Free as in beer

A few days ago I made iSimplifiedChinese free so that more people would download it and hopefully spread the word and provide reviews. So far the good news is that it resulted in lots of downloads, but the bad news is that nobody bought any teacher feedbacks and downloads are dropping exponentially. Let’s look at the data. Do let me know if you have any thoughts on what’s going on.

The application was downloaded 881 times in 5 days. Of those 415 started the application and listened to the first phrase. 91 submitted one or more pronunciations and only 17 listened to the feedback they received from the teachers.
Zero in-app purchases of new feedbacks, zero iTunes reviews, zero emails with questions, comments or bugs.

I also kept an eye on its ranking in the App Store for a few search terms. Before I made it free, it was at the 27th position when searching for chinese pronunciation, 11th for mandarin pronunciation and not anywhere in the top 100 for mandarin and chinese. Within a few days it went up to 3rd for chinese pronunciation, 1st (!) for mandarin pronunciation, 29th for mandarin and 60th for chinese.
It doesn’t show up for pronounce chinese or pronounce mandarin or if I search in other languages, so I need to add more keywords with the next version.
My guess is that if you’re not in the top 10 (first two screens for a keyword), you don’t exist. Unfortunately Apple doesn’t provide statistics on how many people search for a particular keyword or which keyword resulted in a download, so I don’t know which keywords are really important.
So what’s going on?
Why do only half the people that download the app actually try it? Perhaps they run into a bug? But if 400 people run into a bug, at least one would have emailed me about it right?
Why do only 1 in 5 people who fetch the first phrase proceed and submit their pronunciation to a teacher? They had to start the application and tap “Play” to get to this phase. Perhaps they did not hear a sound? The application ignores the mute button, but the iPhone speakers don’t perform very well in a noisy environment. Perhaps downloading the teacher pronunciation audio file took too long and they quit the app. The server doesn’t log this unfortunately. Perhaps they got confused? Perhaps they got overwhelmed by how difficult it is to pronounce hello:

Perhaps they were in an environment where it would be awkward to practice Chinese phrases?
Why do only 1 in 5 people who submit their pronunciation check their feedback (within a few days). Perhaps push notification of new feedback is not working in all cases? Perhaps people have too many apps on their phone to notice the red badge? Perhaps they are not interested?
Finally, why did nobody buy new feedbacks? Assuming that only the 17 people who actually listened to their teacher’s feedback are candidates for such a purchase, then perhaps the number is simply too low to expect any conversion.
If you’re one of the 881+ people who downloaded the app, I’d love to know which steps you took so far and why or why not.

1 comment

  1. “Perhaps they were in an environment where it would be awkward to practice Chinese phrases?”
    That’s a good point you’ve got there. Maybe your app would be better suited as a (native) iPad app than an iPhone app, since it’s rather something you’d do on the couch than on the road. On the other hand, I’m not sure if an HD version would really add something to the user experience, since it’s more about the audio than about the GUI.
    I’ll keep thinking about other options 🙂

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