The AR spinner

Slowly, the spider crawls up the sofa, heading straight for my wife’s leg. For a moment she gives way again, then she puts herself in wait – before she attacks.

Thankfully, only virtual. The spider is not real, but one of the protagonists of the new app “AR spiders” in Apple’s App Store. A 3D model brought to virtual life by ARKit 1.5, the latest version of Apple’s augmented reality software. ARKit is the world’s largest augmented reality AR platform. And Apple is diligently banging on developers: “Develop unparalleled augmented-reality experiences for hundreds of millions of users on iOS.”

People, animals, sensations. Apple sees in AR the big future topic. And the German developer of the app “AR Spinnen”, Joachim Mertens from the vicinity of Würzburg, hopes to be part of this future: “One day to be able to live from my apps, that would be my dream.” But his augmented reality sees (still) different: Mertens goes from Monday to Friday his main job, he programmed in North Rhine-Westphalia Neuss in the automotive industry. “A safe job that also feeds my family. That does not work yet, if I only develop apps. “Mertens, more passionate than the German national soccer team, sits at his computer every minute of the minute, updates his apps that are already on the App Store – and develops new applications.


  • Ar spiders motif garden
    Photo: AR-spiders
  • Ar spiders motif ground 2
    Photo: AR-spiders
  • Ar spiders motif ground 3
    Photo: AR-spiders

The spider thing starts in 2017. And she’s really picking up speed when he has to erase his first augmented app idea. Mertens sits in his app-craft cellar and says: “At the first idea I wanted to write an app that makes it possible to place a virtual sports car in front of his house and create videos of it.” Unfortunately, other developers were faster: “As the app was about 50 percent finished, I discovered in the store Apps that allow exactly the same. “Mertens did not offer a copy:” A new idea had to come. It should enable the user something that is not as easy in real life as the sports car. “

Who wants to succeed, must be noticed

That’s how the idea with the spiders came into being. For Mertens it was clear: “Many do not like it because they are afraid of spiders, but the topic stays in the head and it stands out.” If you want to be successful, you have to stand out among more than two million apps in the store. Mertens was lucky. He developed the spider app with the software Unity 3D, a tool with connected shop for the purchase of 3D models, which was originally intended to develop games, but can also be used for other types of apps.

Mertens first look at zombie models: “Monster without abdomen, which crawled across the floor. That was too hard for me. “So he bought two spiders, 3D models for 30 euros each. “Of course, I could have got spiders for 50 euros, which are completely animated.” But he decided on the cheaper solution and closed after work in the basement: “Textures, surfaces, the complete UI is mine, supplemented by their own animations. “

Ar spinning developer Joachim Mertens
AR Spider Developer Joachim Mertens

Digital Life, double tracked. Programming in the main job, programming in the basement, there are still huge differences: “The work in the automotive industry always takes place according to the exact specification of the client. Errors are catastrophic, they can end up in extremely expensive recalls. In developing the game apps, I can implement all my own ideas. It includes many disciplines, not only programming, but also graphic design, gameplay, sound design, marketing. “Especially important to him:” Errors are not drama, but can be easily fixed by updates. “

Apple’s favorite app

But Mertens makes no mistakes when he programmed the app “AR spinning”. Apple also sees it that way: the company gives a boost. For over two weeks, his app will be featured on the App Store in the “Our New Favorite Apps” category.

The app is free. The pro version, which adds four more splendid specimens to its crawling spider community, is available for 99 cents as an in-app purchase. But the Boost, the award usually brings as “Apple favorite app”, remains off. Most of Apple’s “favorite apps” are tempted just a week, not around two weeks.

Mertens is proud, but the look in his developer account remains sobering. “The app got off to a great start, got equally good reviews, but in the end it was just under 6000 downloads. It’s just not a game, games go on such recommendations, my app is more entertainment, maybe too special. “

A good idea alone is not enough

In numbers: 6.8 percent of those users who have downloaded the app also opt for the in-app purchase for 99 cents. 70 percent of the revenue goes to him, the developer. 30 percent cashed Apple. Mertens, who spent countless hours in the basement until the spiders in the iPhone on the sofa began to crawl, says: “So far, the app has thus come together 350 euros in revenue. That’s what I earn in my main job for about two days. “

Apple reports on every keynote that millions of dollars have gone to developers. How does that sound to him? “To be commercially successful, a good app alone is no longer enough. You need something completely new or technically superior and the luck that someone with a long reach discovers and publicizes this app. Or an average app, but a lot of experience in PR and a lot of advertising money. “

There are exceptions like Flappy Bird, but: “You can not plan something like that. The biggest part of the cake gets the big game companies, who can spend a lot of money on PR. Look in the charts in the App Store. The top ten are dominated by big companies like Ketchapp and Voodoo. They spend thousands of dollars a day on advertising, for example on Instagram. On the other hand, you do not get started as a single developer. “

Ar spiders All animals

Also, it is difficult to find in the German blogger scene in the field of App and Apple news sites attention: “You send your press kit there, minutes later comes back: We like to report, but only for 100 euros.” Also 200 to 300 euros are now standard claims for reviews. Mertens waves off: “I never play the money back with downloads, so I leave it.”

Another problem is that “people today want everything for free”. What would be left for him then? “To offer my app completely free of charge, with constant advertising banners.” For him, despite narrow revenue, no option: “Banners destroy the design.” This is sacred to him as a developer.

Reality and augmented reality. Mertens will also be back in his app-craft cellar in the next few months, maybe ordering new spiders for 30 euros. And get more new apps on the way. One day it will work, certainly with more than 350 euros in revenue: “A pizza costs six euros,” he muses, “which is eaten away in ten minutes. And no one complains about the six euros. ”

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