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The Problem with Pricing for Task apps on the iPhone

Posted by onlydarksets on October 3, 2008

I made a comment about TaskData (an app that syncs tasks directly with Exchange) being overpriced, and the developer, Phillip Zedalis, posted a response stating that he thought it was priced reasonably in relation to the other apps out there.  I actually agree that, relative to the other apps out there, it is priced correctly.  However, I think they are all priced incorrectly, and I wanted to expound on that.

First off, I strongly believe that Task synchronization should be handled by ActiveSync – it’s built into the ActiveSync specification, and Windows Mobile has no trouble doing it. There’s no technical barrier, so this is a business decision by Apple that baffles me, especially since they want to make inroads into the enterprise.

However, wishes are most certainly not horses, so that leaves us with no in-built Task support. Within the myriad of add-on Task apps out there, I see four classes of products:

  1. Those that sync with nothing.
  2. Those that sync with the cloud.
  3. Those that sync with Outlook (desktop client).
  4. Those that sync with Exchange.

Ideally, the leader should set pricing for everyone. In this case, I would consider that to be the best products in the fourth category (of which there is currently one – TaskData). However, pricing was set by the earliest products, which were in the first category. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think it has artificially raised the prices for all of the Task apps.

The first category (see about 200 apps) is worth no more than $1.99. I don’t care how many bells and whistles it has – if the data is stuck on the phone, the app is of marginal use.

The second category (see Appigo’s Todo) should be priced at $4.99. The power is not in the app – it’s in the cloud. The fact that a different third-party app (would that be “fourth-party”?) allows you to sync to Outlook (which can then sync to Exchange) isn’t a huge justification for its current pricing – for example, what if ToodledoSync ceases being developed?

The third category (see KeyTasks) should be priced at $6.99. Again, the power is in Outlook, and I think a premium is warranted for one-step syncing to your enterprise calendaring/messaging system (OK, it’s really two-step, since Outlook has to sync with Exchange, but that’s a zero cost process).

The fourth category (see, of course, TaskData) should be priced at $9.99. Here, the power is in the app – true one step syncing with Exchange.

So, that leaves Mr. Zedalis with two options:

  1. Accept the current pricing levels, take your premium, and make fewer sales.
  2. Price appropriately, increase sales, and force everyone else to adjust their pricing.

I don’t know the right answer – without access to sales data, it’s not possible to say which is correct, and even then it’s just forecasting. Long term, though, it’s usually option #2. I’m not saying he’ll double sales, but the increase in sales should offset the price difference (and then some). Of course, this is only an academic exercise for me – it’s not my product.


2 Responses to “The Problem with Pricing for Task apps on the iPhone”

  1. […] The Problem with Pricing for Task apps on the iPhone « onlydarksets (10:41:51) : […]

  2. […] 28 Oct 2008 The Problem with Pricing for Task apps on the iPhone […]

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