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Mac app pricing vs iOS

January 29, 2014

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In their Q1 2014 results, Apple stated that they sold 51 million iPhones, 26 million iPads and 4.8 million Macs. That is 77 million iOS devices vs 4.8 million Macs. Or approximately 16 times more iOS devices than Macs.

This statistic is also evident in app sales figures. In October 2009, my Meter Readings app made it to the 15th top paid iPhone app in the UK and at that time it had around 700 downloads per day (as a result of it being featured in The Sunday Times and then by Apple themselves – my normal sales figures are a LOT lower than this, believe me!).

Earlier this month I launched ATB Viewer, my first Mac app and a companion to Account Tracker on iOS. It soon made it to the 11th top paid Mac app in the UK, with just 40 or so downloads. Yes, 40. This just confirms that the market is significantly smaller and inline with device sales.

There is no real difference to the cost of developing an app for iOS vs one for the Mac. In fact I would say developing for the Mac is more time consuming, due to its older, convoluted APIs. So if it costs roughly the same, yet the available market is 15-20 times smaller, clearly Mac apps need to cost 15-20 times as much to make the same amount? And if a developer can’t break even, they are NOT likely to support the platform.

Of course, not all Mac apps are this expensive. However I can almost guarantee that the cheaper ones don’t make their developers any money at all. Chances are they will be working REALLY hard for next to no return.

So, on to the real reason for this post … 🙂

A couple of people have complained, saying my ATB Viewer app is “overpriced” or “not good value” at £4.99 (*). Sure it is more than an iOS app. Out of the purchase price, I get around £3. So on a day when I made it to the 11th top paid app in the UK, I made £120 (most of my sales are in the UK). It is looking like normal sales will be around 1-5 per day, or £3-£15. Given that it costs 10s of £1000s to develop an app (**), and £1000s to support it each year, it will take MANY YEARS to get the cost of development back, if ever!

When I do release a full version of Account Tracker for Mac (later this year), I will probably charge £14.99 as that seems to be the low end of the “better” finance apps. This would be discounted for a short period so that those of you who support me don’t feel they are paying twice.

In summary, I (and probably 99.999% of other app developers too) don’t make a lot out of app sales. For me it is a fun hobby, and I am thankful I have a full time job to support myself and my family. But having said that, I don’t feel I should work for nothing!

* £4.99 is 1 cheap bottle of wine, 2 coffees, or 1.5 pints of beer

** about the cost of a car, depending on its functionality