Top iPhone App Developer Was Losing Out On $2000 A Day Because Of Sloppy Coding

Great story from iPhone ad network provider AdWhirl. Apparently the developer of one of the most popular applications for the platform ever wasn’t generating any ad revenue from it for several days, missing out on up to $2000 a day according to the company’s co-founder Sam Yam.

Here’s the gist of what happened: Inner Four, the developer behind the insanely popular (and inane) iPhone / iPod Touch application Mirror Free (iTunes link) – a gratis tool that turns your device’s screen into a mirror – was using a sample key instead of the key provided by AdWhirl that was supposed to power real display advertising units in the app interface.

The ad network enabler found out that the developer was missing out on revenue from the app, which has consistently been topping the charts across the entire App Store, when someone from the team downloaded it to their iPhone and noticed test ad units were being run that were attached to the sample AdWhirl application key. As the company was still able to see what kind of traffic the application was getting, the developer was losing out on an estimated $2000 a day, although that number is evidently hard to verify.

Update: here’s the evidence from AdWhirl. Yam explains:

AdWhirl allows you to set percentages for the ad networks you run. On our sample app, we had only a quarter of the inventory dedicated to AdMob, with the remaining 3/4 (maybe even more, b/c of our rollover feature, but I won’t get into all the nitty gritty) of the inventory used to demo how our custom ads work (custom ads don’t pay the developer any money when run, but allow them to cross-promote their other apps or promote a website, for example). Thus 3/4 of the ads weren’t generating money, and the quarter of ads that were generating money exceeded $500/day (and growing even more quickly on the most recent day) – doing the 4X multiplier on revenue generated gets to the $2000/day figure (you’ll notice the early days didn’t generate any revenue – this app rose to #1 VERY quickly).

AdWhirl contacted the unknowing developer and dynamically pushed out new keys on the platform from their side, claiming that otherwise the developer would have been forced to submit an updated application to the App Store that could take days or even weeks to get cleared.

Most iPhone app developers will never see their app(s) top the charts, let alone be able to effectively monetize them. That’s why it’s so baffling to see the developer of such a top ranked application – out of 65,000 free and paid apps in total – stumble over such a minor coding tweak.

In software, it’s impossible to over-test anything.