MacTrast.com reported today in a blog post that Apple may be trying to convince app developers to sell their apps for a higher price.
Whether or not there is any truth to this rumor, the idea brings up some interesting questions. How much should apps really cost? What negative effects might there be if many of the most popular iPhone apps continue to sell for only $.99? Have many users (myself included) been trained to balk at any app price more than a couple of dollars?
A quick glance at the “Top Paid” apps list shows that all but three of the top 25 apps on the list are currently selling for $.99. The other three weren’t selling for much more as these three were on sale for $1.99. In fact, you would have to scroll all the way down to the 32nd app on the list to find anything that costs more than two dollars. Clearly, the popular apps are the ones that the developers are willing to sell at a cheap price.
First of all, don’t get me wrong. The app consumer in me loves the fact that I can purchase some really great apps for my iPhone for about the same price as a dollar hamburger at Mcdonalds. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I often take a pass on apps that are $2.99 or $3.99 in favor of other apps that are $.99 or even free. I have been known to even wait for the price of an app to come down a dollar or two by using some apps that track prices of other apps. I love getting cheap apps.
Part of me wonders, though, how much better apps would be if we were willing to pay a little bit more for them. Are we, by expecting to pay little to nothing for apps, the ones to blame for the lack of quality in many apps on the app store? While there are some really great games and apps on the App Store selling for $.99 right now, I have to wonder how much better the graphics, gameplay, levels, or production of these games and apps could be if the developers were earning more than a measly $.99 per sale (even less when you remember that Apple takes a 30% cut of each sale). I do enjoy playing many of the simple, casual games that developers are churning out into the App Store, but I sometimes long for more of the high quality production titles that I feel are being killed off by the lack of people (again, myself included) wanting to put down more than a dollar or two on an app. I also get frustrated at times with banner or pop-up ads that are present on some of my favorite apps. I know these ads are often a necessity because of the lack of profit the developers are making on these apps.
For me, one of the biggest reasons why I rarely spend more than a dollar or two on an app is the risk that the app won’t be something that I like or end up using very often. For computer games there are demos of most games that I can try before plunking down my money. On a gaming console, there are also demos available or I can rent a game and try it out before making the investment of buying it. While it is fairly easy to find trusted reviews for most of the computer or console games I wish to buy, it is not as easy to find many trusted reviews on some of the apps I have an interest in buying due to the sheer number of apps on the App Store. I just don’t always have much faith in the star rating system that the App Store uses. I can vividly remember many instances where I was tempted to buy an app that was more than a couple of dollars, only to decide not to because I didn’t want to risk that the app wasn’t something I would enjoy. Why risk paying that much when I can try similar apps for free or for a dollar?
If the rumor is true that Apple is starting to pressure developers into charging more for their apps, I think that Apple is looking in the wrong direction for a solution to low app prices. Instead, Apple needs to take a look at how their App Store works if they wish to make more money on apps. To help developers make more money for their apps and to help drive up app quality, I think that Apple needs to implement some sort of app preview system. This could be as simple as allowing people to download and try apps for thirty minutes before having to purchase the app in order to continue using it. Amazon is already doing something similar to this with their Amazon App Store that is available on Android phones. Some of the apps available on the Amazon App Store can be tried out before purchasing them by using a phone simulator that runs right in your computer’s web browser. If I could test out an app and find that I like it, I feel I would be much more willing to shell out some more money for that app.
What do you think? Have we as app consumers been trained to not expect to pay more than a dollar or two for most apps? If so, is this a habit that can be broken? Do you feel that the quality of apps is lessened by the cheap prices at which developers have been selling their apps? What are your solutions? How much should an app really cost?
Looking forward to hearing all of your feedback and ideas!