App release timing

Some apps have a definite release date to meet to be successful, such as the start of the football season, or an app related to a particular holiday. For other apps the exact release date is not so important, but if they’re not released in a timely fashion they could end up just missing out on the latest trend or some other marketing opportunity.

I once worked on a startup app where the main target audience were students, so we had to get the app released before the start of the university year. If we had missed that date it would have been a whole year before that huge marketing opportunity came by again.

One of my personal apps I started in December 2019 fell into the second category – there was no fixed date when I needed to get it released, so maybe it was better to get it feature-complete and bug-free before unleashing it to the app store.

This is a difficult balance to get right – you want the app to be as perfect as possible, and yet you want to get something out there to start getting feedback and analytics data. I think the way to balance this is to concentrate on the core feature of an app – the USP – and get this working as perfectly as you can in terms of bug-free and UI/UX. You can then release this version in order to start getting valuable user data, and then start iteratively adding new features and/or improvements.

Release early and often is a good adage to follow, with the caveat of don’t release something that is going to introduce negative feedback or lots of bugs.

So, back to this last app of mine. I finished the development by early March 2020, and started on preparing the Play Store listing – the screenshots, the description with good keywords in it, etc. It was looking really good and I was planning what channels I could use to get the app some attention. I was all ready to go…

And then coronavirus hit, and the world went into lockdown.

For most mobile apps the pandemic had a positive effect on downloads and number of users, this Techcrunch article shows just how good it was for most people. But not for me, not for my app. Why was that you may wonder:

My new app was an app for entering your flight boarding pass and details, and for tracking your flight status in real-time. Of course, no-one was flying anywhere anymore.

I think it is the best example for the worst timing for releasing a mobile app. Ever.

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