The App Store is Changing Our Expectations on Application Pricing

by Chris Howard Sep 10, 2008

Well, by the time you read this we could all be zapped down to our individual atoms and scattered throughout some other -- maybe new -- universe. Or maybe we'll discover that things sucked into a black hole actually come out totally fine on the other side, but in another universe. You see, the scientists over at CERN are attempting to recreate the Big Bang*.

Look, CERN dudes, I'll be mighty cheesed off if you blow up the world before I get to let Apple know all the things that need fixing in the iPhone.

I've got a list as long as my arm of changes I'd like to see; most are trivial, but some are critical. However, I'm not about to provide that list before I get my hands on the 2.1 update. So that list will have to wait until next week. Now there, I've created anticipation, so the CERN guys have got another reason not to smite us for another week.

Instead, this week, after that rather long and winding preface (which now demands a half-decent segue), I want to talk about the App Store. Because -- like a black hole sucking in the universe around it -- the App Store is causing a shift of similar proportions. Okay, so that wasn't that good a segue and was hyberbole raised to the power of hyperbole, but the App Store is more than rocking the application pricing boat.

Has anyone else noticed the price of apps on the App Store and, in some cases, what's going on with them? I've read more than a few readers' reviews of apps where they are critical because "Just last week this app was $X and now they've reduced it to $Y." I even saw one guy say an app had been cut from about AU$36 down to AU$13.

As a previous owner of Palm handhelds, I am used to the price of fair apps being up to AU$10, the better ones nudging AU$20, and the very good ones going much higher.

But things are different on the App Store. Very good apps can be found by the truckload for no more than AU$13.

Apps such as the best file manager, Air Sharing, (free for the first two weeks, then US$6.99); note making apps like YouNote (free) and EverNote (free); task managers like iProcrastinate (free) and WhatTasks (AU$5.99); the file editor TextGuru (AU$1.19,which is down from the AU$5.99 I paid); and games like Aurora Feint (free), Trism (AU$5.99), Super Monkey Ball (AU$12.99), Crash Kart (AU$12.99), and Spore Origins (AU$12.99). And those are just some of my favorite apps. I'm sure you could all add to that list.

This is surprising given you'd think developers could charge more, because Apple is supposedly quality checking apps before they go up, thus ensuring the customer is getting a decent app.

Instead, the altruistic values of the internet have collided with the App Store, producing something we have long longed for -- something we thought of as our own version of the God Particle the CERN guys are trying to find -- that is, applications at a fair price.

Developers who are charging more than $20 for an app on the App Store could quickly find themselves as lonely as the CERN physicist who kicks off the countdown to the big bang.

Even beyond my list, there is a plethora of very good applications on the App Store for AU$13 or less. I'm yet to pay more than that for any app, and the only one that has tempted me a little is OmniFocus. But why pay AU$24 when so many other apps offer similar functionality? Sure, maybe not all of its functionality, but enough to stop me buying it.

If you're a developer charging more than AU$12.99 (which I suspect is probably $9.99 in US-land) for an app, you could well struggle to sell it.

It's games, though, that are really changing things. Games on the iPhone are such good value they are making some other apps look overpriced. If you can buy superb games like Spore or Super Monkey Ball for the iPhone for just AU$12.99, why, for instance, would you pay AU$36 for a dictionary for your iPhone?

Extrapolating this pricing shift to desktop applications (which at this point in time seems less likely happening than the CERN scientists finding the God Particle), you should see the likes of MS Office for under $100. Maybe we'll have to wait for the next universe for that.

It's very unlikely that the CERN will wipe the universe off the map, but over at the App Store, application pricing as we knew it is being wiped out. And if that does flow on to desktop applications, the world will be a better place. If it's still here. wink

* A CERN Big Bang is a fascinating thought... Many religious folk like to say, "Okay, if there was a big bang, who lit the fuse? God!" But maybe it was the guys at CERN. Maybe time wraps around on itself and the Big Bang is both the beginning and the end. If it is, next time around we gotta make sure Apple doesn't let Microsoft have access to MacOS.


  • LOL! Someone has been watching a little too much sci-fi. :p

    Aayush Arya had this to say on Sep 11, 2008 Posts: 36
  • Like virtually all writers, you’ve confused the power-up of LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN with the high-energy tests that one lunatic in Hawaii is insisting will create a black hole (which virtually every other scientist says is total bullcrap). The moment of truth, as it were, is still months away. So far, they’ve sent one low-power beam all the way around the underground loop, in one direction only.

    WriterGuy had this to say on Sep 12, 2008 Posts: 1
  • thanks, writerguy. I did suspect as much. I had thought it odd that that the day you turned on your brand new untested machine that could destroy the universe, you dive straight in and do the biggest most dangerous test of all.

    However, for the sake of conveying my skepticism about the risks, and for a bit of humor, I let it ride.

    I have total faith that the universe is much tougher to break than that, and that some stupid earthlings playing with matches on a wet blue rock aren’t smart enough to burn the whole thing down.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 12, 2008 Posts: 1209
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