$10 iPad apps

I’m fascinated with App Store pricing. There’s just so much interesting stuff going on:

  • 99-cent apps and the race to the bottom.

  • Users expecting apps to be cheaper because the device is smaller.

  • The high-end successes like OmniGraffle.

  • Sales and pricing gimmicks.

  • Whether apps can compete outside of the top 100.

So when 37signals launched their first iPad app — Draft, for sketching mockups and quickly uploading them to Campfire — the first thing I wondered was: “how much?” The comments on their “launch blog post”:http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2420-launch-draft-for-ipad are a hilarious and sad mix of the usual cheapskates balanced with 37signals defenders. But the most amusing part is that at only $10, Draft is a bargain compared to Campfire itself, which has an entry-level paid plan of nearly $150/year.

(I’m a big Campfire fan, actually. The best iPhone client for Campfire, Ember, has a permanent spot on “my home screen”:http://www.firstand20.com/homescreens/manton-reece/.)

My first indie iPad app, a 3-4 week project that has stretched to 3-4 months, will also be $10. At that price it will be twice as expensive as its competition. I’m pricing it that way for three main reasons:

  • It’s worth the price of two trips to Starbucks, because it takes the category in a new direction with features no one else is doing.

  • It’s designed for people who are serious about this stuff, not an impulse buy, not for everyone.

  • It’s a standalone app but includes an optional web complement, offered for free, but which will incur “real hosting costs”:http://www.heroku.com/.

Daniel Jalkut and I talked about this a bit on “Core Intuition 28”:http://www.coreint.org/2010/04/episode-28-the-ipad-super-episode/ — that it might be okay to overcharge a little for 1.0 rather than raise the price later, and that it should be possible to build a business on the iPad the same way many developers have on the Mac: not by looking for the big overnight hit but by steadily selling some number of copies every day and letting it spread by word of mouth.

Marco Arment wrote about this as “App Store B”:http://www.marco.org/208454730 in October last year:

“More of their customers notice and demand great design and polish. More sales come from people who have heard of your product first and seek it out by name. Many of these apps are priced above $0.99. These are unlikely to have giant bursts of sales, and hardly any will come close to matching the revenue of the high-profile success stories, but they have a much greater chance of building sustained, long-term income.”

We’re three months into the iPad, just passed 3 million devices sold, and not every app has dropped to near-free. I think $10 iPad apps in particular are going to remain pretty common.