Our new App Business section is brought to you by MacPaw, maker of proven Mac apps.
Like death and taxes, distributing your new app through the Mac App Store can seem inevitable. It’s widely considered the easiest way to get the widest exposure for an app, a centralized marketplace for software with a captive audience of buyers.
But ever more developers are looking beyond the Mac App Store (MAS) for distribution options that best serve their app. MacPaw, maker of DevMate, performed an interesting survey of developers to ask if they prefer MAS or another app store alternative, and why.
“We keep seeing discussion of the pros and cons,” says Yaroslav Stepanenko, product marketing manager at MacPaw. “So we decided to conduct some research.”
MacPaw’s comprehensive Mac developers survey revealed there are a lot of great reasons to consider distributing through a non-MAS channel. Here are 10 of them:
10 reasons to go outside the Mac App Store
1) 30 percent revenue share
Let’s be honest, forking over 30 percent of each sale is a steep price to pay for using Apple’s platform. Most developers surveyed said this rev share counted significantly against the perks of distributing on the MAS.
Sandboxing sets strict limits on the access an app can have to your Mac’s functions and data, all in the name of security. Good fences make good neighbors, but developers know that sandboxing often doesn’t make for great apps. While it may make some users feel secure, it can limit functionality for apps that need to, say, read what you’re typing via keylogging (TextExpander, for example) — something that isn’t allowed on the MAS.
3) Inconsistent app review process
When you submit an app to the Mac App Store, before it gets on the platform it’s got to pass a review process, one that leaves many developers waiting and wondering if they’ll actually get to the next step. From inconsistent application of guidelines to a general lack of transparency, developers have complained that this submission process is generally more difficult than it should be.
4) Lack of app analytics
Data is king, especially when you’re trying to determine what needs improvement in your app. The Mac App Store doesn’t offer much in the way of tools for developers to assess the performance of apps on individual devices, among version batches, etc. Releasing your app outside of the MAS can offer more opportunities to diagnose app performance.
5) No trials available
You essentially have two options when you submit an app to the Mac App Store: either sell it or give it away for free. Apple explicitly forbids “test” or “trial” versions of apps from the Mac App Store.
6) No upgrade pricing
Sometimes v.2 of an app is improved enough from v.1 that it warrants an upgrade payment. This is unfortunately not something the MAS supports, to the frustration of many developers surveyed by MacPaw. Instead you’re left with the option of releasing each new app version as a separate product, with new pricing.
No matter how much version 2.0 has improved —– even if you’ve gone all out and added drone support to your pizza delivery app — you’ve only got one chance to sell it to a given user. When you release a new version, you must release it as a separate app.
7) Subscription model
Many developers are seeing major promise in switching from flat-rate payments to a subscription model, in which users pay a recurring fee to use their app. Apple introduced a subscription model for the Mac App Store during the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but it hasn’t been quite what developers were hoping for. It involves a review process and requires that payments be made as in-app purchases, which may or may not be appropriate depending on the app. Releasing outside the MAS, by contrast, means you can basically structure payments any way you wish.
8) Ability to respond to clients’ reviews
It’s one thing to get a bad review. It’s another to be forced to remain silent, especially if they’ve gotten something wrong. If someone leaves a bad review on your YouTube video, you can at least address the misunderstanding — no such luck when your work (and name) are being criticized in the Mac App Store. This feature would be a welcome addition to many developers surveyed by MacPaw, and again by releasing outside the MAS ecosystem you are given a wider range of options for interacting with your customers.
9) Zero knowledge about who your customers are
When you sell on the Mac App Store, it’s tough to learn much about who your customers are. Developers are restricted from learning where their customers come from, which OS version(s) they use, and lots of other information that would not only be useful for doing better business, but for building better apps. Outside the MAS, a lush range of tools and techniques help you learn about your customers and better meet their expectations.
10) Discovery outside the Mac App Store
The MAS isn’t just a walled garden — it’s also under a glass dome. In a realm where competition and diversity are key to driving innovation, only Apple-approved apps can share the shelves with one another. Outside of the MAS there is no such central authority governing what gets sold and what doesn’t, meaning it can be a much wider, weirder and more exciting way to distribute your app.
Use DevMate to tap opportunities outside the Mac App Store
Despite the monolithic presence of Apple and the vast reach of its platform, compelling opportunities exist outside the MAS ecosystem. But taking advantage of them requires the right tools for managing and distributing your apps. DevMate offers indie and major-label developers alike everything necessary to sell outside the MAS, addressing each of the above complaints.
Developers using DevMate gain a suite of intuitive tools that allow them to prepare applications for launch with exactly the right product-licensing settings, update delivery options, and get crash reports and user feedback. They can receive detailed reports on customer distribution based on users’ OS version, app version, location and usage, plus all the tools they’ll need to identify the causes of crashes and other issues. Everything is kept easily accessible from one place, the DevMate Dashboard, meaning you can sail your own ship instead of renting a cabin on Apple’s proverbial boat.
If you’re considering how to upload your app on your own terms, DevMate offers a powerful, intuitive, adaptable platform that deals with all the above issues and more. Give DevMate a shot, and see if you can’t get a sweeter deal outside of Apple’s MAS.