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Jason Pawlak


Husband, Dad, Navy Officer, Coder, and Tinkerer. I have many interests and am always looking to learn something new. This site is a launching point to the many areas of the Internet that represent me.


The Value of $0.99 - Frustrations from a Developer

One of the many ways Apple changed the world was by giving a single dollar, real monetary value.

The App Store opened up a whole new and exciting world for software developers to flex their digital muscles and see where the wind could carry them.  I have only recently begun my trek into the world of app development, but in these few months, my eyes have truly been opened to the monetary value of digital media.  Now I am careful to say “monetary” value, because many things can have value, but only certain things have monetary value.  And by value, I mean what someone would be willing to trade for the product or service, monetary value … obviously, money.

The Internet brought out the pirate in all of us.  Moving songs from one computer to another … it really didn’t feel like stealing … it was just like moving the files of a group project from a classmates computer to yours, simple.  Record labels fought it, lawsuits against individuals (sorry I don’t have the references right now, I may fill them in later).  But iTunes saw the problem and countered with a solution instead of a push back.  Offer individual songs for an affordable price!  Amazing…

Years pass and the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad come to life and the App Store is born.  Apps on sale for $9.99 and selling well.  Competition drives the price down.  Apps sell for $4.99 and sell well.  Competition drives the price down.  Apps sell for $0.99 and sell well.  No where to go but free…

An interesting thing happened.  For the price of an impulse purchase candy bar at the grocery check out counter, one could purchase an app of any sorts that would keep them entertained and fixated for hours.  But where one would not think twice about that impulse purchase that gave them pleasure for the car ride home, they would spend an hour looking for reviews and YouTube videos on whether or not this piece of appware was worth their $0.99 (+ tax).  And of course I include myself in this audience.

Why do people feel the need to be so stringent on their $0.99 app purchases while a candy bar is so much easier?  Is it for the mere fact that an app is not (well sorta) tangible?  Is it that there are too many choices on the App Store to really make an impulse purchase?  Is it the presentation of the App Store?  Is it that you are only making a $0.99 purchase while the candy bar is just a percent of a fraction of the groceries in your cart?  Should we be selling app specific gift cards at the checkout counter?

I’m no marketing genius.  I wish I were.  I wish I had the answers to these questions, but I don’t.  I think the answer is probably a little bit of ‘yes’ to most if not all of them, though.

But from the other side, now I am a developer of apps.  I see the thousands that enjoy and endlessly praise my apps while they are free but refuse to touch them as if they were a plague when they cost $0.99.  I see the negative reviews people leave complaining that they have to pay for additional functionality in an already fully functional FREE game.  I see the faceless users belittle my hours and days of late nights and weekends by saying, not worth four quarters.  I know … I’m whining.  But it fascinates and frustrates me to no end because I don’t understand why the dollar holds such a high value in the App Store.  The consumer has every right to do all the things I have mentioned in this paragraph.  I as the app developer, work for them.

What it really comes down to is this though … whoever can take the app store aisle of a grocery store and turn it into an impulse purchase at the register type of experience … those will be shoes worth walking in.

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