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How surprised can you be, really, that it’s apparently almost impossible to make a decent living selling quality apps on the app store? That’s the problem right there: making quality apps. People aren’t interested in great apps, they’re interested in mediocre apps that don’t cost any money.

Sure, if you’re lucky, a noisy minority of fussy coffee-swilling faux-aesthetes will pony up the $4.99 for the privilege of writing a glowing review on their anemic tech blog. You need the nod from the big boys (the Apple nerd industrial complex) for this to happen. But even if it does — and remember it really, really happened for Unread — it’s patently unsustainable.

Why is it unsustainable? Because the entitled culture that has sprung up around the buying of apps makes it very difficult for anyone to charge a fair price. In this case, factoring in the effort and expertise involved, a fair price is clearly more than what Jared was charging for Unread. But it isn’t as easy as just upping the price — because the nature of the App Store means that estimating how many units you’ll shift is very difficult. Much safer to charge something mid-range in hopes that it’ll appeal to more people, than charge an amount — what, $20? — that less people will pay. If you could get a good idea of who would buy such an app at a high price point, you could more comfortable sell it for “what it’s worth”.

This enforced distance between the customer and the developer has actually made a number of smaller shops eschew the App Store entirely, despite the inherent discovery benefits it confers. Naturally, because they’re already targeting the top end or specialty market, these developers can often afford to charge real money for their product. Look at Mars Edit, for example. Forty Dollars!

OK, I know, Mac software is a different story. You’re tied to the App Store for iOS, so there isn’t too much you can really do about it. If I was developing for iOS as a one-man shop I’d certainly be strongly considering a move to Mac apps. We keep hearing that the App Store gold rush is over. At this point if you’re making quality iOS apps you’re in it for love, more than money.

There’s no blame to be apportioned in this unfortunate scenario. Everyone involved is acting reasonably.

Apple have created an ecosystem for loading software onto their devices that has made them a bunch of money and vastly improved the effective value of the hardware they sell.

Consumers pay (or don’t pay) whatever they are asked. You can’t fault people for that. It’s not our job to give charity to developers. If we can get something for free or cheap, why not?

Developers are just charging what they think they can.

It’s not clearly in anyone’s best interests to depart from the way things work now. The only party that might have a shot is developers… and their incentive is damned low. Why put your small business at stake on the offchance of improving things for everyone else? That’s assuming that it would make much difference: after all, there are a few notable apps that charge a proper amount (Omnifocus, for example) and although they seem to be doing well for themselves they haven’t revolutionized anything.

Is there any way the trend isn’t towards worse apps and a monopoly by giant IAP crap-farms? I don’t see it.

The glory days of podcast networks the App Store are over.