Paid Apps Might Be Dead, Products Are Not.

Everyone says that “paid apps are dead”. If you follow famous bloggers and developers, you’ve probably seen that already. Marco Arment, a man behind Instapaper, said that “Paid-up-front iOS apps had a great run, but it’s over“. Our good friends David Barnard and Jeremy Olson also support this point. Sarah Perez made even deeper analysis on the issue and backed up the data with Distimo reports. It’s clear that, indeed, people tend to download free apps more than ever before. But it does not necessarily mean that the era of paid apps is over.

While paid “apps” might be in trouble, decent “products” that solve real life problems can still generate enough cash to run a sustainable business.

Apps are commodity now.
Apps are those little things on your home screen that can be easily replaced. The majority of those apps bring little or no value at all, except some occasional entertainment. There are of course great apps out there that cost as much as those crappy ones. This is exactly one of the reasons why people don’t want to pay up-front. With almost 1 million apps on the App store, the chances of downloading a great app are low. The App Store discovery is somewhat broken, but that’s a whole another topic.


Build products, not apps.
When we talk about products, we think of something more valuable, more useful and reliable. If the product brings value and solves your real life problem, wouldn’t you want to pay for it? Examples? Evernote, 1Password, PDF Expert, Pages, calendar apps, I can go on. The difference here is that they help us to do things better, faster and easier. The value of a product goes beyond your device. It allows you to experience things in real world. Would you want to keep your passwords? Would you want to keep your notes or documents? Would you want to get your cash back by scanning and faxing the restaurant bill? The answer is yes.


People are willing to pay for good software. Not only does good products have great UI, but also they carry some serious engineering behind them. This gives a great advantage because it’s not easy to copy or replicate.

The takeaway.
The gold rush is over. Building and selling paid software is hard. But if you build a great product that targets a certain group of people with a specific need – you can sell it. The opportunity is there! The App Store is an amazing global distributional channel, and you can use that!

So it’s up to you whether you could (or not) build a sustainable business around your apps. We, at Readdle, will do our best to prove that great products are worth paying for.

*Evernote is free, but it was just an example of a great product that helps me to organize my life. And I do pay them.

by Denys Zhadanov