Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Time to Make Other Plans

Marco Arment spells it out:

If you have paid apps in the store, you’ve probably seen the writing on the wall for a while.

That model made sense when there were fewer apps available, but now that there are plenty of free and good-enough versions of almost anything, it’s a different game.

I’ve had this article in my Instapaper since it was published yesterday. I’ve read it over and over, trying to come up with a counterargument because I desperately want to believe that there is still a market for apps which cost money up front.

But this market doesn’t exist any more. For every Vesper, there’s a free note-taking app with crappier typography and an ugly interface. For most users, the free Twitter app is good enough that they don’t see the point in spending a few bucks on Tweetbot or Twitterrific. The world of the paid app is now defined by how specialized they are.

It’s disheartening to see software devalued to this extent. I don’t want to shop in an environment of free apps with in-app purchases to unlock certain components, but it appears that this is an outlying opinion.

Perhaps my resistance is simply outdated, and is actually less beneficial to developers. Arment, continued:

The market has shown that free apps will be downloaded at least an order of magnitude more than paid-up-front apps, and smart use of in-app purchase in a free app is likely to make more money.

Recall that in-app purchases were originally launched for paid apps only; Apple felt that users would appreciate that there would be no surprises for free apps. However, this model has changed: users seem happy to find an app in a store which appears free, but requires in-app purchases for full functionality. This still feels icky to me.

It’s going to be a wild and weird ride over the next several years as developers work out how to make money in an environment where free is the default.