Denver developers hatch iPhone apps
The Denver Post
DENVER – Like scores of other techies across the country, Scott Schroeder and his team of developers independently created a software program for Apple’s iPhone this summer. Unlike most, Schroeder’s application Weber’s on the Grill, featuring 250 recipes, photos and grilling tips, caught Apple’s eye.
“Within two weeks of launch, Apple’s product manager called us and said, “This app is selling like hotcakes. … We want to promote it,'” said Schroeder, principal of Denver-based rabble+rouser, the interactive agency for Weber, a grill manufacturer.
Promote it Apple did. The $4.99 program has been featured in advertisements in national publications such as USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, helping it rank among the Top 50 paid iPhone apps.
More than 65,000 programs and games have been developed for Apple’s vaunted cell phone since the consumer-electronics giant opened the device to third-party applications in July 2008.
Some developers have made a good fortune, while others have struggled to make a profit. Denver is home to many of them.
Coming on the heels of the popular Weber app, rabble+rouser is in talks with two cookbook authors about their iPhone ventures.
In theory, developers big and small have an equal chance at success. Apple provides developers with a set of guidelines to follow, reviews the apps, places them in its online store and handles all sales, taking a 30 percent cut.
“They made it real simple,” said Ben Reubenstein, a 28-year-old who has developed several iPhone apps from his Denver home. “We’re on a level playing field with companies like ESPN. They’re getting the same tools and the same access to Apple as I do.”
Reubenstein’s application iNetwork Test was among the first 300 apps in the store, he said. The 99-cent program determines the Internet download speed of a user’s iPhone. Reubenstein said tens of thousands of copies have been purchased since the app first appeared in the store more than a year ago.
But he’s struggled to reach the same level of success with subsequent programs, such as iConverse, an app designed for children with communicative disabilities.
“We still haven’t figured out how to make a living at it,” Reubenstein said.
Though he recently leased commercial office space for his business, Xcellent Creations, Reubenstein said the Web-development arm of the two-employee shop keeps things moving.
When the iPhone was opened to third-party developers, Dan Burcaw quit his job at Apple to start Denver-based iPhone consulting firm Double Encore.
Burcaw, 27, develops applications for a flat fee rather than cutting deals based on units sold.
“The way the App Store works is if you’re not on the Top 100 list, it’s awfully hard to make a significant amount of money on apps,” he said.
The cost of developing a mobile app ranges from $20,000 for a very basic application to $150,000 or more for a sophisticated one, according to Forrester Research.
Double Encore recently created an iPhone app for Turner Sports that allowed users to watch the 2009 PGA Championship, held in mid-August, on their device. The $1.99 program was featured by Apple in its marketing and at one point was on the Top 10 list of paid apps, Burcaw said.
His company now employs nine people and has developed more than 20 apps for about a dozen companies.
“I never expected it to be this hot this quick,” Burcaw said.