Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tech Tuesday - The App Habit

Recently, many of my coworkers have begun to purchase Android devices.  While several of them expressed initial interest in the iPhone, the prospect of signing a 2 year contract with AT&T was enough of a deterrent to seek out other options.  Most end up choosing the cost-conscious Sprint option, or devices on the widely praised as reliable Verizon network.

Generally speaking, these individuals seem to be satisfied with their phone purchases.  However, I was surprised to find out the reluctance that nearly all of them expressed towards buying apps.  While some had purchased one or two apps at a cost of $1 to $5, most had never paid for an app on their device, despite owning the phone for several months.

As an iPhone owner, this aversion towards purchasing third party software struck me as odd.  Since buying my iPhone 3G back in 2008, I never felt a hesitancy in springing a dollar or two on an app.  In fact, I visit the App Store on a regular basis to see if any useful apps are in the Top 25 charts.

These observations led me to the next logical questions: exactly how many apps have I purchased over the past 2 years, and at what cost?  Well, I spent about half an hour cross-referencing my iTunes library with my Gmail e-mail receipts of App Store purchases, and found out the answers.

From October 2008 to September 2010, I paid for 51 iPhone apps at a cost of $185.  This averages out to just shy of $3.63 per app.  The most I've paid is $14.99 (for the MLB At Bat 2010 app), while most were $0.99.  For as frequently as I use my iPhone, these figures don't give me any buyer's remorse.

While my observations on app buying habits are clearly anecdotal, I think they probably raise a valid question:  why are iPhone owners seemingly so much more willing to pay for third party software on their devices relative to those who own Android devices?

Kevin Fox proposes that it's a deficiency in the Android Marketplace implementation of a store model.  There's probably a lot of truth in that.  If the buying experience isn't pleasurable, what incentive does a software consumer have to go out and actively seek new applications?

I didn't buy a lot of third-party software for my computers over the past 15 years.  The biggest reason was that software was expensive.  Paying $500 for Microsoft Office is a tougher pill to swallow as a college student than paying $3 for a Google Voice application.

The keys in cultivating a successful (and large) marketplace for applications are keeping prices low and making the buying experience pleasurable.  I seriously doubt I would've dropped almost $200 in iPhone apps over the past two years unless both elements were present.

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