back to article Are iPhone users just tight?

Companies developing software for the iPhone are seeing their creations drown in a sea of one-dollar mediocrity as they struggle to gain visibility in the increasingly cluttered Application Store, and some have taken their complaints to Steve himself. In an open letter to the great man successful developer Craig Hockenberry …


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  1. Darren B

    As a Symbian User

    My biggest complaint is that the software is too frigging expensive especially when 1-2 years later I change phone and have to buy it all again. I think people expect to pay £20+ for software on a big box PC but not on an iddy biddy phone. It is all in the mind and my price point for a Phone App is up to £5, but for a fiver i expect it to do miracles.

  2. Ash
    Thumb Down

    Missing the point

    They sound like they're developing business applications for a consumer handset (let's face it, it's an iPod Touch with a GSM module).

    Leave the iTards to their quirky gizmos and widgets; Develop business software for business phones. The people who will buy your software don't have iPhones. They have Symbian / Blackberry / WinMob smartphones and PDAs. There's a good reason for that.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I dont know are iphone users tight?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I'd buy that for a dollar


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    *opens Lester's cage*

    iPhone users are tight because they bought the phone expecting it to be easy to use and do everything they really want- as shown by Apple's increasing sales this is an increasing market. This means that the users really don't want to have to pay to get standard-for-years functionality.

    These people probably aren't the sort of people who'd use their iPhone for office stuff due to the lack of actual office apps available and the fact that there are far better devices for mobile office stuff out there. No-one ever bought an iPhone for increased productivity, they bought them because they're supposed to be reliable and look stylish.

    So making a business app for an iPhone is a stupid idea as the market isn't really there compared to, say, a pouring-a-beer app. So it'll get swamped and hidden from the iPhone users who actually want to do something useful with their phones. So both those users are screwed.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why do symbian users pay more?

    ease of Information exchange and content delivery....

    I've seen at least 5 seperate apps that people have wanted that were at least a fiver in the store...But they didn't download them...Because, as with most things from apple, they were going to buy them on a whim cause it seemed like a good thing at the time. But as soon as the 'over 10meg' error popped up that scuppered the apps chance of even being remembered about let alone being downloaded and used.

    I can download an entire linux distro to my nokia without a PC or wifi connection being involved (if I wanted, and I would, just because I can) yet you can't download something that is smaller than Quake on the iPhone.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I don't get the complaint. The same could be made about shelves in a computer store, except the cost to get there is even higher.

    Enter shareware - you give the user something for free (which can then be as popular as any other free or near-free app), and give the full version for a more sensible price. It's how smaller development studios have been working for decades.

  8. Lyndon Hills
    Thumb Down

    iStore spend

    Well I'd never heard of App Cubby, although I have now, so maybe they'll add another spike to their graph. Sadly for them I don't drive a car, so I don't need their app.

    As someone who browsed to the iStore yesterday, purely on the off chance that there might be something interesting, I'd say it's not that iPhone owners are tight but that it's hard to find anything that way. I'm not prepared to keep paging through lists of apps, so unless I read about them in the press, or they're in the picks or hot boxes on the store, I won't even know they exist. There must be a review site somewhere, or else that's a business opportunity staring me in the face....

    For the record I bought 2 games, one for 99c and one for 5 dollars.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I don't know

    I don't understand the complaint. People don't want to spend more than say £5 on an app that runs on a small hand-held device as it is only intended for occasional use. If a 'killer app', say TomTom sat nav was released, I would still only pay a maximum of £15-20.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Introducing the new Apple iGot Wunadem™

    People buy Symbian and CE devices because they want pocket computers they can run software on, just like they buy PCs to run things on.

    People only buy Apple iPhones and iPods because they want one. It's a lyfestyle product, not a productivity product, and will get thrown away when the season changes and they decide its time to refresh their wardrobe. As such, what is the point in putting a lot of effort into a distribution chain (or ecosystem as Symbian would call it!) if most people don't care and aren't going to download any/many apps?

    The only people who really make proper use of iPhones and iPods are hardcore nerds. Everyone else just shows them off in city wine bars on a Friday night where they have to compete with each other over how well they know how to make calls and texts - but at the same time have no idea about anything else in order to maintain their street cred.

    Muddy Fox mountain bikes, jeans with cartoon characters printed on the thighs, Nike trainers, women wearing combat trousers, women wearing pink Primark velour tracksuits, Sunny Delight, Apple iPhones... What next, Asus netbooks?

  11. Thomas Silver badge

    @all three ACs

    Re: Lester's cage post. I note you don't provide any examples of missing functionality. I guess that's because the charge is to back up your core point that it's a consumer handset, not a business handset - i.e. there's a bunch of business stuff that it doesn't concern itself with? I think you're right about that, and I would be surprised if business application sales were anywhere near the games, or even the novelty items.

    Re: why do Symbian users... The 10mb limit is for purchases over the mobile network only. I guess it's a lowest common denominator agreed with networks worldwide, but it is a hassle.

    Re: shareware, the idea of shareware isn't directly applicable to the AppStore because of the restrictions that Apple place on applications and on means of sale. At present it seems that applications which explicitly exist to do nothing more than up sell are not being approved. So nagware is definitely off the table and of course nobody is sure enough about exactly where the line now lies to know exactly how to pitch demo/lite versions of their software. The rules seem to have changed over time or to be unevenly applied, with some recent applications being refused approval for doing things that earlier applications do.

    Since it is relevant, I might as well out myself as an iPhone developer. I've pursued a very conservative business plan in that I'm treating my iPhone stuff as a purely spare time pursuit, focussing on games and not directly spending any money (ie, anything beyond the notional values attached to my time). I'm a poor artist and released my first game - which I consider fun but which is not exactly pretty - for $0.99/£0.59 at the start of the month. I've had about 600 sales in total and have hence recouped the cost of my development license and my iPod and made a modest profit. I am definitely of the opinion that the people losing out on the AppStore are those that are writing tiny little novelty applications of limited appeal or ploughing serious money into it without doing proper market research. There is a general throttling of decent information that is giving some people incorrect expectations and I guess it is people like me, writing small applications in their spare time, who are causing problems for the bigger developers by flooding the market with $0.99 products. It is clearly incorrect to think that the store is likely to be able to support you if you treat it as your sole source of advertising as well as unavoidably your sole distribution channel. My thoughts are that the bigger companies will figure out how to capture their customers more effectively and be able to eventually shift up in price a few dollars, expanding the amount of market space at the bottom. But I guess we'll see.

  12. Ned Fowden
    Paris Hilton

    why bother

    Personally I wouldn't buy a phone if it couldn't do everything I wanted it to right out of the box.

    If I were a 3rd party developer, I'd be looking to a manufacturer to buy my application rather than rely on what is essentially google listings to make my sales.

    Paris coz they're just whiney bi***es

  13. Anonymous Coward


    Tight? They spent £400 on the phone with a shocking contract.

    They've got no money left that's what the problem is!

  14. Alastair

    Needs a better shareware model

    First, I'm pretty surprised at Handango's claim of $25 average price per app. I've owned a hand-held for about ten years, I've bought games, email clients, office apps, media players, tons of stuff, and I'm pretty sure I've _never_ spent $25 on an app.

    But it seems to me the reason no-one pays higher prices for iphone apps is that there's no try-and-buy model. You have Free, or Paid. I'm just not going to buy an expensive app without trying it out. So far I've tried literally dozens of free apps, and several 59p ones. I've bought two £3+ apps based on reviews, and was disappointed with them both. And I've bought one £6 app I'm happy with - because it was a port of a palm shareware app I'd already tried out and trusted.

    If developers want us to hand over the cash, we need a way to try stuff out and upgrade. Time-limited software, leased software models (the user is online all the time, why not charge them for use?).

    If apple need to help with that, then fine - but believe me, the problem isn't that I can't see your app on iTunes. It's that I just ain't gonna buy it on your say-so :-)


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I gave up paying for applications on my phone the day I got broadband, actually.

    If I'd paid for the apps on my Omnia, I'd be out about £100 (SPB Mobile Shell and IGO GPS 8).

    If I'd paid for every app on my touch, I'd be out about £50.

    If I were intellectually honest about it, I'd say its because I don't like paying for things, but I'm not, so I'll blame Winterface,TomTom, Jaadu VNC and MobileChat for trying to sell me apps that don't function.

  16. hitmouse
    Jobs Horns


    I don't want to invest any more in iPhone apps because iTunes is so lame as a synch manager

    1. it doesn't actually do a proper backup when it claims to be doing so - more importantly it's not backing up the data associated with any of your iPhone apps (tasks, shopping lists etc)

    2. the stupid ITL file "corrupts" every other time I connect and I have to rebuild all the content

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Examples of "missing" iPhone functionality- though I believe some of these can now be rectified by buying a new app- include MMS. Which most handsets have had for years. Or a huge string of missed Bluetooth profiles (i.e. anything other than headet & handset). Unless your business revolves around playing music from an iPhone through a set of A2DP speakers or printing photos that have been sent to you I don't think these really count as "business tools". Equally it's probably not an everyday concern, just something that a bloody expensive, supposedly "high tech" phone should have.

    Oh, and no HSDPA for very quick internet- the newest iPhone makes a marketing point of being a generation behind, wallowing in the doldrums of 3G.

    A lack of a hard keyboard is another missing feature, but I accept that's more of a personal preference than a "must have" productivity thing.

    Good luck with the games for the app store; you sound like you're approaching it in a sensible way.

  18. B


    "Leave the iTards to their quirky gizmos and widgets; Develop business software for business phones. The people who will buy your software don't have iPhones. They have Symbian / Blackberry / WinMob smartphones and PDAs. There's a good reason for that."

    -Riiiggghhht., people only buy software on those old school, legacy platforms. The problem is the platforms you have listed are suddenly finding themselves in a whole new ballgame where their sales are being challenged by people buying iPhones.

    "No-one ever bought an iPhone for increased productivity, they bought them because they're supposed to be reliable and look stylish."

    -If that rationalization helps you sleep at night then by all means stick with it. I bought mine for increased productivity and it has paid off.

    "These people probably aren't the sort of people who'd use their iPhone for office stuff due to the lack of actual office apps available and the fact that there are far better devices for mobile office stuff out there."

    -And what would those devices be? . . . . Blackberry? . . . One continuous piece of crap after another. . . .Win Mobile? . . . You've got to be kidding. . . . Please enlighten me where this better device is?

    "People only buy Apple iPhones and iPods because they want one. It's a lyfestyle product,"

    -Again, if it helps you sleep at night then stick with this rationalization.

    iHaters stick with these old, tired (and false) attempts to belittle people who like the iPhone, and Apple products in general. I'll be the first to admit that different people like different products, so if something else works best for you, then fine. But the folks still repeating the fanboi, fashion statement theories behind Apple purchases need to wake up and pull their head out of the sand. People are increasingly buying Apple products because Apple is increasingly doing a better job of giving the consumer what they want.

  19. Mike Rouse

    Good Apps + Free Trial = Money for the Developer

    Easy - develop some apps that are worth paying a few more bucks for and we'll buy them... Try before you buy is a big must-have too.

  20. ShaggyDoggy


    That banned ad, you know "sequence shortened", was shown AGAIN yesterday 14-12-08

    WHY ???

  21. J

    Editor unavailable?

    "but there real boost was"

    Argh... That's the mistake I most love to hate. Not being a native speaker of this barbarian language, I get quite confused by this type of thing. Wake up, editor! (is there one?)

    @Thomas "which I consider fun but which is not exactly pretty"

    Well, at the risk of starting a flame war... I guess you're doing it right. I'd say pretty does not matter, as long as it's fun for most people. I mean, I still play stupidly simple games on my 8 year old Palm, and they sure are not exactly pretty in that handful of greyscale shades they come in. But since they are fun, I play them every once in a while.

  22. Thomas Silver badge

    @Anonymous Coward who replied to me & Mr ChriZ

    I've just reread my original post - sorry if that sounded a bit accusatory. I really meant "you haven't listed any specific deficiencies, so I'll assume you mean with respect to the enterprise". I do agree with you wholeheartedly that the iPhone is not an enterprise-class device. In my mind it's a consumer device that deserves healthy sales because of its best-in-class browsing experience but gets spectacular sales because it's pretty and has a lot of advertising revenue behind it. I think I essentially agree with The Reg's recent touchscreen roundup; it's a good phone but hardly a panacea. I apologise again if I sounded like I was trolling.

    @Mr ChriZ: I think perhaps you need to reappraise yourself of the market.

  23. Gulfie
    Thumb Up

    Look at the market, dummy

    Most iPhone users are NOT business users and as others have said before me, they will not pay top dollar for something which has a lifetime as long as the phone.

    Business is a different matter, if your company decides to use a 'killer app' on the iPhone then they are more likely to pay more for the investment. However I can only really see this applying to corporates - after all, small businesses are less likely to iPhone equip all their staff that need a mobile.

    I think Apple's best approach is to automatically prune any app that has fewer than 'x' sales or one or less stars after, say, 6 months - and allow alternative market places (where the tat can go). The apps could still go through an Apple approval process - the app goes in, a signed app comes out - allows Apple to keep their wreched control over what runs, without insisting that iTunes be the only distribution point.

  24. Justin Noel

    Easier App Discovery

    @Lyndon Hills : Browsing for apps in the App Store can be quite a pain. You have to page through them over and over each and every time you visit the store. Who is really going to do that?

    AppBeacon has an alternative. You can judge the apps as you go through the list of apps. If you don't like something, "Sink" it. You'll never see it again. You can also bookmark and marked as owned. Now, we've got the same 11k+ apps as the app store. Are you really going to page through all of them? No. So, just use "Sink All" in each category. From that point forward, you'll just see the news apps added to the store daily. Then, it's very easy to quickly go through the apps each day or once a week and find a few gems.

  25. Rick Brasche

    @AC missing functionality-AD2P?

    "Unless your business revolves around playing music from an iPhone through a set of A2DP speakers .."

    Pretty sure the iPhone, even at 2.02, is *still* missing AD2P without some sort of aftermarket plug in dongle that means your phone doesn't fit in the holster anymore..

  26. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down


    I'm sorry, but I tend to agree with those ACs. The iPhone is a consumer market gadget, either for people who want to show their phone "Look! I have this cool mobe!" or want an iPod that also makes calls. Most of the (few) people I know who have either bought iPhones or have them in their wishlist, want them to show them off to their peers as a status symbol.

    I bought a BlackBerry about a year ago, and I'm happy with the app market for this one, as I actually use the phone as a business tool; it also allows me to use IM apps which are able to run in the background so I can get IMs even when doing other stuff. I've also got push email, so receiving e-mails is practically the same for me as SMS.

  27. Stuart McKears

    If you want me to spend money...

    ...produce something that I'm going to keep coming back to.

    Too many apps/games are fun for a short while, but don't have enough to keep me coming back to play them again and again.

  28. MarkMac

    Not strange at all

    "it seems strange that Symbian, and Windows Mobile, users will happily shell out $25 for an application, while iPhone users balk at paying more than a dollar"

    Er, not when you've been severely stiffed for the original hardware. Anyone daft enough to by an iPhone will be so paying for it and the contract....

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just don't see the iPhone as expensive

    It's roughly £60 less than the equivalent-disk-sized iPod Touch, *and* it has a phone too. Yes it's got an 18-month contract, but most new phones do.

    The iPhone is £35 a month for 600mins, 500 texts and 'unlimited' data on 3g/edge or wifi. It just doesn't sound any more expensive than any other phone to me. Cheaper than my last package in fact.

    The Nokia N96 is £35 a month also, with admittedly more texts but no data included, and it costs £225 for the handset. That's almost £70 more than the iPhone. Aside from a better camera, what's that got that's worth paying all that extra for?

    As for not buying mobile apps, I think we've all been burned with that before. I remember seeing people waste a lot of money on crap software from Palm's store, only to find it poorly supported or that it didn't really do what it was meant to. Ditto for my crashtastic TomTom mobile software on Symbian or the so-bad-its-unplayable Sonic the Hedgehog on a k800i.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Business apps

    Quote: "Business is a different matter, if your company decides to use a 'killer app' on the iPhone then they are more likely to pay more for the investment. However I can only really see this applying to corporates - after all, small businesses are less likely to iPhone equip all their staff that need a mobile."

    Large businesses are likely to have or get their own apps developed for in-house usage only, and these apps will therefore not appear on any store. The one aspect of the iPhone that is always glossed over in these articles is that developing software for them is incredibly easy in comparison to some other platforms. Xcode and Cocoa are streets ahead for mobile application development.

    Also, isn't the app store only a few months old (four or so)? People write about it as though the thing has been running for years. There are very obvious flaws to the set-up but it is likely that they will change for the better with time. For example, one poor aspect of the store at this time is the review process itself. Apple needs to offer two levels of scoring - those for all versions as a whole, and those for each version released. This would help sort the wheat from the chaff when you come to assess the value of an application based on its reviews - many have low scores not because they are bad apps, but because they suffered the consequences of the instability of the earlier iPhone OS 2.0 and 2.1 releases. 90% of the 1 star reviews were nothing to do with the app itself, but were due to memory usage issues of the underlying OS. Developers should also have some means of requesting that useless reviews like this be removed.

  31. Alain Moran

    Enter the android manifest xml

    I recently attended a lecture by Romain Guy on the android UI at devoxx, and was introduced to the android manifest xml ... with the ability to re-purpose/use other application controls so easily its not so remote a possibility that application development costs can be brought down to a level where real profit is viable ... not having to re-invent the wheel every time could be a real saver ;)

    The lecture itself should be up on parleys dot com 'real soon now', so you can watch it and judge for yourselves ... much as I will get flamed here, I think that google has an edge with the manifest concept.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Most boring comments ever?

    Really disappointing set of comments. The usual under-educated (perhaps that's why they can't afford one?) Apple haters and some random wibble.

    Nothing really interesting or insightful: makes you wonder why they spent their time posting and wasting my time reading it.

    The average price of a non-iPhone app is not $25, that's a silly lie.

    The reason people don't pay more than a few dollars for *any* smart phone app is a) the really important stuff is included b) they don't need it and c) there's a lot of crapware out there, and reviews are often padded by the vendor, so any purchase is a risk.

    Because she has more brains than most posters to this thread.

  33. David Kelly

    Dumb comments

    I'm amazed at how some people think. Just because many people buy an iPhone to show off to their friends doesn't mean it's incapable of being used as a productive tool. That's like saying nobody could use a BMW M3 as a company car because it's flashy and has a fancy radio.

    I know a lot of people using iPhones as productive business tools.

  34. jubtastic1

    After checking Appcubby's offerings

    I can't help but think that a) some of that programming cost is spread across the rest of his Apps which are all basically the same thing, and b) the apps aren't rocket science, hard to understand why he needed to spend $29K on a programming team to develop them.

    Also 37 cents a click? the instant people realise that's Numberwang! Google's stock is going to fall off a cliff.

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