How to estimate future App Store sales?


Before launching an app in Apple's iPhone App Store, it would be useful to have at least a vague idea of the sales potential. But how on earth am I going to estimate this?

As an example, let's take a small productivity app with a certain detail that makes it unique and desirable, at least to your niche market that is productivity-oriented iDevice owners.
You could sell this app for the obligatory $1.
For such a product, you would have a pretty clear idea of how to sell it; elevator pitch, typical user profile, etc.
But we have no idea about the customer demographics in the App Store.

This could sell 20 copies in a year, or 20 000, or even 20 million -- who knows? Given that there are more than 300 million iDevices around and 35 million activated last quarter, the market potential is staggering. Even getting literally one customer in a million would bring income.

How can I get an idea of what to expect, in terms of copies sold?

Sales Forecast Mobile Apps

asked May 13 '12 at 20:14
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

2 Answers


I have no idea how to estimate the amount of sales you are going to get, but I suspect with so many variables there just isn't a way to have a number with any relevant level of accuracy.

If you just want a number to make you feel better than choose a number that does that. If you want to an actual number that's realistic so you can make decisions based off it then I think you are going to be disappointed.

Do you really need this? If it's for pricing, I wouldn't base it off this number anyway. You can't just price based on how much money you would like to make. I would price it based on other factors. I can't really think of a good reason to need this number, just launch it and find out?

answered May 13 '12 at 20:19
Joel Friedlaender
5,007 points
  • I like your casual approach to this problem. I _am_ going to launch soon and just "wait and see" but it would be useful to have _some_ idea of what to expect, especially when talking to business paper-pushers such as my tax office, bank, etc. – Torben Gundtofte Bruun 9 years ago
  • I agree it would be useful, I just really think you have no way of getting an accurate number. If you fool yourself into thinking an estimate is accurate, you could end up making some misguided decision. Make something up for the paper-pushers, there is really no other option for them if they insist. Just choose a number that works in your favor in that situation. – Joel Friedlaender 9 years ago


If you're not able to estimate this for your market for your product, then

  1. People outside of that market and that product won't be able to, and
  2. You need to get some understanding of the basics of product lifecycle.

There are fairly basic processes around product lifecycle, evaluating ideas, protoptyping, gathering feedback, evaluating markets, performing market research and generally evolving in stages using iterations of each parts to improve it and continually analyse its viability as a commercial product.

The idea of "wait and see" in business is, frankly, absurd, unless the time you spend developing the product is worth nothing.

This question is really "what is the breakdown of the entire process of product development" and I suspect that you have done some parts of this process implicitly (like you are solving a specific problem in a domain you have expertise in). I'd just suggest being a little more formal in the other parts of the marketing process, or get someone with more experience in that area involved.

answered May 13 '12 at 21:26
David Benson
2,166 points
  • I disagree that "wait and see" is absurd. There are times that a formal marketing plan is useful and there are times when it's a complete waste of effort that could be better spend on product development. We obviously only have a small snapshot of the situation here, but it sounds like a lot of time could be spent to come up with a completely unsubstantiated number... it's not where I would spend my time/effort in this case. – Joel Friedlaender 9 years ago
  • Joel has a point in his comment, especially regarding "unsubstantiated." I am sure Apple has very precise demographic information about App Store customers, but there's no way for other businesses to evaluate it, and Apple certainly isn't sharing. To a degree, developing for iPhone is "flying blind," relatively more so than in regular software markets. – Torben Gundtofte Bruun 9 years ago

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