Free Apps

mobilemarketer.gifThere’s an interesting article at Mobile Marketer on new data from ABI’s Mobile Application Tracker Database report.

It seems that iOS is going the same way as Android with the number of free apps growing at the expense of paid apps. 88 percent of the top-ranked 250 iOS applications are now free.

The problem is that more free apps get used and hence these are the ones recommended to others. This has a self-marketing effect. While Android developers have endured this for a long while it’s only been relatively recently (this year) that iOS app developers have had to resort to advertising or in-app purchases.

One question is why people won’t pay for apps. Alternatively, are developers at fault having lowered their prices to the point they have reached zero? I believe the main problem is that most apps actually have very little value. Most are ‘information’ apps that just provide a more convenient way of viewing things that are already available free via web sites. Dumbed down apps have resulted in dumbed down prices.

But what about apps that that do have substance? Examples are navigation, medical reference, office and substantial drawing apps. The problem is that these apps take a significant amount of development effort. Even at say 10x the price of a ‘dumb app’, it’s difficult for them to be financially viable. As most apps cost close to zero, many consumers think twice before purchasing the more expensive apps even though they are a bargain compared to their PC or Mac counterparts.

If you are a developer, you are probably better thinking about enterprise apps, middleware and apps for mobile-enabling existing products and services. Think Evernote, Kindle, Starbucks and McDonalds. However, there are many opportunities in mobile-enabling groups of smaller businesses.