iPhone apps and cappuccinos

on March 19, 2011, 11:04 am

Ok. I need to preface this rant with a couple of things:

I love coffee, it is totally worth the three bucks and that I have been doing 'on the side' development projects for 15 years and I never made any money untill the App store came along.

The other day Glasshouse Apps (awesome apps you should check out) had a small rant about users expectations for mobile app pricing:

Just read yet another app review from a well known blog which concluded that the $1.99 app didn't have enough zing for the hefty price.

This is not a new idea, but it is a contagious one, amongst app developers anyway.

Is an iPhone app that took months of technical work worth more than a cup of delicious coffee?

I have a handful of apps on the store, the first of them is a glossary of Ballet terms (I have daughters) and it is hard to imagine an app that is less complicated. It has a searchable index of terms, a callout to a view showing some HTML defining the term and a handful of images, it is a universal app (native iPhone and iPad), it has a simple self testing mode and keeps track of your favorite terms. So the minimum price point of 99c is appropriate for an app that took so little to build?

Actually this app took months and months of ongoing effort to build and update. The first 95% of the functionality took relatively little time to write, but the last 5% of polish took far longer. The content itself is the product of careful research and is a project that I imagine I will be working on for years to come. So why do I feel reluctant to charge more?

Mostly it's a fear of pricing myself out of the market, but it's also the understanding that before the iPhone came along, I spent months & months on programming projects that made zero money. Both of these arguments are closely tied to how programmers value our own work.

I have made a few thousand bucks from my Ballet glossary, and that is awesome, but it doesn't come close to the amount that the market values my time as a developer. So can app developers collectively raise our prices and our users expectations? Probably not, but it would be nice.

I am heading over to the app store right now to raise my prices. I am sure I will chicken out in a few weeks and drop them again, but it is worth a shot.

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