Agonising over the price of apps

Agonising over the price of apps

How many take away coffees do you buy a day? Even if it’s only one, that’s probably $3.50 out of your pocket that you spend without a second thought.

So what about spending  $2.99 on an iPhone app – maybe a game to use in your spare time, or a utility designed to save you time. Or how does $1.19 sound, because that seems to be a common price point? Why you could even get three apps for little more than a latte.

You wouldn’t think that it would be an agonising decision, but we were surprised to find that price is a sensitive issue when it comes to buying apps. And iPhone users themselves don’t understand why they waver over spending less than $3 on something that lasts so much longer than a hot drink. Here’s a taste of some of the comments from our iPhone Online Research Community:

“I am dancing around the idea of a $6 app at the moment that I really want (but not rushing in). Weird psychology really since I have no problem throwing far more than that away on far more frivolous things”

“I only pay for stuff with a lot of good reviews and things I know I’ll like. Otherwise it’s free. Even if it’s an app I’m not sure about and it only costs $1.19 I’ll think twice, three times.. sometimes four times”

“I don’t feel like I should be paying any more than I already am/have for the iPhone considering I use it mostly for communication purposes. I don’t think I will ever pay for an app, but I’m waiting for something to prove me wrong!”

Our frugal friends were a bit bemused at their own behaviour, and put it down to both the intangible nature of apps, and the predominance of free apps which create a mindset that all apps should be free or so cheap that purchasing doesn’t require a second thought.

There are people who are willing to spend ‘big’ money on apps, whether it’s a $9.99 Jamie Oliver recipe collection or a $69 navigation system. But the apps they pay more money for have to do something - they’re rarely games or time wasters. Even so, our ‘spenders’ were more likely to trial a ‘lite’ version before downloading the full paid-for version. Try before you buy matters even more in appland, where the refund policy is non-existent.

There’s no doubting that apps are what makes the iPhone eminently attractive and indispensible, but iPhone users are cautious with their money, and while so many apps are free, many users are happy to dabble in app-lite. This may have interesting consequences for iPad, both in terms of users’ propensity to purchase 3rd party content and apps, and the pricing strategies employed by content providers and app developers. And once big brands with big development budgets cotton on to creating new (free) brand experiences via apps, maybe we’ll become even more reluctant to open our wallets.

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