The iPhone app that let you drink beer made developer $20k a day in its heyday

Steve Sheraton, the founder of Hottrix and developer of the world-famous iBeer iPhone app, has revealed in an interview that in its heyday the app was bringing in between $10,000 and $20,000 a day in revenue.

In a new interview with MEL, Sheraton revealed how a video he made for the Palm Pilot turned into a multi-million dollar success. Recreating E-spresso (a coffee drinking video for the aforementioned Palm), Sheraton uploaded a video to YouTube that showed him “drinking a beer” on his iPhone using a simple video file, stating that folks were clamoring to have the same feature on their iPhone before the App Store and ‘apps’ even existed:

Sheraton uploaded a video of himself “drinking a beer” on his iPhone to YouTube. “I was dead broke, just trying to get by, living on a friend’s couch, and suddenly, the video was getting millions of views, which was a lot in 2007,” he says. “People were begging me to get this ‘thing’ on their phones — they didn’t even have a word for ‘app’ yet.”

Already a moneyspinner, Sheraton says he sold the beer-drinking video file for $2.99 and made $2,000 a day “for the longest time”. Then he says that Apple reached out with the launch of the iPhone:

By the time Apple came knocking, Sheraton knew he was onto something — he just needed to figure out how to code the video to Apple’s new device. “I have a lot of experience in film and photography, and I wanted to make the beer look as realistic as possible,” he explains. “So rather than doing animation, I chose to make assets from looped videos and image sequences — that’s why the foam looks so real.”

Sheraton programmed the app to use Apple’s iPhone accelerometer to trigger looped videos and image sequences, and the rest, as they say, is history. The app, which you’ve almost certainly heard of and probably bought yourself, was called iBeer and sold on the App Store for $2.99. Sheraton says it was number one on the App Store for about a year, and also revealed that in its heyday “we were making $10,000 to $20,000 a day”, renting out swanky houses in places like Barcelona and filling them with antique furniture.

Hottrix also came by a serious windfall when corporate giant Coors tried to copy the idea and was successfully sued in court.

The app celebrated 90 million downloads on March 14, 2014, according to the app’s release notes, and developer Hottrix has since made the app a “freemium” experience where you simply pay to remove the ads. Of course, there are also some wine, milk, and soda expansion packs available as in-app purchases too.

As Hottrix notes it has developed a swathe of bizarre apps all based on the same concept, including an Ice Bucket Challenge Simulator. You can read the full interview here. For some real nostalgia, you can check out our iPhone App Avalanche piece from 2008 before our name was even iMore. The first iteration includes iBeer and a pretty hilarious write up.

Apple’s accelerometer was one of the defining new features of the iPhone at launch, and has remained a stalwart feature in all of Apple’s best iPhones, including the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, since.

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