Riding Waves – Making a Pokemon Go Map App

By |September 4th, 2016|

TLDR: Made a Pokémon Go Map app and received over 300,000 downloads in the first week

I was on vacation in Big Bear Lake, California for the 4th of July when the latest and greatest Pokémon game was released, Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go was the first official Nintendo licensed app for iPhone and Android, so it was a pretty big deal. It wound up having one of the best game launches of all time and receiving international press attention.


Deciding to make an app

On one of the first days, it occurred to me that if I wanted to take advantage of the hype of Pokémon Go, I’d have to do it now. The App Store search engines work by giving apps that have a lot of downloads, high usage, and ratings high search engine positioning for keyword searches. So, I knew if I wanted to get ranked for any Pokémon Go search terms, I’d have a small window of time before other apps were occupying that same space.

For the next couple days, I figured out what kind of app I would make and got to work. I read that the company that created Pokémon Go previously made a similar game where they got all the Gym and Pokéstop locations from. I looked into it to see if I could easily scrape that data to make it available in a map app. However, the data was not trivially easy to scrape so I rejected that idea since time was critical. I settled on making a map app that would crowd-source Pokémon Gym, Pokéstop, and Pokémon locations. I pre-loaded roughly 5,000 points of interest that I found on other locations around the internet.

There were a few delays: driving [...]

Things Looking up on Google Play

By |May 21st, 2015|

So, in my last post, I talked about how I launched on android years late.  I had a successful iOS application and when I launched Private Photo Vault on Android it was essentially unsearchable on Google Play due to so many other apps showing up when searching for Private Photo Vault. In a trial and error process, coupled with various marketing tactics, I have been able to start getting it to index for a variety of different keyword searches.

google play rankings


Above is a chart of the download ranking on Google Play. What you can’t really see is that before it increased it rank, it sat nowhere on the charts due to being practically impossible to find in the store.  So, I had to generate some installs without anyone being able to search for it.

I will probably post some occasional updates on this as well.

I Launched on Android Years Late

By |April 7th, 2015|

So, just yesterday, I launched the Android version of Private Photo Vault (you can download it here).  Private Photo Vault was originally launched in February of 2011, so releasing it 4 years later is an extremely long period of time to wait to launch an Android version, especially in the software world.

Looking back, I can’t come up with any good reason that I didn’t launch on Android earlier (I was in college for a good percentage of that time though). Regardless, now that the product is released, I am immediately realizing the problem of launching late.


Showing up in app store’s search results is crucial for getting organic downloads. Upon launching Private Photo Vault yesterday, the app shows up as the 40th result when searching “Private Photo Vault” while Google Play is auto-predicting my app’s iOS name in the search results because people search for my app’s name on Google.  This is a huge problem as people who are looking specifically for Private Photo Vault and not those 40 other apps can’t find it. They will likely download a competitor because they won’t scroll through all 40 of the other apps.

Most app store algorithms work by looking at number of downloads, number of reviews, app engagement, and keywords. Since number of downloads and number of reviews are highly correlated with the length of time the product has been in the store, older apps will perform better and it is difficult to move your way up.

Competitors Move Ahead

While I had one the earliest products on iOS to allow users to password protect photos, my product is not novel on Android. There are many competitors on Android that have well established positions. Being forced to move ahead these competitors will probably take significant effort/money.

I feel fairly foolish for waiting [...]

How Flappy Bird accidentally went viral

By |February 1st, 2014|

If you haven’t heard, the latest bird game to hit the top of the App Store is Flappy Bird.  I saw this game at #1 for numerous days in a row and had to figure out what was going on.  One guy even goes as far as to say that the developer is using bots to fuel all the downloads for the app.  He just doesn’t understand the mechanism that is fueling this extremely rapid growth.

Here is one of the latest charts showing Flappy Bird’s crazy growth. After months of nearly no downloads, it jumped and out of nowhere surged to the top of the App Store.

Flappy Bird number downloads


What Flappy Bird is NOT doing

Ad Spend – According to the developer, he has spent no money on any advertising for Flappy Bird.  Many of the top games in the App Store such as Candy Crush or Clash of Clans have a 5 or 6 figure daily advertising budget.

Cross-Promotion – Flappy Bird is doing no cross-promotion with other successful apps in the App Store.  One technique of driving growth for apps is to link to other companies apps and they link back to you in turn growing both of your user bases. Flappy Bird doesn’t do this.

Social Sharing Buttons – Flappy bird does not employ any sharing features within the app itself.

Marketing of any kind – According to the developer, he just got “lucky”.  Well, lucky is good and all but it doesn’t help other developers to figure out how they can replicate these techniques and make more money.

So why is Flappy Bird #1 in the App Store??

Alright, so to explain how Flappy Bird has had such unbelievable growth in the past few [...]