sales of a given app at its taxed price. In other words, at the end of each month I search Google Checkout for all apps sold at $1.03, which are all my $0.99 apps plus the 4% sales tax. I manually count these sales because I am not able to generate a CSV report and export it from Google Checkout. This is, of course, a crapload of fun. I should probably just be thankful I only have to collect sales tax in my state, and not for every state, country, and territory.

So I do business under the assumption that I do not either need to collect or pay sales tax in states or countries other than the one in which I am based. Google has not done a good job communicating tax liabilities to developers, so if this information isn't correct, I'm not in very good shape, and neither is the Android Market. Hopefully it is the way we're supposed to be doing business. This is one area where the iPhone app market is clearly superior. Apple apparently collects any necessary taxes associated with sales, handles currency conversions, and provides developers with very clear itemized monthly sales reports. Google is taking a much more laissez faire approach, and if it ends up biting some developers in the butt because they're not handling their taxes right, that would be damaging for everyone. I just figure I've done due diligence and look at potential unforeseen tax liabilities as a mitigated risk.

Anyway, that's my understanding of how things work and a description of how I currently handle taxes. I'd be interested in hearing other stories or getting any clarifications from anyone who knows better.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Update: WordWise for iPhone

So we submitted WordWise for the iPhone to Apple about 10 days ago. After about a week, the first version was rejected. Turns out we had a nasty bug to do with the login process.

We fixed that, but in the process found another bug. So we spent another day fixing that. This morning we resubmitted to Apple. It looks like the review process is taking about a week these days, so we should know something next Wednesday. It's a fairly complex app, so it wouldn't totally surprise me if it takes multiple rounds of submissions to make it through the process. Hopefully not, but for those who are looking forward to playing across platforms, between Android and iPhone, thanks for your patience.

Friday, August 27, 2010

WordWise for iPhone Submitted to Apple

We finally got most of the kinks worked out and submitted WordWise Pro for the iPhone today. It's still a little rough around the edges, but we think it's pretty good for a first version, and will be the first Android-iPhone cross-platform crossword board game.

Approval periods can vary quite a bit, so we'll keep you updated here and let you know when it goes live.

EDIT: Someone asked about the price. It's going to debut at 99 cents.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yet Another Android Success Story: Polyclef Software

This week another Android success story is making the rounds. Android dev Arron La, maker of Advanced Task Manager, posted his revenue figures for the app. Looks like he made about $18K last year and about $80K this year from a combination of paid sales and ad revenue through AdMob.

I've posted stats before (here's a review of 2009). In the spirit of sharing some hard numbers and getting the word out about Android as a viable platform for devs, especially independent ones, I'm going to share some more extensive stats through the end of July 2010.

First of all, I uploaded my first app to the Android Market in March of 2009. That was a tip calculator called TippinTime that was free, with no ads. I learned the platform by building simple, niche-oriented calculators and simple novelty apps, eventually working my way up to more complex games like Spades, Dominoes, and the newest app, WordWise. Polyclef currently has 31 apps on the market, with a mix of monetization methods, including paid sales and free ad-based apps. I also serve as publisher for EasyTether, an app by a developer who is currently unable to publish paid apps directly through the Android Market. For most of these apps, I'm the sole developer, though I occasionally contract out artwork and music for games, and on rare occasions some coding. With WordWise, my friend and co-developer has done all the server-side implementation, while I've been responsible for the client.

Here is a summary chart of revenue from March 2009 to July 2010, broken down by the relative contribution of ad revenue and paid sales:

Ad revenue has been decreasing as the overall percentage of revenue. I don't understand all the factors related to ad revenue (they're generally not made available to devs). Ad revenue tends to decrease during the summer months, but that doesn't completely explain things, especially since the number of both impressions and clicks has continued to grow significantly, while actual revenue from ads has fallen. I'm hoping that turns around in the Fall.

But the general trend is obviously up, and average monthly revenue this year is a little over $8K. As long as revenue either continues to grow or levels off, I'm on target to make six figures this year as an independent Android developer.

Not bad. It's obviously beyond what I expected when I started doing this last year to earn a little extra dinner money as a grad student. Now I'm taking time from the program to pursue this full-time.

Just another data point to drive home that Android is definitely a viable platform for indie developers. Unlike La's example or Edward Kim, my strategy is very diverse, with lots of apps and several different ways to monetize.

Although, just as in the app market itself, my own apps follow a long-tail distribution. That is, a few of my apps make a lot of money, while most of my apps make very little.

Right now my own top earners are Dominoes, Golf Solitaire, and WordWise. Here are some screenshots of the portal stats:

As you can see, ratings and active install rates tend to be lower for free versions. I think people have a lower perception of value when they get something for free, and thus the lower rating. I've tried different price points for most of my apps, typically ranging from $0.99 to $2.99 for these three apps. Right now I've settled at $1.99 for the first two, though WordWise is currently at $0.99 because higher price points seem to significantly negatively impact sales, and we're trying to stay in the top ten in Paid>Brain & Puzzle.

Most of my paid apps tend to have active install rates between 70-80%, which I believe is actually quite good, comparing it to what I hear in various forums from other devs.

None of my individual apps have broken into the upper echelon (e.g. >250K downloads), but many have been well-ranked and well-rated. Dominoes, Golf Solitaire, and WordWise are all in the top 10 in their respective subcategory, though the free versions have not cracked the upper rankings.

I've dabbled some in iPhone development as well, though I have not enjoyed comparable success there. The iPhone version of WordWise will be submitted this week though, allowing cross-platform play between Android and iPhone users, and I'm hoping it will be at least a moderate hit.

In any case, this is just some companion info to go along with La and Kim's anecdotes. I still come across threads where people say that Android, while growing as a platform, is still unproven when it comes to making money. Consider this another case study from someone who is now doing this full-time and making a good income.

If you can churn out a single hit, that's great, though the strategy that's working for me so far is diversification. I think in the long run it will end up being a more robust strategy (i.e. if Google makes some core improvement to Android that makes your app obsolete, you're kind of out of luck). I don't know what the future brings, but with Android adoption continuing to explode, I'm obviously optimistic.

Monday, August 16, 2010

XNA and GUI Elements

When you make a video game, there are essential things you need to create, like menus and other interface elements that let the user navigate and control your game, set options, etc.

Now XNA Game Studio is ostensibly a package that allows you to create games, doing a lot of essential stuff under the hood. It's surprising then, that it's on version 3.1, and it doesn't include any prebuilt GUI elements, like buttons, drop-down menus, etc. There are game engines you can use in conjunction with XNA, and stand-alone GUI packages as well, but this seems like such a basic element of a game framework I'm pretty disappointed it's not included. I don't want to waste my time building my own text field from scratch, and it was time consuming to sift through the various options for third-party solutions and find one with halfway decent examples and documentation. I started messing around with Neoforce Controls, and it looks like it's going to work reasonably well.

I'd be interested to hear from any other devs using XNA whether they build their GUIs from scratch, using a game engine that includes GUI elements, or use a stand-along GUI package.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Polyclef Update for August

Things have been pretty busy around here, so I've neglected the blog, but here are some updates on current and future goings-on...

WordWise development is still very active. We keep running into lots of minor issues with the iPhone version. The final piece of functionality to integrate is push notification for the iPhone version. Once that's done and it's tested, we'll submit it to Apple. We'll also have a new release of the Android version next week with push notifications and a better random opponent matching algorithm. Why haven't we implemented push notifications before this? Well, the simple answer is that we couldn't figure out how. Until Android 2.2, there was no built-in support for push notifications. Devs had to either create their own solutions from scratch or rely on a third-party service. We tried to do both, looking at the myriad of approaches others suggested. Most of the custom approaches wouldn't work because we're using Google App Engine as the back end and we can't maintain an open connection to their servers. So far, third-party solutions we tried didn't work very well. No doubt there exists some clever implementation of push notification from Google App Engine, but we couldn't find it or figure it out. Anyway, we finally found a third-party solution that we hope will work well, and allows us to use the same system for both our iPhone and Android versions.

Puzzle Lords is finally going to get a little more love soon. The game has made very little money, but it's very highly rated. I've been wanting to expand it for a long time, and I've finally commissioned some new artwork to add in "Act 2", which features new enemies, new minibosses, and the second boss.

Here's some concept art to peak your interest:

I'm also looking into integrating online leaderboards into apps like Golf Solitaire. I'd like to maintain a balance of working on new projects and improving existing ones. Some devs have suggested there are diminishing returns from updating existing apps, and that might be true in terms of immediate financial return. But I think it does engender a lot of good will among users. Like good customer support, the direct rewards for this are hard to quantify, but I think it's a pretty sound strategy to keep your user base happy.

I'm also revisiting XNA studio for development of a prototype desktop/XBOX game. I've enjoyed success already on Android, but it does make me nervous putting all my eggs in one basket, so I would like to diversify a bit, and of course learn new things. Attempts at diversifying revenue via selling goods (e.g. Android toys), hasn't worked well. Neither has trying to host an Android workshop (of course, I didn't market it very well and only offered it here in Louisiana). But I think concentrating some percentage of my time on developing for another platform will make me a better designer and developer overall and will hopefully result in a nice new game. As the project progresses, I'll post more about it.

Finally, on the financial side, July was Polyclef's best month ever, but it looks like August is going to be down from July. A large part of this is the crash of ad revenue. I won't go into the gory details, but revenue from advertising is just not looking good for August. There are a lot of variables in play, including the seasonality (it's back-to-school time, which may increase ad revenue for some things, but hurt others). I don't want to give the impression that revenue is weak. It's still very strong. It's just that not all revenue streams are firing on all cylinders, so this month is probably going to be a bit worse than last.

Polyclef is still a strong success story of independent Android development. I think August will be a slight dip in the road toward a very strong holiday season.

Monday, July 26, 2010

WordWise for iPhone Preview

Here's a preview of what the iPhone version of WordWise is going to look like:

And don't fret, Android players. We're going to reskin the Android version with this design as well.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why Android Will Dominate Smartphone Market Share (and Sooner Than You Think)

Yesterday I saw this article on Android Police, Cage Fight, Part 1: Why Android Will Win The Smartphone War. While I agree with the assessment, I thought I'd elaborate a bit more on why I think by next year Apple is going to be lose a very large chunk of market share to Android and will no longer be the leader in the smartphone space.

Yes, Android is continually marching out new devices, threatening to bury the competition in a deluge of models of all shapes and sizes. One argument does that Android and iPhone devices cater to different demographics, but Android is now not only covering the spectrum from budget smartphones up to higher-end devices. The high end devices are already either comparable or better in some respects than the newest iPhone model.

Today the Droid X goes on sale on Verizon and the Samsung Vibrant goes on sale at T-Mobile.

There are already good reasons to buy a Droid X over an iPhone 4. It's got a larger screen, serves as a wi-fi hotspot for up to 5 devices, has built in voice navigation. It doesn't have a front-facing camera, like the Evo, but it's still a worthy competitor to the best high-end smartphones available right now.

But see, here's the thing. Android is not standing still. New, better models come out just about every month. This summer is the point at which, in terms of specs, Android devices are going to march right past the iPhone, which will be standing still for another year, even disregarding the iPhone 4's antenna issues.

There are people who are such loyalists that they will stick with the iPhone no matter what. But at some point, the average consumer will be doing side-by-side comparisons and will no longer be able to ignore the growing gulf in specs between the iPhone and the newer generations of devices coming out. By this Christmas, there are rumored Android devices with 2 GHz processors and other substantially beefy specs that will eclipse the current generation of smartphones. You would have to be a hardcore Apple loyalist to purchase a phone with half the specs for the same price as a competing product.

And while there's innovation in the hardware, the software just keeps marching on as well. By this holiday season, Android 3.0 (Gingerbread) will be released, and it's likely to be a significant step up from an already solid OS.

I think the one other factor that not many people are talking about is the revamped Android Market demoed at Google I/O. It features a web interface for searching and buying apps, and allows you to push purchased apps over the air directly to your device. This is going to be huge, and it's coming soon. Couple that with Google's new music store through the same portal, and the process of purchasing content for an Android smartphone will be far superior to that of iTunes. This is the biggest missing piece in the Android puzzle right now. And when it clicks into place, I think it's going to seal the deal.

The iPhone is going to share a fate similar to Apple's desktop machines. They will enjoy a small, loyal chunk of the market share, but relatively soon, within a year, they will no longer dominate the high-end smartphone market. That spot will belong to the growing legion of Android devices.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Need Testers for WordWise for v1.5 and v1.6

We're working on backward compatibility for WordWise for versions 1.5 and 1.6 of Android. If you have an Android device running one of these versions and would like to test out WordWise, send us an email at

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Milestones Reached

July 2010 looks to be Polyclef's best month yet, and we just passed two very nice milestones.

We now have over 40,000 paid sales in the Android Market.

Polyclef's combined free apps now consistently serve up over 200,000 ads per day. Ad revenue has not kept pace with paid sales revenue, but ad prices fluctuate based on a lot of factors, so hopefully relatively soon it will.

Thanks to everyone who keeps buying and using Polyclef apps and games!

New WordWise Version Released Today

Version 1.22 was just released.

New Features:

*Added tile values and distribution information to instructions
*Added Stats and Leaderboard buttons to Title Screen
*Volume of sound effects is now the same as ringtone volume, controlled by hardware volume buttons
*Pan while zoomed in by clicking and dragging board
*Shuffle rack by shaking device or selecting Menu>Shuffle
*Tile interaction with board while zoomed out now shifts with horizontal position

Monday, July 5, 2010

Slouching Toward An Updated Ecosystem

Google maintains a nice page that displays the current distribution of Android versions in the wild. Here are the charts as right now.



That increasing share of 2.0 or greater is likely due to new phones coming out, rather than users of previous versions abandoning their devices.

Obviously, I'm chomping at the bit for not only new devices to come out, but the older ones to be upgraded. There were rumors that the myTouch was going to get 2.1 in June, which obviously didn't happen. Hopefully that will happen this month, since they represent well over a million potential users of WordWise.

Meanwhile, it looks like Droid users are the dominant demographic for WordWise, clocking in at just about 50% of our users. The Evo and the Eris both clock in around 10%. Here's hoping that as many older devices as possible get upgraded.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New App Concept Art

I'd like to share some preliminary artwork for a new app project. It's done by a freelance artist named Llaima Castro.

The app is called PetPass, and initially it will be for iPhone only. If it does reasonably well on that platform, I'll develop an Android version. I'll share more details about the app nearer release, but for now think of it as Bump + Twitter + the garden gnome from Amelie.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

HTC Evo vs. iPhone 4

This video is pretty funny, though the language is not safe for work:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Interviewed by Tim Bray

There's an interview with me by Tim Bray, a developer advocate at Google.

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WordWise Pro #3 in its Category, #14 Overall

I had only really been monitoring the progress of WordWise Pro within its category, ignoring it's overall ranking among paid games. But checking it this morning, I see that it has vaulted into the top 20 of all paid games on the Android Market, to #14!

Unfortunately, we continue to be plagued with memory issues, and the new notification system still isn't working quite right. Also, we get bombarded daily with new feature requests. At the top of our list is making a page for player stats, global stats for all players and individual stats for each player, indicating top game scores, top words, win/loss records, etc. Once that gets implemented, we'll focus on a ranking system so that people near the same skill level can find each other easily. There have also been lots of requests for pass-and-play and also solo play. We'll see about that, but right now it's not our highest priority.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone who as supported the game. It's already shot up near the's hoping it stays there and gets just a little higher.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

WordWise Free Released!

We've just released a free version of WordWise, for those who don't want to shell out any money to try the app (although apps on Android do come with a 24-hour, no-questions-asked return policy). The free version limits you to 3 active games and includes ads. The pro version allows up to 100 active games, with no ads.

Meanwhile, WordWise Pro has climbed yet again to the #3 spot in Games>Brains&Puzzle>Paid. Thanks to everyone who keeps buying it!

Also, today we released an update that includes:

1) A new notification system. Please bear with us while the iron out the kinks.
2) A rematch feature that lets you invite your current opponent to another game.
3) Additional fixes for out of memory errors.
4) A refresh feature for the title/login screen (Menu>Refresh).

And lots of other little things. We're working hard to improve the experience by adding and optimizing features. If you've already downloaded a version of WordWise, thanks!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

WordWise Pro Climbs

It's difficult to track the rankings of apps in the Android Market. There used to be a website called AndroidStats that would show the rankings and movements of apps in the market, but they went down a while back, supposedly because Google either restricted or changed how market data can be accessed.

Anyway, since it's release, WordWise Pro has been vaulting up the rankings in Games>Brain&Puzzle>Paid. A few days after it was released, it wasn't anywhere near the top. About a week ago, I took the time to count the ranking manually, and saw that we were at #50. Yesterday when I checked, we clocked in at #15, which was pretty nice movement. I figured we'd be in the top 10 by next week.

Checking this morning, I see that WordWise Pro is now #7 in its category. Not bad, huh? I figured it would be a popular app, since there's not another multiplayer crossword game on the market. But the launch has been a little shaky, and we've had a number of issues with both the client and the server that we've had to work through, so we're sitting at a 3.5-star rating, while other apps in the top 10 all have 4.5-5 star ratings. Hopefully our rating will go up as we continue to improve the app and the experience for users stabilizes.

I'm particularly happy because even though I've been able to get top-ranking apps in the Games>Cards&Casino category, that is the smallest subcategory in Games. I figured maybe those apps were just doing well because there wasn't a lot of competition. According to AndroLib, though, Brain&Puzzle is the biggest game category. As of this writing, these are AndroLib's stats:

Games (All): 8164 applications in this category

Arcade & Action: 2069 applications in this category
Brain & Puzzle: 3350 applications in this category
Cards & Casino: 763 applications in this category
Casual: 1982 applications in this category

Since WordWise's rating is lower compared to other apps, we must really be outselling other apps in the category to jump that high in the ratings. Hopefully we'll make it into the top 5 this coming week.

We're also working hard to get the free version out, and that should only help boost sales of the paid version. Thanks to everyone who's buying and supporting the app!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Android Figurines Now on Sale!

We had some Android figurines custom made for our promotion last month, and now we're putting them on sale. They're $9.99 + $2.99 shipping (only available in the continental US). Order one today!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Fourth Week and Grand Prize Winners!

Well, it's been a great month. We had exactly 5,000 sales from the period between May 2nd and May 29th, the period of our first promotional giveaway.

I'm happy to announce the fourth and final week's winners:

Deidre A. of Hemet, CA 

Christopher B. of Culpeper, VA 

Tamara W. of Virginia Beach, VA

Each winner above receives an Android figurine!

And the winner of the Grand Prize, a brand new boxed Motorola Droid:

Steven G. of Poncha Springs, CO

Congratulations! I'll be contacting all the winners via email. Please contact us at if you have any questions. Thanks for making this a great month at Polyclef. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Polyclef Software May Giveaway: 3rd Week Winners!

We've had a great response to our Polyclef May Giveaway:

I'm happy to announce the third week's winners:

Gregory H. of Granbury, TX
Christopher R. of Enterprise, AL
April M. of Albany, GA

Each winner receives an Android figurine! And if you didn't win this week, don't worry, we're giving away three more figurines each remaining week in May, and everyone who purchases an app from May 2nd until the end of the month is qualified for our Grand Prize: a brand new Motorola Droid!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

WordWise Google Group

If you're a current player or interested in WordWise, keep informed on updates, new versions, supported platforms, report bugs, and if you like, share your invitation info at:

The group is public. Anyone can view topics, but you have to join to post.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Congratulations to Second Round Winners!

I'm happy to announce the second week's winners:

Adrian O. of Rio Grande City, TX
David W. of Fort Worth, TX
Cheryl D. of Papillion, NE

Each winner receives an Android figurine! And if you didn't win this week, don't worry, we're giving away three more figurines each remaining week in May, and everyone who purchases an app from May 2nd until the end of the month is qualified for our Grand Prize: a brand new Motorola Droid!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WordWise Pro Released!

We're excited to announce the release of WordWise Pro for Android!

For those hungry for 2-player crossword board gaming, wait no more...

A free version will be released within the next few days, but for now the Pro version offers the full WordWise experience with no ads and up to 100 concurrent games.

And all for the low introductory price of just 99 cents!

Announcing IT Organizer

Yesterday we released our newest app: IT Organizer.

From the description:
If you are like me you carry around a binder with all of your clients' information. Why not store it all in an app?

Features: a computer inventory, organized by client and employee; a billing timer; password database; notes database; quick access to your contacts, email, and calendar; and a backup/restore utility.
A great app for IT professionals.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Congratulations to the First Round Winners!

We've had a great response to our Polyclef May Giveaway:

I'm happy to announce the first week's winners:

Mark J. of Sealy, TX

Ricardo O. of Orlando, FL

Edward D. of Smithfield, KY

Each winner receives an Android figurine! And if you didn't win this week, don't worry, we're giving away three more figurines each remaining week in May, and everyone who purchases an app from May 2nd until the end of the month is qualified for our Grand Prize: a brand new Motorola Droid!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Android Developer Console Implements Error Tracking

It's been a while since I've praised an Android Market feature, especially from the developer side, but I have to give them props today.

They've implemented what they're calling a "Feedback Experiment" in the developer portal, where developers upload and maintain their apps. At first, I thought this was referring to market comments, but when I launched the feature, I saw that it was an error tracking console, indicating freezes and crashes from each app. The information includes the date, device model, error, and a stack trace!

I had put in manual error tracking in my more popular apps because none of the analytics packages I've tried handle error tracking worth a squat. But my implementation is pretty clunky. Basically, if the app crashes, the next time the user opens it, they're prompted to send an email with the stack trace and some device information. Now I can take that code out of those apps.

Very nice, Android Team. Thanks.

EDIT (5/1/10): And today it's gone. That was a short experiment. Hopefully it will be up again soon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Announcing the Polyclef Software May Giveaway!




During the month of May we're giving away lots of cool stuff.

Starting May 2nd, every week we're going to give away a vinyl Android figurine to three customers. And at the end of the month, one lucky customer will win a brand new Motorola DROIDTM!

The Android figurines are sturdy vinyl toys and measure approximately 3.5"x2"x2". Here are some pictures:

Winners will be announced per the schedule listed below, via our blog:

And our Twitter feed:

If you win, we pay the shipping costs!

Official Rules:

To qualify for the weekly and monthly drawings, purchase an app published by Polyclef Software through the Android Market. Each purchase qualifies as one (1) entry. So if you purchase 10 apps that week, you have 10 chances to win. Purchases must be valid, i.e., valid purchases do not include returns, payment denied, or disputed transactions.

Purchase a paid app from us between:

May 2-8, 2010 (drawing on May 9th; winners announced May 10th)
May 9-15, 2010 (drawing on May 16th; winners announced May 17th)
May 16-22, 2010 (drawing on May 23rd; winners announced May 24th)
May 23-29, 2010 (drawing on May 30th; winners announced May 31st)

A purchase within any week range above qualifies for that week's drawing for a free Android figurine. Any purchase that falls within any of the dates above qualifies for the Grand Prize, a brand new Motorola DroidTM. The winner of the DroidTM will be announced on May 31st.

You must be 18 or over and live in the the continental US to be eligible for this promotion. Those announced as winners must contact Polyclef Software within 2 weeks to claim their prize.

Polyclef Apps on the Android Market (link only works from Android devices)

Website Links:

Polyclef Apps

Polyclef Games

AndroidTM and the robot character design are copyright Google, Inc. and used under the terms of the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License. DROIDTM is a trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. and its related companies.

Friday, April 23, 2010

WordWise Preview

Here are some screen shots from our upcoming 2-player crossword game for Android. It's called WordWise. There will be a free version with ads, limited to 3 concurrent games, and a full version with no ads and unlimited games. We haven't made a decision yet on pricing for the full version.

We're going to try to get it in good shape to release in about a week. At that point it may still be a little rough around the edges, so we'd like to get feedback about the interface and game play.

I'm pretty excited about this game. I think there's going to be huge demand for it on Android.

Say Hello to My Little Friend

The Android robot character design is licensed under the Creative Commons License, which means anybody can use the likeness in any design or product as long as they give proper attribution.

I was inspired by other Android-related products to commission the production of a run of Android vinyl toys. Production took a while, but the shipment finally came in today. Here's a pic of one of these little dudes:

They stand about 3 inches tall, and the vinyl is one solid piece, so you won't have to worry about parts popping off.

Very soon Polyclef will be running a promotion to give some away. Stay tuned!

AndroidTM and the robot character design are copyright Google, Inc. and used under the terms of the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Languishing Android OS Versions

Google has a nice page here showing the ratios of the various versions of the Android OS running on existing devices. As you can see (if you visit the link), only about 30% of current users are on devices running 2.0 or higher.

This is sad. What's even sadder is that manufacturers are releasing new devices that are running versions earlier than 2.0.

This is particularly sad because Philip and I are working on a shiny new game that's going to be very, very awesome, and it only runs on 2.0. Why? Because we're using Google App Engine as the server, and to log in and authenticate to GAE, you have to have a Google Account. Android devices require a Google Account, and allow developers to write code that allows the user to login and authenticate Google services (such as Reader, Calendar, Gmail, and GAE) without have to enter their account information.

Sounds great, huh? It is, but the AccountManager API that allows this is only included in Android 2.0 on. We started working on an Android/GAE framework last year, and in that time I'd hoped that at least 1.5 would have been phased out and that the majority of users would by now be on 2.0. Alas, such is not the case.

The game is coming along very nicely, and hopefully will be ready for prime time within a few weeks. At that point we'll go ahead and release it, even though it will only work on a third of Android devices. Another option is to either release another version that will allow the user to manually enter their credentials. But then we'd have two versions of the app on the market, which would suck. Right now we're just going to plow ahead with the current version. When the time comes, it might be worthwhile to release two versions, though I hope we don't have to do that. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


This week I saw an app request for a virtual receipt booklet on one of the Android Forums and I thought "Hm, I wonder how hard that would be to do?" The post pointed out that there are a lot of apps that let you take pictures of physical receipts, but what he wanted was a template that was editable, and more importantly, that the recipient of funds could sign with their finger. I started out trying to figure out how to accomplish that last bit, and ended up cranking out the app in just a few hours. Here's a screen shot:

The app lets you edit any field enclosed in a box just by tapping on the field, then typing a new value. The signature field is signable with your finger. Menu options let you save the receipt as a .jpg to your SD card and/or email it as an attachment to an email straight from the app. So you can write out a receipt virtually, have someone sign it on your device, and immediately email it to yourself and the recipient with a click.

If you have an Android device and need to write receipts on the fly, check it out.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Polyclef Has a Twitter Feed

Yes, I've joined the hive mind. Still not creating a personal feed, but a business feed for Twitter makes sense as a way to announce new apps, updates, price changes, and promotions.

I've also added a Twitter module to the blog (see it over there to the right?). You can follow Polyclef's feed just by clicking the Follow link.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's Raining Android Phones!

Earlier this year I registered for Google I/O, their big annual developer conference. Last year, participants got a free Android phone. Well, this year they got them, too, a bit early.

Everyone who registered for Google I/O is apparently getting either a new Nexus One or a Droid...looks like all US attendees get a Droid. Sounds like they want devs unfamiliar with the platform to get their hands dirty before they come to conference, so they're possibly in a better position to get more out of the talks. Sounds like a good plan, only it doesn't do a whole lot for me. I already have a Droid (it's my primary phone), and I'm already fairly experienced with developing for Android.

Still, it's a cool gift. I don't have any friends or family who could use the phone, so I was thinking of either selling it (boring), or possibly running a promotional giveaway. The device still probably won't get here for 2 or three weeks, so I've got a bit of time to decide.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm Going Back to My Droid

Yes, sad to say it, but after only 48 hours with my new Nexus, I'll be going back to my Droid.

The main reason has nothing to do with the phone itself, which ends up pretty much balancing out in terms of pros and cons when compared to the Droid. No, the biggest problem is the network service itself.

Back when I first got my G1, I signed up with T-Mobile. At that point in Lafayette, they had not implemented 3G coverage in the area. I made due with Edge speeds, and not knowing anything else, was satisfied. Right when I switched to the Droid, T-Mobile upgraded the area to 3G, but I hadn't got a chance to see how well it worked in my area.

Now I have, and unfortunately, it sucks. Trying to simply access mobile websites while at home leads to time-outs. So far I tend to get 2-3 bars within the city limits of Lafayette, though yesterday while in a Barnes & Noble, 100 feet from a T-Mobile outlet, the network reverted to Edge. And coverage completely fell apart when leaving the city limits. It was spotty to non-existent for most of the 1-hour trip toward New Iberia.

Needless to say, very disappointing. Either the network has gotten worse since the upgrade, or more likely, I just didn't realize how bad it was until I got service with Verizon. The extra $15/month is worth it for vastly better coverage.

As for the phone itself, the good things about it are still good. The screen is great. I finally got a Google Voice account with the phone. Pinch zooming works, and it is awesome.

However, I have some minor gripes about the phone itself. One, the form factor is slender and cool, but the phone feels like it's going to slip out of your hand. The shell almost feels like teflon. This is one phone that likely would be much better with a cover. I ordered one on the cheap, and I think it will likely make holding and using the phone better. Second, related to the size, the thing heats up, which is reasonable considering the sheer amount of electronics crammed into such a small package. My Droid may also be heating up, but I never feel it, probably because the hardware keyboard shields it.

Also the default indicator light is the one in the trackball, which is much slower and also much brighter than the one on other Android phones, which by default use the same light for charge strength as for indicating that you have missed emails or calls. I thought perhaps this was a setting I could change, but so far haven't seen anything that will let me use my charge indicator instead of the trackball as the indicator light. Minor, but annoying.

Really, though, the phone-issues are minor, and the Nexus is cool and sleek enough for me to choose it as a primary phone, if the network were comparable. Since it isn't, I'm running back into the arms of my Droid.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just Got My Nexus...Thanks, Google!

As I mentioned a while back, Google has been giving out free phones to top developers. I got mine today...just what I wanted, a shiny new Nexus One. Here it is, fresh out of the box, charging up:

It's a beautiful device...slim, light, and comfortable in your hand. I've been using the Droid since November, and I think the Nexus may become my new default phone.

I found the default animated wallpaper distracting right off the bat, while trying to set things up. Though I did look through the other animated wallpapers, and some are not so busy. I'm trying out the waving grass, which is nice.

I was impressed by how the phone automatically imported and installed apps associated with my Google account. I wasn't aware that information was being stored on a server somewhere, and this wasn't something that happened when I switched from my G1 to my Droid, but it's definitely cool.

I'm sure I'll have more feedback as I get more experience with it. In the meanwhile, I think this was a nice move on Google's part. There's lots of room for improvement with Android, but one thing Google gets is that the success of an OS is directly related to the software it runs, and drawing and keeping Android developers happy is a key part of that strategy.

Thanks, Google. :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Welcome, Canadians!

I heard a report that Canadians were finally able to purchase paid apps in the Android Market, so I went the developer portal and looked at available countries to sell to, and what do you know? It's true...finally!

I don't know where the logistical hang-ups were that kept Canadians from buying and selling paid apps in the Android Market, but I'm glad they red tape finally got cut.

Polyclef Software: The Year in Review

And what a year it's been.

For those of you who don't know the story, my friend Philip works at Google. Last year he got a G1, the first Android phone, as a bonus at work. He already had an iPhone, so he gifted it to me for my birthday (March 12th). Turns out it was a great gift!

I hadn't heard of Android before then. When I got the phone, I started reading up on Android. I learned there was an app store comparable to the iPhone app store, only it was in its infancy. There were other differences, too: only a $25 registration fee (for life), no up-front approval process for apps, and apps that are written natively in Java. There were issues, too. Lack of a good web portal (which is still a problem). But the biggest downside was that Android was a bit of a gamble. At that point no one was really making serious money on Android (at least, no one was talking about it).

But it seemed fairly low-risk to try my hand at writing a few apps and trying to supplement my meager graduate student stipend with a little extra cash. My first app was TippinTime, a tip calculator. It was a nice first app because it taught me the basics of how the interface elements like text fields and buttons are laid out using XML and at the most basic level how to construct an app in Android. I published it for free, no ads or anything. It's still doing well on the market despite the flood of tip calculators. It has 6961 active installs and a 4.5-star rating.

What I really wanted to do was make games, but first I wanted to explore the basics of how to use elements of the mobile platform. So I made Where Am I?, a simple app that uses the phone's GPS to determine longitude and latitude, calculate distance from the equator, and other basic location information. I made DogWhistle, a simple app that generates high frequency sounds, and JoyBuzz, a simple app that makes a noise and vibrates when you push a button. All this was just to learn how to do basic input/output with various features. But I put DogWhistle up for $0.99 and was instantly surprised that people would actually pay money for it. The retention rate is fairly low, but to date I've made over $600, which isn't bad.

My first attempt at a game was Spades. This turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be, but it was a lot of fun, too. I designed my own card layouts, using variants of the Android mascot as King, Queen, and Jack.

That was a lot of fun.

When I had my first big day of sales, I thought I had it made. Unfortunately, a rival app appeared on the market within the same week. I made another poor decision, releasing a free ad-supported version that was virtually identical to the paid version. Paid sales never got that high again, but I learned some good lessons.

Next came Golf Solitaire, which I split into two apps, free and paid, but was a bit more clever about. The free version has ads, but only the first 9 holes. The full version has all 18 and no ads. People who like the game are willing to pay to double the content. And now the paid version of Golf Solitaire is #1 in paid apps in Cards & Casino.

Last summer was a fairly big gamble. I worked all summer on a project called Relativia, a mobile RPG that required players to physically travel to real-world locations in order enter places like dungeons and markets within the game. The GPS would tell if you were close enough to a dungeon before the game would let you enter. I thought it would be a novel way to monetize apps, by getting sponsorship from business to be featured as in-game locations. I entered the app in the Android Developer Challenge II. It placed in the top 25%, but was not a finalist.

And when I released the app for free on the market, I got a rude awakening. People just about universally hated the idea of having to travel somewhere to unlock game content. Typical comments praised the puzzle combat system and just about every other element of the game except for the mobile aspect. So I pulled it, retooled it, and released it as a non-mobile version called Puzzle Lords, which has a paid and free version. They are both highly-rated, but are not making a whole lot of money. If I put all my efforts into adding content and polishing the game, it could be a hit, but right now it requires more resources than I have. Still, I learned an awful lot working on that game, even if the effort/reward ratio has been much lower than other apps.

Dominoes was the latest big hit. It was fun working on the game due to the challenges faced by laying out dominoes on such a small space. I think I found a good compromise, and lots of users agree. It's still selling 30-50 copies a day and is ranked #5 in Cards & Casino.

Along the way I churned out lots of small utility apps, health and construction-related calculators, the PetBook database for pets, and many others. They don't sell much on their own, but produce a nice long-tail effect, summing to a decent amount each month.

Most recently, I worked with Kenny and Kyle over at In A Day Development to bring Golf Solitaire to the iPhone. Performance so far hasn't been great, but it also isn't a flatline. I'm still optimistic that over time it will find an audience and continue to grow.

I also made a deal with Mobile Stream to bring the paid version of EasyTether to the Android Market, where it's been very successful.

As of this writing, Polyclef Software has 28 apps published on the Android Market:

19 paid, 9 free
9 of those are games, 19 are utilities
2 (Golf Solitaire and Golf Solitaire Free) are ported to the iPhone

Here's a chart of my monthly net revenue over the past year:

This month is projected, and it's looking very good.

Sales are up. Ad revenue is up. And Android is shipping 60,000 phones a day. Polyclef has all kinds of cool stuff in the pipeline, including a whole line of multiplayer games and potentially apps specifically for the emerging tablet market. So stay tuned...this year should be a wild ride.

I leave you with this cool Android cake my girlfriend Laurie made for me for my birthday.

Yes, he is looking into your soul.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some New Stats

The new year has seen Polyclef breaking some very nice new stats.

Last month the mark for 10,000 apps sold was passed...vaulted over, actually. It's already over 11,000 now.

I started tracking usage stats last September in those apps that require internet access. Recently, both Golf Solitaire Free and Spades Free passed the 1,000,000 sessions mark. That means people have played both of those games over a million times each!

I hope to shatter those and many other records by the end of the year. Thanks to all the people out there who have downloaded and used Polyclef apps!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Use an Android to Android?

This cool article from Wired, about a couple of dudes who built a robot with a G1 as the brains, really got me thinking.

It makes perfect sense to use a mobile phone (at least a fairly open, easily programmable one) as the nerve center of a robot. It's small, powerful, with wi-fi capabilities to communicate with a server if need be, and GPS for localizing.

Cool, huh?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Google Rewards Devs With Free Phones

This was a welcome surprise today.
Due to your contribution to the success of Android Market, we would like to present you with a brand new Android device as part of our developer device seeding program. You are receiving this message because you’re one of the top developers in Android Market with one or more of your applications having a 3.5 star or higher rating and more than 5,000 unique downloads.
That's a snippet from the email sent to qualifying developers today. Did I have a qualifying app? C'mon now. I have 6!

Golf Solitaire Free: 73,605 (4 stars)
JoyBuzz: 17,298 (3.5 stars)
PetBook Free: 9,081 (3.5 stars)
Puzzle Lords Free: 5,957 (4 stars)
Spades Free: 113,727 (3.5 stars)
TippinTime: 11,189 (4.5 stars)

Another week and Dominoes would have also made the list, with 4,836 downloads and a 4-star rating.

Do I get 6 phones? Mmmm...probably not. But I'm happy with the one, and I'd just like to extend a hearty thanks to the folks at Google for this gesture. I'm certainly happy to be developing for Android, and I'm also racking up a pretty nice Android phone collection. I've got my trusty G1, an HTC Tattoo, my Droid, and hopefully soon a shiny new Nexus One. Verizon's service has been nice, but it is a bit more expensive. I'm not locked into a contract, so I may very well head back to T-Mobile with the Nexus One.

Which phone are they sending out? That part is a bit strange. If you're in the US, you randomly either get a Motorola Droid or a Nexus One.

Now, I already own a Droid, so I would very much like a Nexus One. I'm not sure why they didn't just dole out the preferred device on a first-come, first-serve basis. If they have a set number of each they could give devs their preferred device until they ran out, then just give the rest away to those who were the last ones to register. As it is, some devs have already talked of swapping, and someone has already set up a forum to facilitate the swaps. Ah well...a pretty minor quibble with otherwise wonderful news.

How Do You Know When You're Doing Well? When the Competition Sues You!

Gizmodo reports that Apple is suing handset manufacturer HTC (makers of the G1, Nexus One, myTouch, Hero, and Tattoo) for copyright infringement on 20 patents, such as:

The ‘849 Patent, entitled "Unlocking A Device By Performing Gestures On An Unlock Image," was duly and legally issued on February 2, 2010 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. A copy of the ‘849 Patent is attached hereto as Exhibit C.

As many comments over there have pointed out, the suit looks completely ridiculous, mostly based on the absurdly broad language of the patents. If Apple could show that HTC was engaged in corporate espionage, and snuck into their labs one night and stole a bunch of code and hardware, that would be one thing. But this just looks like a case of "Look! They made a touchscreen smartphone too!"

I would hope that HTC countersues and wins. This kind of practice just seems utterly desperate and frivolous. One the plus side, you can tell that Apple is obviously feeling threatened in the marketplace.

February Recap

Soon I plan to do a recap of my first year selling apps in the Android Market (whew!), but for now I'll just stick to recapping last month...

Unfortunately I'm going to start getting a little vague and cagey about hard numbers. This is because I've started to make deals with other developers, and those deals don't necessarily include publicly disclosing sales and revenue figures.

But I can say that February was Polyclef's best month to date, revenue-wise. The Android Market ranking shuffle didn't have a big impact, keeping my top-performing apps in the top five in their category. Ad revenue has stayed mostly flat, while sales have increased. Historically, ad and sales revenue had been about 50/50, but February saw a shift to over 60% of my revenue coming from sales. I'd prefer that most of my revenue come from apps are a better defense against piracy, and I don't have to worry about finding the best price points, etc. But I'll take the revenue how ever it wants to come.

I'm not doing nearly as well as Edward Kim (see the last post), but I'm getting there. Instead of having a single, high-profile app, I've got a variety of about 20 apps, and I'm using a mixed strategy for revenue. This has led to, and will hopefully continue to lead to, robust, sustained growth.

Stay tuned for the yearly recap, where I'll talk about how far Polyclef has come and what the plans are for the next year...obviously I'm optimistic.

An Android Success Story

Edward Kim has blogged about his experiences with his app Car Locator, after placing 3rd in his category in the ADC2 and being featured in the Android Market.

He says he was making $80-100/day off the app before it was featured. Being featured bumped this up to about $435/day. Now, I'd heard that being featured by Apple in the iTunes store can vault your app into massive numbers, but until now I hadn't heard about any comparable effect in the Android Market. Being featured more than quadrupled his daily revenue, so I'd say that's a pretty nice effect. It does make sense, since the featured apps are the very first thing you see when you open the Android Market app.

None of my apps has been featured by Google, but PetBook did get featured in T-Mobile's Top Picks. Then I only had a free version, and I've struggled with complaints from some users regarding information being saved properly and the photo gallery working right. Here's a graphic of my usage stats for PetBook, and the bump I got from T-Mobile near the end of January (that second bump is from releasing an update).

Around the time of the first peak, I had two $9.00 days from the advertising in PetBook, but within a week I was back down to the norm of about $0.75/day. It would have been interesting to see if I had an active paid version whether that would have translated into some really nice sales, but oh well.

The temporary boost was nice, but apparently nowhere near being featured in the main Android Market. Maybe someday...

Anyway, congrats to Edward. He encourages devs interested in mobile app development to give Android a try. More awareness of success stories is going to lead to much more interest in the platform. I'm generating a very nice income myself...not up to $13K a month, yet, but definitely a self-sustaining income. So it can definitely be done.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pro Golf Solitaire Free for iPhone

The free, ad-supported iPhone version of Golf Solitaire Free has been approved and released. It apparently takes some time for new apps to be indexed so that they appear on new release pages and in searches in iTunes. Unfortunately, there were already several golf solitaire apps in the iPhone market, but In A Day Development did a fantastic job with the conversion to iPhone, and I think our version is the best on the market now. With the addition of a free version, which our competitors lack, I think we'll soon gain the competitive edge.

I can't go without commenting on Apple's app review process. I'm not going to go into details. Suffice to say, their approval criteria are...strange. The best thing I can say about it is that it was fast. And it certainly does make me appreciate the Android Market's approach.

Asplosive Growth for Android

According to EuroDroid, Gartner estimates that about 6.8 million handsets were purchased last year.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently claimed that currently about 60,000 Android handsets a day are being shipped. That would result in about 22 million Android handsets by the end of the year, assuming no growth.

But we know there's a new slew of Android phones coming out this year, including ones from Sony Ericsson, Dell, Acer, and others that haven't even entered the market yet. So 22 million is pretty conservative.

We're probably going to see at least a quintupling of the Android market by the end of the year.

Hold on to your butts.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Android Market Rankings Shuffle

The rankings of apps in the Android Market changed quite a bit, I noticed yesterday. At first I thought it was a periodic bug. I've seen my apps mis-ranked due to glitches in the past. But this actually looks like it might be a permanent change, and it looks like it's probably due to a change in the ranking formula.

For at least the past week, Dominoes had been holding firm at #2 and Golf Solitaire at #4. Here are the new rankings as of yesterday:

Golf Solitaire is now #1, which is cool. But Dominoes slid all the way down to #6. So if this is a deliberate change to the system, what happened?

My guess is that they changed the relative weighting of both retention rate and customer ratings. Here are the stats for both apps (click image to view full-size):

Dominoes has over twice as many active installs, but a slightly lower retention rate and customer rating. And they're both the same price, so that shouldn't be a factor in their difference.

If this is an effort on Google's part to improve rankings by placing more emphasis on quality, then I suppose I'm pleased. I now have a #1 app again, and Dominoes is still selling well. If anyone else has noticed changes and has any further input or insight, please share in the comments.