Home > Announcements > Mac app pricing vs iOS

Mac app pricing vs iOS

January 29, 2014

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

  1. Mel Morc
    May 27, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    I agree with the comments above – would love to see a mac version of the Account Tracker and would welcome this as soon as possible. I have been looking at other Finance apps but they are all over priced for my needs.
    I’ve also created my own spreadsheet using numbers but it is a bit small when viewing and making amends on the iPhone.
    I’ve just given my iPad to my son and purchased a macbook air, hence am eagerly awaiting the mb version.
    £15.99? If it’s the same as the iOS version and will sync with my iOS devices then i’ll definitely pay.

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      Hi Mel, overpriced is a strong word. Developers can’t support their software unless they actually make money on it. Sadly the Mac market is much smaller than iOS (tiny in fact), so we need to charge a lot more for the same functionality. I doubt I will ever break even on a Mac app, never mind make a profit. 😦

      • Mel morc
        May 27, 2014 at 11:11 pm

        By overpriced, I meant for what I need to use it for – simple tracker of my expenses on my current account and couple of credit cards. I thought your note was v informative, especially as I was simply an “iOS only” person until a few weeks ago. Some mac apps I looked at were around £30-£40 but your app is simple (and I don’t mean simple in a derogatory term. ) and suits my needs perfectly!
        Are you still in 2 minds as to whether to go ahead with a full blown mac version (hopefully not 🙂 )
        Thanks 🙂

        • May 27, 2014 at 11:35 pm

          Hi, £30-£40 is a fair price for a bit of software you use every single day of your life, especially if it is very well supported. People are so conditioned to 69p apps, but these are only possible if you can attract 100s of 1000s of users. On a Mac this is simply not possible (see my post for an explanation why). I didn’t say I was in 2 minds. But I was hoping to see a lot more people buying my backup viewer to convince me its a worthwhile investment of my time. So far sales have been VERY disappointing. Perhaps people are holding off waiting for the full version? If so, they might have a long wait …

  2. Freda Forsythe
    March 17, 2014 at 8:46 am

    I’ve used your iOS app for years, loved it from the beginning and always felt quite annoyed when I’ve realised people are grumbling. The companion app for the mac is pretty useful even as a viewer, I know it will be terrific once it’s a full product, I’ll happily pay again.

    I think we have been given a false sense of pricing by apps being so low priced but I for one would rather pay a fair price for a good product than be inundated by the IAP model.

    Just wanted to say thank you for the hard work you have done on our behalf, my financial records have never been kept so well. Now I know where my money goes…. pretty frightening really…. if only you could also tell me how to spend less and earn more life would be sweet.

    • March 17, 2014 at 9:38 am

      Hi Freda, thanks for your post. Developers use IAPs because it is the only way to make any additional money from existing users. Without them we spend huge amounts of time and money developing enhancements that all existing users get for free. The only alternative is to abandon the existing app and make users buy a new one if they want continued support. It’s a difficult balance. 😦

  3. Neil Aubin
    January 29, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Hi Graham. The only reason I haven’t gone for the viewer is that I don’t need view only functionality on my Mac. Once the full version of the software comes out then I will purchase immediately. £15 is very reasonable and you could go higher in my opinion. Thanks for what you do – the single best supported application that I have ever owned, and happy to be quoted on that…

  4. Ian
    January 29, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Stick with it mate I appreciate ur apps, most of us spend more on a magazine that lasts a couple of hours keep going..Ian

  5. ericheaton@sky.com
    January 29, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Very interesting post Graham and enlightening. I do not know your motive in publishing the post but if it is because of complaints of the ‘high’ cost of your apps I am very sorry. I use Account Tracker, Meter Reader and Hill Lists. Apart from the fact that they keep my life in order I also derive a great deal of pleasure in ‘consuming’ these apps. So the initial cost of purchasing these apps is money well spent. And how many products do you buy nowerdays which are regularly updated for free ? It should be remembered that in the old days when purchasing PC software you had to pay for the product time and time again to keep it up to date. So I am thankful to people like Graham for developing apps which I enjoy using. In return I have no problem in paying a price to cover their costs and time which in any case ( and certainly for Graham’s apps) are relatively cheap and offer extremely good value for money. As a footnote, about a year or so ago I purchased a money organiser Mac app for over £30. This was after trying a number of similar apps for free taking out a free trial. The one I bought was the best but no way near the functionality and ease of use thst Account Tracker offers. I have now out of frustration stopped using this app and cannot wait for the Mac version of Account Tracker to be released.

  6. Steve Woolaway (SW1948)
    January 29, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Hi Graham: I think my app review actually says that AT is a ‘serious bit of software at any price’. I stand by that. Fully-functioned Account Tracker (with lifetime support) for MAC for a one-off £15? Sounds more than fair to me and I reckon it will to most of your loyal supporters who use MAC, but I can see how that price might deter new purchasers.

    Personally, as I appreciate the value of AT, it wouldn’t upset me if new users were charged say £5 initially then the remaining £10 after 6 months. They will be locked in by then. I know that smacks of ‘brand new customers only’ but you really should be making some money.

    I have always wondered how you can be delivering fantastic support for a brilliant app I would now be lost without, for a one-off £1.99 and be making any money. Now I know.

    ATB viewer only seems expensive (to some) I guess because its effectively a £4.99 ‘add-on’ to a £1.99 app.

    Just don’t get tired of your ‘hobby’.

  7. January 29, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Graham, Account Tracker is one of the best programs around, not only for what it does but mainly so for the Technical a Support you give VERY promptly. My only quip is about when it comes to reconciliation a credit card account, it does not do it as well as Quicken does, in that it allows you to add an item if you have forgotten about it, and still gives you the final total. It also then allows you to transfer the total from the current account.

    Regarding the cost of the Mac version, I for one think it is worth the figure of around £15 you anticipate charging. But you must allow a good discount to your regulars customers who feed you back comments, (difficult to manage) and the ones who are willing to take a risk to load one of the early versions and also those who have already loaded ATB viewer.

    I don’t know of any other app developers who respond to queries within hours of comments being posted. It is worth the money for the support.

    Keep up the good work. There are plenty of supporters of your Account Tracker program.

    • January 29, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Hi Byronski, re: reconciling, you can add a transaction while reconciling – just tap the + button at the bottom.

  8. Roger Ward
    January 29, 2014 at 2:03 am

    I think the very low price of iOS apps has given people unrealistic expectations of software prices in general. Ten years ago £4.99 wouldn’t buy any item of software at all.

  1. June 1, 2014 at 5:36 pm
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