How to Build a Better App
Hyatt, Josh, Newsweek
Byline: Josh Hyatt
Who says America doesn't make things anymore? The U.S. market for smart-phone applications has soared past $1.5 billion, thanks to ingenious developers who pit vengeful birds against thieving green pigs, or help bowlers overanalyze their scores. Apple's store currently offers about 225,000 iPhone apps, while Google's Android Marketplace has 70,000 apps for handsets that run on the Android operating system. And Yankee Group estimates that users will download an average of 24 apps this year, up from 19 in 2009.
So what does it take for a new app maker to get in on this action? We asked two entrepreneurs who have already done it. Ilene Jones, 38, is cofounder of Kitty Code, maker of iPhone's Hurricane storm-tracking app, which has logged 60,000 downloads at $3.99 a pop. Derek James, 39, who runs Polyclef Software, has created paid games for Android that have clocked more than 50,000 downloads. Their advice:
1. Planning makes perfect
Don't hire a developer or make a significant financial investment until your idea is completely fleshed out, Jones says. Figure out exactly what you want the app to do, how the user will connect with it, and what expansions you envision. "Otherwise, the fine details can get overlooked."
2. Find your niche
Jones, a "weather geek," knew there was a gap in the market because she couldn't find a weather app with the details she craved. That's why her Hurricane app lets users see a storm's category, its longitude and latitude, and its probable path--all things she felt a hurricane app needed.
3. Play by the rules
Apple must approve an app before it's posted (that took two weeks for Jones), so study the App Store review guidelines. Avoid rejection by staying away from anything that appears pornographic or defamatory. Apple also dings apps that compete with its business model.
4.Think before you price
Jones's app price was based on an educated hunch. In 2008, there were about 1,000 iPhone apps, ranging from 99 cents to $5.99. …