One Year on the App Store
Tiny Piano recently reached 8 million downloads, after one year on the App Store. In this post, we’ll look at how the app gained traction, and make some guesses at how we might improve.
Tiny Piano launched on February 26, 2012. Here are the numbers:
- 8.1 million downloads
- 25,000 downloads per day
- 56,000 five-star reviews
- 3 million monthly active users
- Above average user retention, when compared with other music apps.
- Justin Bieber’s “Baby” is the most popular song. This gives you a sense of the user demographics.
Here’s a graph of weekly active users:
How We Got Here
The app hovered at 5,000 weekly users until we added support for iPad (in addition to iPhone/iPod). We then improved App Store SEO, adding 钢琴 as a keyword. The app climbed the charts and eventually became the #1 iPad music app in China. Since then, Tiny Piano has reached the #1 spot for iPad music apps in 41 countries. In November 2012, Apple launched an iPad mini commercial featuring a piano, and Tiny Piano got a lucky boost.
Looking back, my first code check-in was on Nov 14, 2011. So I was able to create a hit app in 3 months. Awesome, right? Of course, this overnight success actually began in 2010, after I left my full-time job and bought an iPad. That summer, I locked myself in my office and watched lectures on how to make iPhone/iPad apps. I put together a guitar app prototype and showed it to a few friends. Over the next year, I shipped two virtual guitars, an ear trainer, and even a Japanese learning app; all have been commercial failures. But with each failure, I learned a lot and was determined to do better the next time.
Tiny Piano actually shares a bunch of code and graphics with my aforementioned guitar app. It even has code that I wrote back in 2010. Looking back, I realize that this hit was created in 3 months plus 2 years.
At first glance, 8 million downloads sounds big. But for startups these days, “10 million is the new 1 million.” True success might even be measured in hundreds of millions. For example, the Temple Run team announced that their first game achieved 100 million downloads in one year. The Angry Birds franchise has generated a billion downloads! While we may never hit 100 million, just knowing that the mobile space is so huge is comforting.
Take a look at Tiny Piano’s USA iPhone Ranking over the last 90 days:
It is #18 in the Music category, and has never broken #300 in the overall charts. There is much more room for improvement.
The best thing about traction is: success begets success. The Temple Run team gained lots of media coverage from achieving 100 million downloads. They parlayed this publicity into a successful launch of their sequel, which earned 50 million downloads in only 2 weeks!
If Tiny Piano had never gotten its first 10,000 downloads (with favorable reviews), I might have abandoned the app. Luckily, early success encouraged me to continue working hard. At 1 million downloads, I felt comfortable pitching it to people I met at conferences like Startup School. At 3 million, I started blogging about Tiny Piano’s traction. Each milestone gains the app more publicity, which in turn makes it easier to hit the next milestone.
Where do we go from here? Would I be happy in a year if the app is still hanging out at #18 in iPad music? With hard work, I am sure we can do better. Perhaps Tiny Piano can even work its way up the overall iTunes charts?
At the moment, I am improving Tiny Guitar. After that, I have a bunch ideas for making Tiny Piano better. In addition to adding more content, it would be nice if users could author their own songs, or share their performances. Of course, there is also a huge market segment that I haven’t yet addressed: Android. If only I could clone myself!
As with any startup, it is always too many ideas, too little time. I have learned that you just need to pick one and do it well.
Back to work!