The Never Ending Debate On Mobile App Prices

It seems the debate over how much software should cost is never over. Back about ten years ago debate was raging over how much Pocket PC software should cost. Back then the “sweet spot” for app prices was $20, and whenever someone tried to sell their programs for more, there was a loud outcry from the Pocket PC community about the high prices and how they were a rip off.

So, I find it amusing to see the the debate raging again about the prices on iPad software. A market of iPhone users who are used to paying from $.99 to $4.99 for an app are unhappy with the $9.99 to $14.99 prices for many of the iPad apps. For someone as myself who remembers paying $20 for a Pocket PC app, I think that $9.99 and even $14.99 is cheap. I think that most of the complaints come from two camps, people who think that all software should be free, and people who think that all iPhone, and now iPad, apps should be within the $.99 to $4.99 price range.

I personally disagree with both points of view. While many apps should be free, people who invest a lot of their time into developing apps have a right be fairly compensated for that investment. If you want free programs there is nothing preventing you from obtaining the same tools to write your own programs. The people who think that all mobile apps should cost no more than $4.99 are failing to consider the value of the app itself. Rather than the market pre-determining app prices, an app’s price should be based on the value it has for users. I have no problems paying $20 for an app that gives me $20 in value, and if other people are also buying that $20 app, then that is in fact the fair market value of the app.

Right now the iPad is a developing market for software developers. It makes sense to me that there is experimentation with the price for iPad software. Because the iPad can do more than an iPhone, it is fair for iPad app prices to be higher provided that the app takes advantage of those capabilities and provides more functionality. Developers who set their prices too high will learn and lower the price, otherwise their app will not sell.