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Startup Secret No. 9: Seduce the app store

The fewer products your app runs on, the more promotion it will get. Here's why.

"Play to the platform."

--Jeff Janer, CEO of Springpad

If you're making a mobile app, getting featured in app stores is the key to early success. Get on the front page of the iPhone or Android store, and the downloads will roll in. So how do you get there?

Jeff Janer told me that when he released the iPhone version of Springpad, a note-taking and scrapbooking app, the Google guys saw it and said that if he'd build a new version of the app that used Android-specific functions to show off their platform, they'd feature it.

So he did. Springpad for Android has home-screen widgets (no such feature on iOS) and uses app-to-app communication features (iOS has a stricter sandbox) to let Springpad integrate with other apps on the phone. "It was really a lot of work," Janer said. But the Google guys kept their word and featured the app, and now Springpad has twice as many users on Android as on the iPhone.

Phil Libin, Evernote's CEO and Springpad's much larger competitor, told me a very similar thing. He likes to build apps that work only on the latest version of a mobile platform. The Peek app, for example, originally worked only the iPad 2, as it relied on the magnetic lid flap sensors.

Apps that highlight unique new features in a platform are the ones most likely to get promoted by the people running the app stores.

Apps that work on everything are great in theory, but you're not going to get much free marketing for them.

Startup Secrets is based on personal interviews with people building companies and from their blog posts and news stories. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter or come back to Rafe's Radar every day for a new one. See all the Startup Secrets.