Wanna buy an iPhone app? Developer selling app code on eBay

Philip Michaels
10 August, 2009
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Ever wanted to have your very own iPhone app without having to go through the trouble of actually creating one? If you’ve got more than £5100 ($10,170) lying around, you could be the proud owner of an already-created iPhone application without having to write a single line of code.

Developer Rod Cambridge had been planning on taking a six-month sabbatical from programming this spring. But that left him with a pressing issue: what to do about Top-Tens, his $2.49 iPhone app that lets users follow lists of their favourite hobbies and interests. Recently updated to add new navigation buttons, the app tracks lists that measure everything from App Store downloads to popular Disney theme park rides.

According to Cambridge, Top-Tens runs on a client-server model, with the server side requiring weekly housekeeping. And then there was the matter of producing fixes for any issues that arise—Cambridge wondered how he’d be able to do all that while taking his break.

A friend offered this suggestion: Just sell off the app—source code, Web site, and all—to an interested buyer. So that’s what Cambridge is doing—putting Top-Tens up for sale on the eBay online auction site.

“[It] seemed to be a quick and easy option,” Cambridge said in an e-mail interview.

As of this afternoon, bidding for Top-Tens had reached £5000 ($A9971), with the action set to close on Wednesday, August 12.

Since announcing the sale earlier this week, Cambridge has gotten e-mails from current Top-Tens users wondering what impact his departure will have. “The app will work and update in the same way,” Cambridge said. “I’m actually including all the back-end server side code in the auction, too, so end users won’t notice a thing.”

Don’t assume Cambridge’s departure means he’s giving up on iPhone development. He’s got a second app in the works that may be put on hold during his sabbatical. And, should the rumoured Apple tablet appear, Cambridge has an app planned there as well.

“There’s definitely a future in [developing for the iPhone],” he said. “With the right app, a decent marketing strategy, and a bit of luck, you can make a tidy amount from app sales.”

That said, Cambridge would welcome changes at the App Store that would help programmers get the word out about their products. “At the moment, it’s too difficult to find the genuinely useful apps that we know are there,” he said. “If your app is featured on the front page of iTunes, then you’re golden. You’ll get lots of sales. However, if you’re relegated to the depths of the store, your app will only sell in small numbers no matter how good it is.” Apple’s move last week to let developers add search keywords to their app descriptions was a step in the right direction, Cambridge says.

Still, Cambridge has one piece of advice or whoever winds up buying Top-Tens: market the app aggressively. “Like many devs, I thought that I could develop the app, get it on the store, and then sit back, and see the money come rolling in,” Cambridge said. “Well, it’s not quite that easy. You need to be able to market the app in many different ways.”

As for the other piece of advice for Top-Tens’ future owner? “Look after my baby,” Cambridge added.

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