After reading a piece earlier today by appadvice it finally dawned on me that there is a very clear and simple solution to the current App Store problem. The App Store has long been ensnared by an all out sprint (a one-way swim if you will) to the bottom. It was this quote in the appadvice article, a statement made by the Office of Fair Trade (OFT) in the U.K., that frankly disgusted me:
”We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs...”
It’s the “subject to unfair pressure to purchase” that really got me angry. The app pricing race the bottom has finally succeeded in turning the planet into a place where we see those nice young men in their clean white coats...crazy town. We now live in a world with a substantial number of people that have been taught that it is ok the expect things to be free, and oh how they have learned that lesson. Here is a wake-up call for those people out there, talented people don’t work without a reason to drive them to continue striving for excellence (i.e. they don’t work for free). That doesn’t mean the best of the best demand only the highest monetary compensation, but it means there has to be a reason for them to want to continue doing what it is they do. That reason can be many things, but there is one thing that won’t keep the most talented programmers on the planet coming back for more and that is an ever increasing number of customers demanding more and more at zero cost to them. When consumer protection organizations like the one quoted above paint developers like “snake oil salesmen” it is time for a change. I’m not trying to defend all the developers out there because we all know there are plenty that truly are peddling snake oil. But the pricing war has forced the developer community to think outside the box for ways to earn enough profit to survive doing what they love to do...develop apps. Unfortunately this means having things like in-app purchasing coupled with the above mention so-called promise of a “free” game.
Well, I have a solution...
I think it’s time for Apple to make a game changing move and pull the rug out from under the developers that are truly preying on the millions of App Store customers looking for a bargain. Here is how it can be done:
- Raise the minimum price tier in the App store up from free to the next lowest level (in the U.S. it is $0.99)
- Raise the Developer Program yearly subscription from $99 to $999
- Slowly raise the minimum price tier, gradually eliminating the lowest pricing tier until apps at least cost more than a cup of joe (and I’m talking about a really good cup of coffee here)
A move by Apple like this would reverse the degradation of the App Store integrity and level the playing field for super-star independent developers out there that want to get into app development and aim for the fences but aren’t willing to play the current “game.” Apple isn’t in this game to make money off of the App Store (at least not as their primary means), they make their money by selling hardware. But there is a big problem looming on the glistening retina display projected horizon, if the App Store continues to be devalued then one the biggest selling points of iOS devices goes away and with it Apple’s profits. The App Store has the critical mass to survive a bold move like this one. Yes, the number of apps sold, no, downloaded would most certainly decrease but when developers that are out there just trying to make a fast buck all the sudden have to fork over $999 a year AND convince potnetial customers to pay (gasp) a whole $0.99 for their ill-concieved rushed to App Store app those developers will quickly find the nearest exit. This will also result in changes on the consumer side as well. Apple has always been good at raising the bar and Apple could use this as a way to show iOS customers that iOS app are worth something. It’s time to teach consumers that value is worth paying for and I don’t think any of Apple’s competitors can bring the kind of value that the iOS developer community brings to the table. With as bad as the pricing has been reduced in the Apple App Store, the situation is even worse on the Android side. Android has been reported to have a 60% piracy rate, which is mind-blowing. Android can’t even convince it’s customer base to download free (or nearly free) apps, a significant number of Android users just simply steal them outright. Right after I read the appadvice article (I kid you not) I saw a someone dancing on a street corner (much like this person) dressed up in a plush green Android costume desperately trying to lure in customers. The day Apple allows anyone to advertise for an iPhone like this on a street corner is the day...well let’s just hope that day never comes.
Right now T-Mobile is attempting to change the value game on the hardware side by eliminating carrier subsidies on iPhones. If T-Mobile can convince potential customers to pay full price for an iPhone there is no reason Apple can’t convince customers they already have to pay at least $0.99 for a high quality app. The time is now for Apple to take back control of the App Store, let’s just hope they do it before it’t late.