Feeds

Are iPhone users just tight?

I'd buy that for a dollar

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

Analysis Companies developing software for the iPhone are seeing their creations drown in a sea of one-dollar mediocrity as they struggle to gain visibility in the increasingly cluttered Application Store, and some have taken their complaints to Steve himself.

In an open letter to the great man successful developer Craig Hockenberry lays out his problems with the Application Store, and why his company can't spare the resources to create proper iPhone applications.

This argument is taken up by AppCubby, which goes further and reveal exactly how much it spent, and made, making and marketing an iPhone application - concluding that success depends factors beyond its control and so it can't be sure of any repetition.

The simple version of the problem is that the vast majority of iPhone applications are selling for a dollar a time - which is all they're worth in many cases, but the Application store lists apps by their popularity and no matter how great your $20 application is those "ringtone apps" are going to see bigger volumes, and get more positive reviews, than the business productivity application you've spent months working on.

Craig reckons a cheap, quickly developed, application needs to sell about 115,000 units to break even, which is possible, but that a more complex application can't achieve the volume necessary to make money.

Compared to the well-established markets for Symbian, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry software, this is just weird. Handango, the largest application store for those platforms, reports an average price of around $25, so even if the volumes are smaller the motivation to invest in developing decent applications is much greater - which is reflected in the complexity of applications available for those platforms.

Advertising is one route to achieving greater sales, but with the Application Store being the only route to market, and one that doesn't allow developers to see where purchases are coming from, it's hard to judge how effective adverts are.

AppCubby tried various forms of advertising, but concluded: "The only methods of marketing... to be measurably cost effective are working with the press and getting featured by Apple, both of which are essentially free, but incredibly hard to guarantee".

AppCubby saw a jump in sales when mentioned on a couple of high-profile blogs, but its real boost was when the application was selected as a "Staff Pick" on the Application Store, followed by an appearance on the "What's Hot" list. AppCubby has helpfully provided a graph, showing how effective this unexplained promotion was - and conclude that without the promotion by an unknown Apple employee the application would never have made money.

But this approach to promotion: relying on being randomly selected by an all-powerful entity operating on a whim, is no way to run a business.

It seems strange that Symbian and Windows Mobile users will happily shell out $25 for an application, while iPhone users balk at paying more than a dollar. The disparity probably stems from the way that Apple has promoted the iPhone as a computing platform - the vast majority of Symbian users have never downloaded an application, or had any desire to, but the iPhone encourages you to explore and spend a few dollars trying applications.

Right now the iTunes Application Store is no more than an online Poundshop: customers will come in, take a look around and maybe even buy some tat they didn't know they wanted, but if the iPhone is going to be taken seriously then the boys from Cupertino are going to have to find a way to make users come to the store looking for something, and go away satisfied having spent more than a dollar.

Both AppCubby and Craig believe that being able to offer limited-time trials of software would help a lot, but some sort of weighting to increase the value of ratings placed on more-expensive applications might also be necessary - though as the number of applications increases even that may not be enough to prevent the Application Store drowning under its own success. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
'People have forgotten just how late the first iPhone arrived ...'
Plus: 'Google's IDEALISM is an injudicious justification for inappropriate biz practices'
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.