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Does anyone else feel like mobile apps are too cheap to purchase?

almost 4 years ago from , Product Designer

Does anyone else feel this way? I hear people complain about having to spend $1-5 for an app when they probably spent more than that on their vanilla latte. Meanwhile, an app for the desktop computer that is $10 seems incredibly cheap. Thoughts or any related reading material?

28 comments

  • Phil RauPhil Rau, over 3 years ago

    This is an effect called "anchoring," a cognitive bias that affects how people perceive numbers in relation to the first number they see.

    A classic "lab-experiment" example of anchoring is this: If you ask a group of people to write down the last two digits of their phone number, then ask them to estimate the number of African countries in the United Nations, people who's random digits were higher will guess systematically higher than those whose digits resulted in a lower number. The first number you see in a situation "anchors" you, and you tend to skew any numbers following that number towards it.

    Similarly, with pricing, people will get accustomed to a certain price baseline in a product category and will interpret all other prices according to that baseline. Restaurants often anchor their customers by placing an expensive bottle of wine on the top of the list as a decoy, so that all the other bottles look inexpensive by comparison.

    With apps specifically, people are spoiled by many apps being free and the first apps being $0.99. Despite wild improvements in technology, app quality, and capabilities for apps, most people are still anchored to that low, low price tag. Similarly, many people are anchored to $5.99 for a cup of coffee, so it won't feel strange to them to refuse to pay $1.99 for an app they'd use every day, but gladly pay $4.50 for a mochaccino.

    29 points
    • Dylan SmithDylan Smith, over 3 years ago

      I was with you until you mentioned six bucks for a coffee. What?

      2 points
      • Phil RauPhil Rau, over 3 years ago

        I'm not much of a coffee drinker – I'm content with the office coffee. I was just guesstimating what Starbucks might charge.

        3 points
      • Adam RasheedAdam Rasheed, over 3 years ago

        $4.50's not bad for a latte at a decent coffee shop in the U.S.

        1 point
      • Aaron Wears Many HatsAaron Wears Many Hats, over 3 years ago

        Perth, Western Australia here. A flat white can easily cost you five to six bucks.

        0 points
        • Connor NorvellConnor Norvell, over 3 years ago

          is Australia as amazing as it seems like it is?

          1 point
          • Aaron Wears Many HatsAaron Wears Many Hats, over 3 years ago

            In what way?

            I do love it, there's something special about the land. However I would think everyone feels that way about where they're born. But the beaches are awesome, the bush is awesome. The city I'm in is pretty small in terms of culture... which is changing slowly... But most people who come to visit do love it.

            Melbourne/Sydney are the real hot spots if you're after city culture, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory are better if you're into the outdoors. Not all of the wildlife is out to kill you though. Just a fairly good majority of plants, animals, and fungi that are. But not all. ;)

            Living is a bit expensive though. And we've got some ass-backwards laws about stupid things, and our government is terrible. So it's probably just like [literally everywhere else in the world] in that regard. And buying a house is extremely expensive unless you want to live in the country (which isn't at all bad).

            It's certainly worth the visit though if you're ever interested in the place.

            1 point
    • Ryan RushingRyan Rushing, over 3 years ago

      Damn, +1 for bringing out the behavioral psychology. Didn't expect to see such good commenting on DN this early in the morning.

      1 point
  • Norm Sheeran, almost 4 years ago

    This is the exact reason iPad Pro will struggle to attract developers who intend to develop pro level apps. I've had numerous requests:

    'hey, any chance of getting your $79 macOS app for iPad Pro?'.

    My response is always the same:

    'Maybe, but would you be willing to pay $79 for it on iOS?'

    I feel like I already know the answer before I ask the question.

    5 points
  • Steve Berry, over 3 years ago

    I do. The problem is very small teams create cheap apps as a springboard for their consulting...which makes them a lot more money.

    Honestly what is more valuable to your career? Saying you made $150k charging for an app nobody heard about? Or made $30k for an app that everyone has? Unfortunately I see the latter all the time in the mobile application space.

    5 points
    • Alex HoffmanAlex Hoffman, over 3 years ago

      Hmmm, very interesting insight, I could totally see that being a thing. Also, I wonder if it's part of the reason so many apps are free with ads/in-app purchases. I know for games, they probably make hand over fist for in-app purchases.

      1 point
  • Dean HaydenDean Hayden, over 3 years ago

    Traction and penetration, it's really as simple as that. Perception of value with anything that isn't tangible (i.e. It's not a physical thing) is exceptionally low these days.

    1 point
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, almost 4 years ago

    The value is always subjetive. Cannot be compared against other things. It's the utility that mostly defines the price.

    0 points
  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, almost 4 years ago

    I could count on one hand the apps on my phone that actually increase my productivity or that I can genuinely use for work (Timepage - £4.99, Ulysses - £17.99, Google Maps, Translate, Docs - all my location data and my first born son, Canvas for Photoshop - Free).

    The truth is, mobile apps just cannot do as much as desktop ones can - despite what Apple would say, there's no real design software on the iPad yet for example. If you look at office software on the other hand, that costs the same as on Desktop.

    With a coffee, you know what you're getting. With apps, there's a good change they will not be that useful, even though the team making it put a ton of work into building it.

    For me, personally, games are a whole new story - there are some amazing mobile games out there and most of them are worth more than what they ask (like the Go series that costs just £4.99). But then again, there are so many bad games and no good way to try them before you buy that people have become skeptical. The price of apps is the same regardless of weather you live in the richest part San Francisco or a suburb of Kiev, whereas coffee will be priced in relation to the economy. So while to you living in SF $10 might seem cheap, it certainly is not for most of the world.

    0 points
    • Matthew O'ConnorMatthew O'Connor, almost 4 years ago

      mobile apps just cannot do as much as desktop ones can

      I just got my iPad pro last week and this is not the case. Adobe Illustrator Draw and Adobe Comp are phenomenal tools.

      I had an iPad 2 years ago and the apps didn't hold up in my workflow, but these new ones are in a whole other league.

      Side note, I did buy an app 2 years ago for £40+. But that was for a mini DAW (Korg Gadgets). But I don't know how often I will be dropping that price on iPad apps again, unless a great amount of functionality is provided.

      0 points
      • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, almost 4 years ago

        Alright, show me a real project you did in Comp.

        1 point
        • Matthew O'ConnorMatthew O'Connor, almost 4 years ago

          As stated I just got this iPad last week, but I'm going to work Comp into my workflow as a midfi wireframing tool (lofi being quick sketches). Currently non of my open tickets have gotten to this stage.

          Adobe Draw on the other hand has been used on 3 stories so far. From mind mapping, lofi quick iteration of ideas (crazy eights), down to a more in depth hand drawn wireframe concepts.


          The iPad is a great tool now that iOS11 + iPad Pro 2 are a thing. And having my hand drawn notes with me everywhere trumps my old system of drawing on my whiteboard desk and having to remember to take pictures of them if I want to work remote.

          0 points
          • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, over 3 years ago

            That's interesting, maybe the iPad pro + apple pencil is better. I have an iPad Air 2 and I have used Comp to sketch out an idea if I was feeling too lazy to get up and get my computer and I tried several of the notes / sketching apps out there (Paper by 53, Notability, all of adobe's apps).

            One question though, do you have any problems typing / writing? That situation seems like a mese to me: I have bad handwriting so I prefer typing whenever it's an option, the ipad keyboard is too difficult to set up and requires a flat surface, the built in one is not very fast. How do you use it?

            Despite this though, I'd say my point stands. You are only using your ipad as a companion, not as a main work tool. I wasn't saying iPad software isn't impressive today (and ipad apps do cost more than iphone apps - check things 3), but you still can't do as much with it as you can on a computer.

            0 points
            • Matthew O'ConnorMatthew O'Connor, over 3 years ago

              I wouldn't use an iPad without Pencil, also the new Pro has a higher refresh rate that makes the pencil feel a lot smoother. I used to have a mini with a dumb stylus, but it didn't cut it. It was all to cumbersome. And even cool apps from back then like 53 Paper are shit in comparison to Adobe draw.

              I'm not using the iPad as a companion. I'm using it as my initial design tool. i.e. all my hifi designs are still in sketch on a laptop, but every other design job (planning, ideation, wireframes) I want to do on the iPad. A device that has nothing else apart from design tools. A device with no notifications and distractions that I get on my laptop.

              As for typing... I try not to type as much as possible. At this stage in my process I only add about a couple of key words (the rest lorem or squiggles), so I don't mind my scruffy writing. Even if I was to use Comp to build a site , I would stick to lorem and then add real copy once it has been handed off to a laptop.

              http://i.imgur.com/Q9MgaS3.png This is an lofi mockup I'm playing with right now to explain an idea to a PM. I keep the copy to a minimum to highlight the overarching structure of it. And words are used - like the colours - only to highlight key parts.

              My old drawings on paper and on my desk were never as vibrant and useful as I'm able to make with Adobe Draw. And the fact that they are vectors is a bonus (no blurry lines like in 53 Paper).

              I don't think I can do as much as I can on a computer no. But a layperson who only uses a browser could defo get away with it. I am however able to do things I can't do on a computer with ease. (I could get a wacom and learn that, but I don't like being tethered, and drawing 1:1 on the screen is much more natural).

              1 point
              • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, over 3 years ago

                Interesting, I didn't know the pro ipads were that good. I still have no intention of spending close to a grand on an ipad just for this, but I will keep it in mind.

                0 points
                • Matthew O'ConnorMatthew O'Connor, over 3 years ago

                  I would never spend that amount either. It was a work expense.

                  I noticed my weakest part of my skills are the early design phases and with that I decided I needed to change things. This lined up with the iPad finally having a decent OS. Pre iOS 11 iPads were a large phone, but the future is finally looking more pro oriented. With an iPad specific doc, better multitasking, decent copy/paste support and finally a f'ing file manager!

                  You could really tell in the last WWDC that Apple were sorry that they have been forgetting about the pro users.

                  1 point
                  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, over 3 years ago

                    Maybe it's better on the pro with all the accessories (which, if your company pays for, are great, but otherwise you'd have to be insane to spend £877 on the smallest iPad), but after trying iOS 11 on my iPad, I don't feel there's much there. Yes the dock is nice but does it bring any new functionality or save us that much time? Multitasking is more or less the same as it was in iOS10. Does the Files icon really do anything if you don't use exclusively Apple apps?

                    There are notable improvements, don't get me wrong, but it is definitely not worth the huge price hike.

                    Speaking of process though, I always found it easier to use pen and paper because writing is something we've been doing for thousands of years, whereas digital devices are less than a few decades old, so it feels way more natural and intuitive to sketch on paper. Do you not find it cumbersome? Again, you have the pro so I'm comparing using Adobe Comp with my finger vs sketching not using the Apple Pencil at a refresh rate so high it feels like real paper.

                    0 points
                    • Matthew O'ConnorMatthew O'Connor, over 3 years ago

                      On this iPad I have about 10 installed apps (all productivity and design apps, no games or crap), in folders, all accessible from the dock. Nothing on the main springboard page. This means I can open any of my apps with a swipe up form anywhere. That plus a further view of all open apps with another swipe up - and the old 5 fingers to swipe to the old apps - makes multi tasking much more fluid.

                      The finder having an iCloud folder is the beauty for me. As any drawing I do can be saved to iCloud and become easily accessable from my laptops finder. The Adobe apps also have a push to your comp (that even opens closed apps) which is also snappy for handing off between design phases.

                      I got into design because I can use a computer and started from the pure aesthetics side. I'm not a fan of paper, which is why I upgraded to a whiteboard desk, but the added need to digitally process that - with photos or redrawing in sketch - was a bit of a bottle neck. I also make a lot of mistakes, which means I have to redraw stuff and waste a lot of paper. That is mitigated with a digital workspace.

                      I'm also excited to use this device whilst watching tv to doodle and learn to draw better. And I'm also playing around with building a custom typeface of my own hand writing in Adobe Illustrate. I have a typographic grid as an image layer and above that drawing in my handwriting as vectors.

                      This is definitely not a tool for everyone, but it is fitting into my workflow/life simply and increasing my time designing a lot.

                      1 point
                      • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, over 3 years ago

                        I see. Well thanks for sharing your workflow. I'll keep the pro iPad in mind and watch it as it gets better over the years. For now, my iPad is more than perfect for what I use it - reading, browsing the web, games

                        0 points
  • Razlan HanafiahRazlan Hanafiah, over 3 years ago

    That's why most free games have in-app purchase

    0 points