Whatley Wednesday - Should Gravity come down?

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In our first Whatley Wednesday the topic for consideration is the pricing of applications. Comments and feedback appreciated.

So this week saw the long-awaited release of Gravity, the S60 Twitter app to end all Twitter apps. Brilliant.

I, like many others, had heard a lot about this mystical application from all manner of sources; with many of my friends and peers being on the early beta, the reports that came back were very good indeed.

In fact, my first experience of Gravity was when my good friend Jonathan Greene made a surprise appearance at the London’s Social Media Cafe and gave me a demo in person:

Twitter conversation

Very swish indeed.

I said to Jonathan at the time: “Wow! This is just like Tweetdeck, but for your mobile... Sweet!”

One week later, March 30th rolls around and Gravity is finally set to come out from under the radar. Public release is upon us and travelling into work I download the trial. For some reason, it doesn’t even register that I might have to pay for this application, don’t ask why – it just didn’t. Mere minutes later, post-installation, I log in, have a play and overall, I must say I was rather impressed. However...

Later on that morning I see this Tweet from @MunkiMatt

Twitter extract 2

How much?! £7?! £7.25 to be precise. That’s how much.
£7.25 for a single application. One. One application.
Seven. English. Pounds.

This – in my honest opinion – is too much. There are many of you who will disagree with me, this I know. But put those thoughts to one side and join me if you will, while I travel the road of mobile application enlightenment. These are different days my friends, and the real time of the S60 app is nearly upon us.

So, from the off I need to put my hands up and say that I know very little about the S60 development process. I am reliably told that it’s not the easiest thing in the world and I know that designing, writing, coding and releasing an app of this standard is no overnight job. However, from the many, many conversations I’ve had with Android and iPhone developers alike, there seems to be a definite ‘sweet spot’ to hit when monetising mobile apps. And in my opinion, Gravity is simply just too high.

A year ago, £7.25 would’ve been fine. No doubt it would have been seen as a bargain in fact. But today, you just can’t expect people to pay that much for a mobile application! Yes it’s advanced, but by breaking that psychological threshold of £5, you automatically freeze out a certain portion of your market. Why not set it at £4.99? I think I would’ve bought it for that much.

Better yet, sell the first 200 at £2.50, get your early adopters in quickly and then up the price to £4.99. That way, the first group take it away to play, review, talk, shout, and converse and eventually word will spread.

The market has changed folks. Dramatically. And as much as I’m loathed to say it, thanks to the iPhone App Store and more recently the Android App Store, consumers (normobs if you will) are used to paying £0 < £3.00 for their applications. Anything more than that is an indulgence at best. Here’s an example;

Take a brand new N95-owning average Joe and his iPhone-owning mate. They’ve both heard of this ‘Twitter thing’ and they both want the best app for the job. Your iPhone man goes for Tweetie and spends his £1.79, while our N95 friend goes for Gravity.  Now, who’s actually going to tell me that the N95 user is going to be happy with the 400% increase in price for what is ostensibly the same app. Anyone?

No. Didn’t think so.

Yes, I imagine that many of the readers here think that £7.25 is not that expensive at all. Coming from the world of Handango and paying through the nose for uber-powerful Symbian applications, I’m not surprised! But times are changing. With the Ovi App Store just around the corner, S60 developers will not be able to get away with/have to settle for this kind of pricing anymore.

The arguments I’ve faced since Monday around this issue range from; people believing that the app is simply worth £7.25 (really?), to blaming the strength of the Pound vs. the Euro/Dollar (where they might have a point). Some have said that distribution is a problem, with the G1/’iPhone’ App Stores creating such easy routes to market that the S60 world is just left standing (maybe Ovi will help solve this one). We shall see.

For the record, I think Gravity is awesome. It is by far and away the best native S60 application for Twitter currently available.

But until the price drops below my own psychological threshold, I’ll be sticking with Dabr.

Additonal reading:

iPhone Apps: Ad Revenues Stinks

G1 Apps: Low Volume, Low Cost

About the author: James Whatley

Ex-MIR contributor James Whatley is Head of Digital & Social Media at SpinVox, advisor to free mobile web Twitter service Dabr and founder of The Mobile Geeks of London. An avid blogger (and rumoured to be one of the faces behind the yet-to-be-released Really Mobile Project), Whatley's personal blog can be found at http://whatleydude.com.