App Pricing

Marco Arment, writing about app pricing and free trials, argues that simply pricing apps higher would have a net negative effect on the ecosystem:

This apps-as-entertainment market falls apart if app pricing rises above casual-disposable levels for most people. Few people balk at spending $1-3 for something that doesn’t end up being that great, but when someone’s $30 app is disappointing, that’s going to stick with them and inhibit future purchases.

I concur, but I also think there’s room for more expensive apps. What’s interesting about the App Store is the relative lack of pricing ranges in the store: Weather apps are free, tip calculators are free, to-do list apps are generally $4.99 (with a couple premium offerings), games are free with in-app $0.99 one-off purchases.

All of these price points are rather arbitrary, and were typically set by the first app to get popularity in each category. If the best and most popular weather app is free, you’ll be hard pressed to charge for yours — and so on.

Instead of every developer just raising prices, it would be nice to see more developers work like the task management market. Good apps exist for free, and excellent apps are available for $19.99 or more. This maintains the harmony of ‘almost zero-risk purchasing’ in tact, yet allows for “power” users to pay a premium for apps that are truly worth a premium.

The reason I don’t bitch about task management apps is because that market is set up to succeed: There are free apps, low-priced-but-good apps like Clear and then premium —well designed and supported — apps like OmniFocus and Things.

I don’t see the same quality-spectrum in writing apps, blogging apps, weather, flashlights, camera, etc. Where are they?

They don’t exist, because, I suspect, the cost to make apps at such a high-level is too costly to be supported by 10,000 downloads at $0.69 each. So you either get premium apps for less money, and less support over time, or you simply don’t get those apps.

That’s what makes Dark Sky so interesting. It competes in the weather category, with free apps, yet charges $4.99 to purchase — keep in mind that really Dark Sky does one thing: tells you the chance of rain in the next 90 minutes only. Dark Sky took the route I am talking about: pricing a premium product at a premium level and ignoring what the rest of the competition are priced at.

Originally posted for members on: May 13, 2013
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