Talking tech since 2003

Oh boy, I just got an email from an app startup called Hike.  The company has developed an app that offers users the ability to share status messages between friends, and recently raised $7 million in funding after passing 5 million downloads.

Well, apparently the money is burning a hole in their pocket because the email I received from them informed me that they are going to give $100,000 worth of Apple products and accessories to the lucky person who downloads the 50 billionth app from the Apple App Store.  However, there’s a catch — as there usually is with such things.

The Catch

In the blog post where they promote this giveaway, they write:

Our proposition:
If the 50 Billionth downloaded app turns out to be hike (that’s us), then we’ll take the winner’s Apple craze to a entirely different magnitude!

Did you catch that?  If the 50 billionth app download is Hike, then and only then will someone be receiving $100,000 worth of Apple gear.  Meaning, if it’s any other app, then forget it — there’s no lucky winner.

And they want me to promote this like it’s some great thing, so they get more publicity and more downloads.  Granted, that’s what they are getting now, but I’m certainly not promoting what they are doing.

What Are The Odds?

Nonetheless, I decided to see how likely it would be that the 50 billionth app download would be Hike.  After speaking with my friend Sam Phippen, who is a math whiz and excellent programmer, we came to the following conclusion:

An optimistic, Laplace corrected, linear model of app downloads places any app with 5 million downloads at the moment, as likely to have a 1 in 11,000 chance of being the exact 50 billionth download in the App Store.  And let me be clear, that’s a very optimistic estimation based on the limited data we had available to us while doing the calculations.  So think of it as an absolute best case scenario.

Because when you factor in that Hike is also available in other app stores and those downloads have been factored in to the 5 million number we used, the actual downloads coming from the Apple App Store are likely less, meaning it’s even more unlikely that Hike will be the 50 billionth app download.  Plus, some of the data we lacked included the rates at which apps are downloaded, which also plays a major factor in figuring out the correct odds.

What Hike Should Have Offered

Obviously, this is a marketing effort and a way to drum up more downloads and exposure for their app, but if they were serious about it and wanted to receive good press — they would have given the person who downloads the 50 billionth app the prize, regardless of whether or not it was Hike that was downloaded.

Now if you are asking why they should have done it that way, the answer is as follows: it would have created significantly more publicity for them (I’m sure many more blogs/sites would have picked it up), it would have created instant demand for the app as opposed to having people wait to download the app in an attempt to be the 50 billionth, and it shows that they are awesome (something I think they were trying to do with the current campaign).

It’s unfortunate that I had to write this article, I much would have preferred to praise Hike as opposed to criticize them.  Now, of course, anything is possible and Hike could end up being the 50 billionth app download by some miracle, but either way, I think this was the wrong approach.

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