Business Indie iOS

The Dark Side of the App Store

Ben Thompson: “My use of Paper is an essential part of stratechery, yet I needed to only pay $8.99 for two in-app purchases, for which I never need to pay again. That’s a hell of a bargain, but it’s ultimately unsustainable.”

It’s difficult to sustain a business on an app when you can only charge for the initial purchase. This is a problem Apple needs to solve on behalf of app developers.

By Rob Fahrni

Husband / Father / Developer

2 replies on “The Dark Side of the App Store”

I’m curious what people think is the solution here. Users see the scenario differently… they see that they spent $300 – $1,000 on a device (even if subsidized by a data plan) and thus paying a buck or two for apps is all they’re really willing to pay for an app… and oddly look at anything over $5 as expensive!

I think a subscription model can make sense but sadly not through apple or other vendor’s storefronts. The value has to be that you have an online service with ongoing fees… AND it enables a mobile app… with collaboration etc.

Having a mobile app be the sole income generation of a company just simply won’t cut it.

Consider this. If you have a 2 man team making an app that you sell for 99c you need to sell 140,000 copies every single year in order to make a $50k salary each. (and that’s with $0 spent on marketing)

Developers need to understand that profits from a mobile app can help compliment their salary but unless you hit the lottery of insanely popular apps you can’t live off of mobile app sales alone.


I agree with you, on many of these points. I’ve come to realize I can make a living creating apps for other people, and write my own, for fun. If I’m able to make a little extra cash from one of my own apps, great! If not, that’s OK. I’m definitely into it for the love of creating at this point.

I’d also like to venture into the Mac App market, or possibly do a productivity app on iPad. I have something in mind and my wife continually encourages me to purse development of this app. It’s something I have past experience with, something that was extremely successful. There’s definitely room for it on both the Mac and iOS, the “problem” is time. I figure it’ll take the better part of a year, full time, to create something worthy of shipping.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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