As I work on building a small app business, its been great to hear the public commentary on pricing iPhone apps lately. The blog from Marco Arment and TechCrunch both point out clearly that mass market customer acquisition apps have to be free with in app purchases to have any chance of being downloaded.
Marco’s blog is especially interesting because he’s speaking from personal experience and is trying to solve a problem today. As a consumer myself, I’m much more likely to download a free app than a paid one. In fact, I only have one paid app on my iPad and none on my iPad. And.. I dont even use that paid application more that once a month. I have owned an iPhone for 5 years and an iPad for 3 years. 90% of apps on the Apple app store are free and 6% are priced at $0.99 as per Flurry, a market research firm.
There is also a great book by Chris Anderson called “Free” that can help you understand how to make free work for you. Even this book is no longer available for free. You might be able to find an illicit copy but its worth buying on amazon if you really serious.
Personally, I don’t see the point of creating a free app that provides a ton of value to the user. Your free app only helps Apple build a stronger ecosystem around the iPhone. Build something of value and don’t be afraid to charge for it.
I’m looking at building an location based iPhone app to help tourists. I am confident that I don’t want to give this app for free. I want to charge $20. You may think that this is absurd considering what I just wrote before but the fact is that this application is not a mass market app. It is a niche app for a very small and targeted set of customers. And, in talking to these customers, they have indicated that are comfortable paying $20 for this app. I dont think this app will make millions of dollars let alone even $500,000.
To get $500k, I will need to sell this application to 25,000 customers. That will take more than 20 years based on current estimates of users. 🙂
So.. why build it? Because I believe in the usefulness of the idea and the value it provides users. I dont expect to spend a lot of money building it and I already have customers to sell it to.