State of the Apps: PCalc Hits 1.2, Dirty Tactics, and a Warning to Developers: Charge More for Apps!

TiPb has been exploring issues surrounding the App Store, especially how developers can earn a living, the various attempts to market apps in a sporting manner, as well the gaming and foul play going on.

In the bright lights category, developer James Thomson (ha! spelled it right that time!) has taken a decidedly humorous approach with the launch of his updated PCalc 1.2 (iTunes link) calculator app:

I think we got off to a bad start last time with version 1.1. It was my fault entirely. I came out with this big release I'd spent months on, sent out my press releases, and not a soul ran a story with the exception of that nice Mr Gruber fellow [Although TiPb did run an interview -- thanks again, James!]. Sales were quite poor and we both said some things we regretted in the morning.

But I understand, don't worry. You're tired of the deluge of iPhone press releases, and everything you see just starts to look the same after a while. I didn't do anything to make it an interesting read and, let's face it, I'm kind of fighting a losing battle with a calculator which - I'll be the first to admit - is next to the flashlights and to-do list apps in terms of reaching saturation point on the store.

Not quite. I rock PCalc on my iPhone, with narry a flashlight in sight!

While PCalc chose humor, some others have gone decidedly darker...

Another recent TiPb interviewee, Yellow Pages (iTunes link), has a negative review plastered to the top of their app from someone (iTunes link) who also negatively reviewed a White Pages app, recommending instead the competition (which is "part of the new AT&T"). Strangely, over on, that userid turns up stating an association with AT&T. D'oh! I think most of us would prefer real users giving us real recommendations, with developers sticking to promoting their own products and not wasting time worrying about the competition. B'okay?

Last up, via Daring Fireball, comes a great post from Andy Finnell of Order N on "How to Price Your iPhone App Out of Existence". The whole article is definitely worth a read, but the conclusion is killer:

There will be an iPhone app bust. The current prices simply aren’t sustainable. Either developers will crash out of the market when they discover they can’t make a living off their current prices, or the gold rush developers will lose interest and leave when they realize they can’t make a quick buck off the store. The developers left standing will be the ones who set reasonable prices for their applications.

I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. I currently have an iPhone app in development, and when it comes out, I will price it $9.99 or higher. I’ll let you know how it goes for me.

Dieter has spoken at length about the Long Tail of App Store business, but could the race to bottom really be putting things in short order? I'd gladly pay $10 or $20 for desktop quality apps or PSP/DS quality games, especially if it feeds developers' families and ensures we, you know, actually get those kinds of apps. What about you?

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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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State of the Apps: PCalc Hits 1.2, Dirty Tactics, and a Warning to Developers: Charge More for Apps!


Charging $10 to $20 for high quality apps is not a problem. Nor is the $.99 "quickie app" that people can put out to fill scratch an itch. IMO, the biggest issue comes from the in-between apps - ones that cost $2.99 or $3.99, especially when they are closer in quality to the $.99 apps.

I payed $15 for beejive and did so without question. But for me to buy an app; it needs to have all the quirks covered. A native and easy ui, and not forgetting to integrate sound controls. Nothing pissed me off more than an app I payed $6 for and I hear music playing when my phone is switched to silent. I'll pay for an app, but developers have to make it worth it.

what really sucks the life out of the $.99 developers is the massive existance of free apps that largely duplicate the pool of $.99 apps I think the article is right, if a developer were to spend some more time to create an appleesque ui with no bugs the first time and call it say $5 or add more quality content and call it $10 the app has more of a chance of survival. Let's face it we're in a recession (us) but we can still afford to blow $10 now and again.

I 100% agree with christophers first comment it's those in between apps that are someetimes far inferior to .99 cent applications but charging higher prices for amazing quality games is no problem but the time and process that goes in too making a psp game and these new high price games should be the same. If someone pays 20 dollars for a game it better have had a lot of time and thought put in to it to ensure the customer/gamer satisfaction.

I gotta point out here that it's still early for the app store. I really like the fact that we have all this competition between .99 apps and such. It helps weed out the bad developers and shows new developers what the people want. There's nothing worse than paying $5 or $6 for an app made by someone who obviously has never used an iPhone before and it shows in their ui.

“How to Price Your iPhone App Out of Existence“ is a dumb post.
not all developers need to sustain themselves for an entire year off a single app, since many apps simply don't take that long to develop.
the post is based on the assumption that consumers will suck it up and pay more for iphone apps, and i'm telling you right now that most will not.
you should price your application based on frequency and importance of use. if an app is important to the purchaser, and they think they'll use it frequently, they'll pay more .. but they won't pay more for an app just because the developer wants to make a living off of it.
make a quality app that i'll use every day? sure, i'll pay 10 dollars for it, maybe even 15. every week? i'll pay 5. but if you're going to charge 10 dollars for an app i'll use or play only a handful of times there's no way i'll pay, even if you want to live off the app for a year.

... or base the price on star rating. start low. as your star rating goes up, charge more. don't be afraid to charge more.
while i agree that apps in general should cost a bit more, charging for your application based on what it would take you to live in a wheat field in iowa is overly simplistic.

I wouldn't have a problem paying $10 or more for a decent app, but I can't make that determination by a few screen shots on the app store. What users need is the ability to have a 15 or 30 day demo of the app, to see if it fits our needs and whether we like it. I think that this would increase sales, especially those of higher-priced apps.

It's the wait and see game isn't it? I bought air share on itunes for $10 and now a competing if not better app (discover) is out there for free. So now I'm careful about what I buy and instead scour itunes everyday for apps that are free and useful.
So if you price stuff at $10, you just may price yourself out of a sale.
I agree with Striatic - don't think that a single app is going to feed you for a year. Build mutiple apps and price them cheap but focus on quantity of sales. If not, some developer out there is going to replicate your app and sell it for free...then you're scre***.

Perhaps a slight bit off topic, but if an app is ugly, I'll always choose it's lesser-functional competitor (or nothing at all) instead. The iPhone is a sleek, beautiful device. I refuse to have ghetto-looking icons and UIs on it.
Apple should require that all apps provide a choice of skins in the settings - Apple's UI, or the developer's UI.
Developers, take a look at BeejiveIM! I would glady have paid over $20 for it.