FlightPredictor: a postmortem

Postmortem
Two weeks ago I noticed that FlightCaster, the backend service that FlightPredictor uses for all its data, had disappeared. The API wasn’t responding and the website was down. FlightCaster had been acquired by NextJump in January 2011, so the writing had been on the wall for a while.

I started working on the first version of FlightPredictor for webOS in March 2010. I like traveling and planes, and the fact that FlightCaster used machine learning to predict when flights would be late sounded both cool and useful. When I saw their API was free to use that cinched the deal. I’m still not sure what the business plan was for a free API (this is why I’m bad at business!), but many thanks to Jason Freedman for making that possible. Jonathan Chase was also very helpful in answering my API questions and helping me with problems.

I sold a decent number of copies, but that aside, FlightPredictor opened a lot of doors for me. It was featured on the Palm homepage (well, its icon was 🙂 ), it won in the Palm Hot Apps competition (which came with $1000), Palm gave away 5000 copies for the TouchPad (and paid me for them!), and it was featured in the short-lived webOS Pivot magazine. I also got to travel to Palm HQ in 2010, where webOS 2.0 was introduced (day 1, day 2, day 3) and 2011, to get engineering assistance for my TouchPad apps. (recap) And you can draw a pretty straight line to my involvement in the webOS community to my Nokia Developer Ambassador position after webOS was killed.

Back in 2011 I wrote about what I want to get out of app development, and that still rings true.

Stats
Unfortunately some of the webOS numbers are lost to the Palm reporting system change in 2012, but:

FlightPredictor for webOS Phones:
4.29 stars (24 ratings)
released May 2010 (started March 2010)
total copies sold: not sure, but probably in the 1000-2000 range
101 sold in 2011
28 sold in 2012
9 sold in 2013
1 sold in 2014

FlightPredictor HD (for the HP TouchPad):
3.22 stars (59 ratings)
– this had a lot of 0 star ratings – I wonder if this was from people who got the app for free and then didn’t like it or something?
released July 2011 (started April 2011)
total copies sold: probably around 1000? plus 5000 that Palm gave away. See here and here for some raw numbers
16 sold in 2012
13 sold in 2013
0 sold in 2014

FlightPredictor for Android:
4.92 stars (13 ratings)
released November 2011 (started September 2011)
total copies sold: 466

FlightPredictor for Windows Phone:
4.0 stars (38 ratings)
released March 2012 (started December 2011)
total copies sold: 139
84 sold in 2012
44 sold in 2013
11 sold in 2014

FlightPredictor for Windows 8:
4.5 stars (4 ratings)
released August 2012 (started April 2012)
total copies sold: 201
24 sold in 2014 (can’t get data for other years 😦 )

What’s Next
Well, I have this nice shell of a flight tracking app, and I would love to integrate it with Cortana on Windows Phone. It will be a fair amount of work, though, and I’m somewhat actively working on two other apps right now, and it looks like it’s going to be a busy rest of 2014. So: we’ll see!

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