According to an article in Mobile Marketer, the “sweet spot” for mobile app pricing is approaching zero, as free apps become more popular on the top mobile platforms at the expense of paid apps. Simon Judge doesn’t find this surprising, concluding that “most apps actually have very little value,” in particular information apps that present information and services that are otherwise available free on the web on the desktop or through other devices. There are plenty of apps out there, however, that are valuable products in themselves, and not merely portals to cloud-based information and services. These, as Judge points out, are much harder to develop, and their developers can justify charging real money to deliver real value.
For me, these articles point out the drawbacks of treating “mobile apps” as a single business, instead of a range of very different businesses that share a common (or not so common) technology base. To put it another way, why lump ThinkFree Mobile together with Twitter (or Angry Birds) just because they all run on smartphones? This seems unfair to developers of high-value apps, who face unreasonable downward price pressure. It may also create unreasonable expectations of revenue for developers of other apps, if they look only at aggregate numbers of how much a particular app store has paid out to developers overall.
I suspect that this is one more indication of how new this “mobile app” field is. If this is the case, then I expect to see more careful treatment of different app categories going forward. Indeed, as we see more convergence between mobile and “not mobile”, perhaps we’ll stop talking about “mobile apps” completely, and just focus on what those apps do (and how they generate revenue), not what devices they run on.
After all, I can already play Angry Birds on my desktop and watch Netflix videos on my phone, so the meaning of “mobile app” is already getting fuzzy.