Macworld: This Be the C4 of iPhone Developers' Discontent

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Dan Moran of Macworld has an interesting post up about this year's C4 Independent Developers Conference, and how the indie devs seem to have cooled towards iPhone development and turned their attention back to the Mac. Why? Not the technology, of course. They're up on the handset and almost everyone had at least one. No, it was dissatisfaction with the state of how Apple runs the iTunes App Store, of course.

Lack of control over elements like release times was cited as one issue. Profitability, another:

The problem is that the prices in the App Store, which tend towards the lower end, make it harder to recoup the investment put into developing the program in the first place. Sure, there have been over two billion downloads from the App Store, but remember there’s more than 85,000 apps available. Even if your 99 cent application gets downloaded 10,000 times, after Apple’s 30 percent cut that’s just $7,000 in revenue—not profit, mind you, just revenue—and if you spent the last six months of your life working on that application, you better hope you’re still working a day job if you want to cover living expenses.

Rather than abandoning the platform, however, some devs had suggestions for how Apple could help make things better, including upgrade pricing (to avoid Tweetiegate situations), creating a mechanism for demos, and something we've heard before from Craig Hockenberry -- having a higher-priced developer account option that comes with a better service level from Apple ($999 platinum account, for example, in addition to the current $99 version).

With the current volume market, Apple may not care since they'll make their 30% off Apps and CrApps alike. But here's hoping their pride wins out, and Apple decides they don't merely want the most successful App Store, but the very best one as well -- for users and developers.

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Macworld: This Be the C4 of iPhone Developers' Discontent

11 Comments

Is this the same event as last year, at which Apple's presenters showed their stuff and rushed off the stage without taking a single question?
Would they dare do that again?
If so, C4 may be a very apt name for it.

@Icebike: No, that was Apple's own WWDC 2009 show, where they intro'd the iPhone 3GS, and -- tellingly -- they only fled the Q&A for the App Store session.
This is an indie developer show.

I'm sorry. How is it Apple's responsibility for developers who choose to underprice their apps for free or $0.99?? I think that this has been so rampant had led to user expectations that no app shall cost more without a lot of whiny complaints. Maybe developers should grow a pair and start charging realistic amounts for their apps, remembering that we are not all te Yahoo or Google of the world and can magically charge nothing by rcouping our cost elsewhere.
I do agree that providing options for upgrade pricing and enabling the ability to demo an application are important features. One might argue that the latter already exists in the form of in-app purchases. The app posted might well br in "demo" form with the option to purhase full enablement from withi the app itself. Used to work that way a lot on older platforms like Treo (I dare not simply say Palm any more).

As an end user I would have no problem paying the right price for an app ( by that I mean more than 0.99). However, I would expect a demo before making the actual purchase. With all the crap there is in the app store and with no possibility for a reimbursement if the app does not live to my expectation, I better be able to try it out first. I'm sure people will still complain if an app is over 0.99. CNN app is a clear example. ( and even if it has adds 1.99 is dirt cheap)

Oh pffft. You make a good app for the iPhone/touch - and people will buy it.
Reality is most of those $0.99 apps, well there lucky people are even paying $0.99 for them - they are worth much less!
Look at Tomtom, and many of the Gameloft titles - there charging premium prices, and raking in great sales figures!
The developers can't charge $30/$40 for an iPhone game - because they haven't developed anything worth that much yet!

@Dan:

However, I would expect a demo before making the actual purchase. With all the **** there is in the app store and with no possibility for a reimbursement if the app does not live to my expectation, I better be able to try it out first.

So...
Idea:
1) Build a web site that runs an iPhone emulation platform
2) Put it on the web.
3)Sell Demo services to Developers.
4) ?????
5) Profit.

@Bill
The free demo version with in-app upgrade/unlock to a full version, as is common on many other platforms, is explicitly forbidden under Apple's "Free Apps Remain Free" policy.

Eventually app prices will rise. Once the hype is over and the number of new apps diminishes price will slowly go up. Right now there are far too many developers writing too many apps. Arbitrarily increasing prices hurts consumers. Let free market forces play out.

The app store has become so convoluted that I don't go there any more looking for apps. I have over 900 apps. Many free, but I have bought about 80 apps. I used to look though the top 100, but now I either have most of the top 100 or see stupid apps like iFart.
Bottom line for developers. I am much more likely to buy an app that I stumble across a review for on a website. HINT HINT WINK WINK

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