Are You Willing to Pay for App Store Apps?

iPhone Dev Program Broken? begs the question as to whether consumers would be, and should be, willing to pay for App Store apps:

So why can't all iPhone apps be free? Well, quite simply, because people are still willing to pay for them.

Er... No. All apps can't be free because all developers don't get free housing, food, and a healthy cash allowance for themselves and their families to live off of while they develop all these fantastical free apps.

It's the same reason why the writer probably doesn't work for free, even though the web page containing the article has advertising on it.

There will, no doubt, be tons of apps offered for free. We've already heard about Apple's iTunes remote as well as free apps from Ebay and AOL AIM from the looks of the recent Guided Tour video. These will all be released because their business model supports releasing them for free. Their companies feel that they will either be able to generate sufficient revenue from other sources (like advertising, or paid pro versions) or are willing to eat the cost as part of their marketing (hoping it will serve as a loss-leader to drive the products or services that really pay their bills).

Personally, I'd love apps to be free. I'd love gas to be free. I'd love a new Mac Pro to be free. But it's really economics 101 at work here, isn't it?

I'm sure I'll find a free app or several that'll be useful, just as I'm sure I'll find some commercial apps I feel are worth paying $9.99 (or whatever) for. And if I don't think a particular app is worth paying for, I just won't buy it. Simple as that.

What about you? Do you think there will be some apps worth paying for?


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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Are You Willing to Pay for App Store Apps?


Apps for $, i dont think its worth, because first buy a phone and then spend more on apps ?

I am willing to pay a fair price for a quality product. Have you seen the difference lately between freeware software and purchased software? When there is a profit incentive to the developer, the quality of the application shoots way up, no doubt about it. I think $10 bucks for a quality game, for example, is a no-brainer.

RE Jac:
"Apps for $, i dont think its worth, because first buy a phone and then spend more on apps ?"
Would you expect to pay for a Xbox not have to pay for the games?
Would you expect to buy a boat and not have to pay for inner tubes/water skis ect..?
Would you buy a DVD Player and expect to get movies for free?
Finally, would you buy a computer and expect all software that you download to it to be free??
The iphone's apps will be mostly free if you expect NOT to pay for ANY of them..You have High expectations..

And how is this different from buying apps for you computer? One of the joys of the iPhone is it allows for apps to be written for it (now at least). It's more than just a phone remember, it's like a uber-mobile computer, and you have to pay for apps for you laptop.

In my opinion:
Apps worth paying for:
-Medical apps (no need for me but you can tell a ton of work and time went into them)
-QUALITY games (not Pong and the like)
-QUALITY e-reader
-I am sure I can think of more...
Apps not worth paying for:
-Little things (that take no time and little skill to make) like a tip calculator (which I WANT), simple to do lists, etc.
-Apps from big companies like AOL, Google, Myspace, etc.
-Apps where the sole intention is to spend your money and the company profits (eBay)

I plan to buy at least two applications on day 1: OmniFocus (I use it now and can't wait to sync with my phone) and a game (primarily to see how well it works). Quality software deserves payment. Personally, I'm getting a little tired of the entitlement mentality of "if I want it, it should be free." Let's be real: people who can afford to buy an iPhone/iPod Touch can afford to pay for applications. If you don't want to pay, don't buy and don't whine: it's that simple, with music, software or anything else.

If there was an app that added value to your life or saved you money why wouldn't you pay for it. So far I have not heard of many beyond the $9.99 barrier but I'd go there if there were something truly of value.

The iPhone presents an interesting addition to the smartphone (platform) world of mobile devices... It is salivated after by "smartphone people" as well as "feature phone people," and that brings two distinctly different personalities into the App Store.
The first is the smartphone people. These are the people used to having access to third party apps. The people used to getting a decent amount of stuff for free, but are also used to paying for a few things here and there. They understand how it works and will, generally speaking, have no problems when it comes to shopping the App Store.
The second is the feature phone people. These are the people that "MAY" have bought a $3 java game for their flip phone, or possibly a ringtone or two. for $.99. They have never really "installed" a third party app and the concept is foreign to them. They will see things like in-depth task management apps being sold for $30 and crap a brick. They just aren't used to it, and to them, the idea of paying for an app doesn't sit well. They don't recognize the work put into these apps and that the people making them aren't doing so for their health.
Sure, there will be middle ground people that fall into some non-classification, but I think the two most predominant groups are going to be as I said above.
I, for one, am a smartphone person. I expect free TRIALS to see if the software is for me, but I don't mind paying for things that are worth it. Free stuff is great, but I respect the work put into the more in-depth stuff and I have no problem paying the developer for their efforts.

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I am going to buy Pocket Informant for calendaring and eWallet. I use those apps daily on my HTC Advantage. I would pay $20 for each of those apps because of the tremendous value they bring.

I read the Time article and, quite frankly, am dumbfounded. The person that wrote the article is every bit like our Congress - out of touch. I have to agree 100% with Tom. Newcomers to the smartphone/pda will cry foul because they don't understand that it isn't Apple that's developing and selling the apps, but the DEVELOPERS... real people with bills to pay. Those of us that have been using a pda for the past 10+ years are quite familiar with 3rd party apps and think that $9.99 for a good app is a STEAL.

I am developing small applications for physicians and nurses to assess patients. They are used to loading PDA applications ranging from free to $99. I am hoping that a useful, high quality application will be worth spending a small amount. While free applications are nice, and some are really great, more often than not I find you get what you pay for. Also, as Terry noted, if the user sees value in the program then the cost is justified.

It's a bit of a no brainer for me: you pay for third party apps. That's what happens with Windows Mobile. Why should developers give away their hard-earned money? I'll be happy to pay for apps.

Yeah but i do have a limit, ten bucks for games, fifteen for applications after all it is a mobile device, I can't imagine a program costing $999 on a phone

Judging by the low quality of most of the applications which appeared on day one (11 July).....No, even the 0.59 didn't look worth the price :)

You buy a car, you buy gas, you pay for repairs?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
Everything works that way, doesn't it?
(Updates for the iPhone have thusfar been free...)