The sixth tip for prospective iPhone developers

A while ago I posted five tips for prospective iPhone developers, and with a little more experience under my belt I’ve got one more:

6: Post-date your first app’s release date

When I wrote tip 5, it had been nine days since my app was approved for sale, but it wasn’t in the App Store due to Apple’s unknown delays in finalizing my sales contract. I ended up waiting another 19 days, a total of 4 weeks after I got the “your app is approved for sale” message, until the app appeared in the App Store!

OK, a four week wait isn’t the end of the world, but in these days where 5000 new apps appear in the App Store each month, every day counts. And worst of all, according to the App Store, the “release date” is not the day my app appeared in the App Store, but the day, 4 weeks earlier, that it was “approved for sale”! So, on my app’s first day in the App Store, if you drilled down into Games/Action and sorted by Release Date, you wouldn’t see Scribattle on the first page. If you clicked the little arrow to go to the next page, you still wouldn’t see it. In fact, you’d have to click that little arrow fifteen times to get to Scribattle. Which means, effectively, that no one will see Scribattle just by browsing around the App Store. I had one sure chance of exposure near the top of a category, and lost it due to the workings of the App Store.

Incidentally, I emailed Apple to complain about this, and they sent me a courteous reply, telling me that it “is operating as expected”, i.e. it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Great feature, Apple!

So finally, the tip: When you submit your very first app, before your contracts are finalized, don’t set the release date to “today”. Put it a month or two out into the future. Then, after your app is approved and your sales contract is finalized, you can go back into iTunes Connect, change the release date to the current date, and have your first app actually show up as a new app in the App Store. I’m telling you this now, gentle reader, because I wish someone would have told me this months ago.