There’s a lot of discussion at the moment about the amount of rubbish Apps that are cluttering up the App Store (or crApps as they’re becoming known) and Jaggermeister posted an interesting blog on the subject over at What’s On iPhone about this and the whole 99c price issue.
This got me thinking about the state of the App Store, how quickly it’s changing, the direction it’s going and what might be done to improve things. Unfortunately it’s a very complicated issue – people aren’t going to just start paying more for things. Everybody’s situation is different – I’ve got friends with kids and I download lots of free and cheap crApps because it keeps them amused for a few minutes, so I’d be a hypocrite if I said there’s no place for them.
From a developer’s of view the 99c price point is a disaster. We deliberately priced our first applications at that point thinking they would be ‘impulse purchases’ – people would see them, think ‘that looks cool – it’s only 99c what have I got to loose?’ What we didn’t take into account was the enormous amount of mail we get from people saying ‘I am considering buying your application – could you please tell me if it will make the coffee for me. If not when will this feature be implemented?’ By the time you’ve answer that you’ve lost any profit you might have made on the sale…
Ongoing technical support is an issue as well – I suppose iPhone users aren’t really any brighter than the typical computer user and a lot of the problems we find ourselves answering are problems that people are having with their phone/iTunes/App Store account in general.
Then there’s the PR and press to think about. You can’t just pop your app out there and hope everybody buys it – it quickly gets lost in the sea of apps released every day. So more time goes into writing press releases and contacting magazines and blogs hoping they’ll run a story that people will actually notice.
When I look at the effort that’s gone into (most) of our apps versus the money we’ve made out them I want to cry – there seems to be a myth that iPhone developers are raking in big bucks. Not true. We’d love to be making enough money to do this full time but that’s not going to happen easily.
But with all the free and 99c apps out there it’s easy to see why people are reluctant to pay a little more for their apps – so what’s to be done?
Try before you buy
The most obvious solution to me seems to be a try before you buy solution. Developers would love to give away free demo copies for people to try and at the moment the only way to do that is to create a separate ‘lite’ version. The problem there is that that has to be crippled in some way and therefore not as good as the real thing so users don’t get the chance to really evaluate it.
What if Apple were to build a counter into the iPhone software that let you launch something 10 times before asking you to pay for it or delete it? You’d think about how often you were actually using something and therefore how valuable it was to you – it would also help you get rid of the apps that clutter up your phone that don’t get used frequently.
Split the App Store in two
Another option might be to have a ‘Pro’ version of the App store – only serious paid apps allowed. This wouldn’t take away people’s choice – they could still browse the fart machines and animal noises but they’d be able to filter that out and just focus on the serious stuff. This would help with a problem I’ve blogged about before – developer’s want their apps to be visible to potential buyers and the only way this happens if you’re not in the featured charts is for you to be on the new releases page. As new apps are released you get pushed further down the page – fair enough when this happens at a sensible rate but particularly galling when the app you’ve spent ages working on is pushed off the screen by an avalanche of ‘Call Dave’ apps…
Now that I’ve got that off my chest I’d just like to end by saying thanks to everyone that has bought any of our apps and next time you buy any app just think of the amount of time and (hidden) effort that’s gone into it and consider what you think it’s really worth…