PocketBracket has been my most successful and largest application to date. PocketBracket launched last year for the 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament attracting roughly 10,000 users. The application is centered around March Madness, allowing users to create brackets, organize pools, and get score updates. This allows users to follow the tournament conveniently from their iPhone or iPod Touch without having to fill out paper brackets and tally points/ranks by hand. A great and handy little application if you ask me.
This year I wanted to add features that didn't make it into the initial release to keep PocketBracket competive in the ever growing App Store. PocketBracket stood out amung last year's 25,000. But against the 160,000+ apps this year, who knows. Furthermore, March Madness is a crazy time for sports and very short lived. There's not a lot of time to gain exposure for the app. And unforunately, with many companies finally embracing the App Store, it's only a matter of time until ESPN, CBS, or some other big name creates their version of this app.
I will be the first to admit that version 1.0 was rather limited. As one of our reviews said, it's basically a website. This was true. But in all fairness, most applications are like this and the client-server/cloud architecture is necessary. Think of Facebook, Twitter, etc. Nonetheless, offline mode with a more native interface was top on the list. In addition, although I can't say it was all positive, we received lots of feedback from our users: joining multiple pools, making pools private, easier score updates, sharing features.
I prioritized a list of all these features. There were 14 total, 10 were user requested. I am proud to say that the top 11 made it into PocketBracket 2.0. The other 3 were left out due to time constraints. Of course, the day 2.0 released, I had feedback regarding the 3 that didn't make it. Sorry. Maybe next year. Regardless, I think 11 of 14 is pretty impressive. I don't feel PocketBracket is anywhere close to full potential. Yet, I hope to relay to our users that we are growing in response to their feedback.
PocketBracket for Android
My goal for PocketBracket is to become the mobile application for managing your NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets and pools during March Madness. There are two important points of this goal. First, there are several big name online bracket management sites. I could never and will never compete with these sites on my own. Moreover, I truly believe this is a perfect app for mobile devices. It makes completing a bracket quick, easy, faster, and green. Second, PocketBracket needs to support multiple mobile platforms. Although the iPhone is a revolutionary mobile device, it's still just one device. So this year, I wanted a version for Android. Initially, I thought there would only be time for a lite version to be released in the Android Market. Yet, running off the same RESTful PocketBracket API and having the existing UI, PocketBracket for Android is full featured version. Android runs on more devices which I found is both good and bad. Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing problems on some of the HTC models. I need testers…
Exposure in the App Store
With 160,000+ apps in the store, it can be your own worst enemy. As I said, PocketBracket is an extremely time sensitive application. Plus the nature tournament makes the app arguably unusable before Selection Sunday. I encourage users to create sample brackets using last years data, as well begin as organize pools. But really, the madness doesn't begin until the year's tournament selection are made. That is PocketBracket's biggest day. Yet, the app needs to be positioned in a good spot. This is very difficult when the 5 other junk apps that won't survive past this year suck up the higher ranks for some unknown reason. I call them junk because I have evaluated them and their experiences is lacking. But they have a higher spot because they either have a more precise keyword, snazzier icon, or they appeared in the recent queue longer. This latter point bothers me because updates don't seem to appear in the recent queue. So no points for updating your app with all these great features.
As much as I appreciate the App Store and give it due respect, for without it there would be no PocketBracket, it is still in its early stages. I believe in merit and that the better product should rise to the top. But when you have 159,999 other apps surrounding you, that is difficult. Furthermore, most of my marketing metrics seem to indicate that users find PocketBracket by name. While that is excellent for the brand, it sucks for the App Store. In the end, market is tough no matter the industry, and I am no marketer.
So, in an effort to build some buzz I am going to give something away. Everyone loves free stuff, right? At first, I thought an iPod Touch. But then I noticed that the iPad hits the market a few days before the tournament ends. Now that is perfect timing. So, PocketBracket is giving away an iPad at the end of the 2010 PocketBracket Network Challenge. You don't have tobe the best bracket, you just have to register. In addition, there are other ways you can increase your chances to win. Check out the PocketBracket iPad Giveaway.
There is a lot going on with PocketBracket – local storage, network syncs, Facebook/Twitter integration, custom UI components, data pushes – and that's just the app. There is a whole API that drives the app as well as website. The point is, it takes hundreds of hours of work. Now I love building applications, and websites, but at $.99 you don't make up that deficit quickly. Not to mention the costs of marketing, ads, and of course the promotion. Yet, it's not about the money for me. Although many believe that app makers rake in millions, that really only a stand out stories from the early days of the App Store. I just want awareness and users to achieve my goal for PocketBracket. So check in next year for PocketBracket 3.0, hopefully with more features and supporting more platforms. But for now, go get PocketBracket.
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