Apps are too cheap

Dave Addey wrote a great piece about the state of app pricing and what can be done about it. Definitely worth a read.

  • samdchuck

    What nonsense. I’m getting tired of these articles claiming everything is too cheap, you must pay for all the services you use (many of those after the Reader shutdown announcement), etc.

    I get it, it’s harder to become stinking rich if someone else provides the same item for less or no money. And some people are still getting stinking rich from making software, not everyone, probably not you, but that’s the case in every industry on this planet. Some get a break and make a bazillion dollars from a silly game and others make little from a niche app they thought would be the greatest thing on earth.

    • gjgustav

      It’s not about becoming stinking rich, it’s about making a living. Just as you expect to be paid a fair wage for your work, so do developers.

      Given that you lump people into those getting stinking rich, and those thinking they would get rich from their niche app says you don’t get it. Even most successful apps aren’t making people rich.

      If you get hours of productivity from an app, then why would you expect it to cost 99 cents? Would you hire a plumber and pay him 99 cents and then say “well, if you want to make a living, then you should do more jobs.” How about your job? What if your boss halved your salary and said “if you want to pay your bills, get a second job.” Why would you expect that from developers – if you want your app to stick around and improve, then expect to pay them fairly for it, otherwise they can’t afford to stick around.

      • Vendo Móveis

        A service is performed many times. An app is done when it’s done. Sparrow (the email client) recently returned to the top paid apps, which means it still got the developers some money, even after they’ve abandoned it for a while.

        These developers are also self‐employed. If they were with a company, they’d get their salary and that’s that. Most new businesses fail within the first year, just because you’re a developer you should get special treatment?

        If your app is worth the money, people will pay for it. If you can’t make a living from it, maybe it’s not that good or the market isn’t that big for it.

        • gjgustav

          Sparrow has many bugs and could use many more features. To you that’s “complete?” They only charged $2.99 for their app. Had they charged the $15 or more that is was actually worth, and the market recognized it, they wouldn’t have had to sell to Google. This proves the point perfectly. Developers are under pressure to get out of the business when the market expects to pay next to nothing for an extremely useful app.

          I agree that if your app is worth the money, people will pay for it. Nobody is expecting people should pay a lot for crappy apps. The complaining is that the market, as a whole, expects good and useful apps should cost next to nothing.

          • Vendo Móveis

            I never said “complete”, I said “done”. It worked, and the only thing it needed is polish. I don’t know why you bother putting stuff in quotes if you’re not actually quoting.

            Sparrow was 8€ (or something similar) on the Mac, where it appeared first. They sold to google very soon after the iOS release, so please don’t use that as a reason, they were in trouble before with the version of the app they charged more for.

          • gjgustav

            Sparrow has bugs (including crashers) and is missing features. To me, that’s more than polish. I would have paid $15 or more if they would keep developing and supporting it. The devs felt they couldn’t charge that much so they sold to Google instead.

      • samdchuck

        Yeah, but I have a stable job. Me and my employer have an agreement on how much I get payed. A developer can choose that to and go work for someone. But these developers choose to be self employed and take on all the risks associated with that. Don’t blame the system that you chose if you don’t succeed.

        I would pay a plumber 99 cents, but I can’t because no plumber works for 99 cents. And yes I would definitely say to that plumber that working for 99 cents is idiotic if he started complaining to me about making a terrible business decision. I would get another job (and a lawyer) if my employer (entirely illegally) cut my salary in half.

        I don’t expect great apps to cost 99 cents. Nor do I expect developers that chose an unsustainable business model to succeed.

        • gjgustav

          I’m glad you don’t expect great apps to cost 99 cents. But too many people do. That’s the point.

    • Apps and services aren’t the same thing, and you don’t buy them from the same kinds of companies.

      • samdchuck

        Plenty of companies make both apps and services and combinations of the two. But that’s not really the point, it was the similarity in complaining about people wanting things to be cheap, which is nothing special.

    • Vendo Móveis

      I agree. This reminds me of a Louis CK interview ( ) where he said

      “There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.”

      There are too many developers (there’s too many of every profession, these days), and too many of them think they’re owed something.

      • gjgustav

        Oh, so paying 99 measly cents for an app that saves hours of work is justified; but expecting to be paid a living wage in a profession that takes years of education and practice is “thinking they’re owed something.” Thank you for clearing that up.

        • samdchuck

          If that’s what the developer charges for the app then paying that is perfectly justified. Paying more would be considered ludicrous.

          • gjgustav

            But if they do so out of market pressure, and end up selling it to Google or someone else, then it’s a problem for developers and users. Users have no confidence that apps will continue to be supported and improved, and developers start designing apps to be acquired, rather than to bring value to the user.

        • Vendo Móveis

          Do you even read posts before replying? The point is exactly that a huge chunk of developers these days are relative newcomers that expect instant money.

          Also, please stop using that weak argument. Very few worthwhile apps that “save hours of work” cost 99c, most apps at that price point are either “time‐wasters” (as in games and similar apps, not being derogatory), or apps the developer has no intention of updating anyway.

          Furthermore, many of those 99c apps survive exactly because they are 99c. It’s called an impulse buy. If they were more expensive, they wouldn’t sell as much, simply raising the prices is not a magic solution.

          • gjgustav

            And “make it up in volume” isn’t a magic solution either.

  • Canucker

    Trying to leverage prices now would be a mistake. People will pay for quality (TweetBot is a good example) and 99c is likely too low for most apps (that don’t sell in the millions) but price is all relative. 99c (or free) captures the impulse buyer which should increase the number of copies sold. Asking for more requires a model in which the buyer can perceive the value – either through reputation or by demonstration (e.g. unlocking additional capabilities – hence teaching the user the power/utility of the app). App makers need to make money or we’ll have a situation of lowest common denominator and crap-apps being put out in a race to the bottom. But the app makers need to make their case in terms of value, not price.

  • Crabbit Git

    The Apple App Store needs the option for time limited trials.

    • While a better integrated trial period option would be helpful, I don’t see much trouble with how things are now. Many apps have a free version with a reminder to purchase the full version to get extra goodies. Other apps use the in-app purchase to increase their abilities. The time limited trial issue is less of an issue than people make it out to be, I think.

    • lucascott

      It’s called free with ads, or free with limited tools/levels and an IAP to unlock the rest.