six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

Vesper updated for iPad, with a higher price

Last week the folks at Q Branch (John Gruber, Dave Wiskus, Brent Simmons) released Vesper 2.0051 with support for iPads and landscape orientation. I use Vesper as my jot-anything-down notepad, and am happy to have it sync with my iPad now.

The work that we did to support the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus left Vesper fairly close to being able to natively support the iPad — and to support landscape orientation on all devices.

At the same time, Q Branch has raised the app’s price to a $7.99 introductory level, which will rise to $9.99 in a couple of weeks. I asked John Gruber about this approach in email over the weekend.

You went down in price (“cheap”) and now you’re going back up. The way you phrase it on Daring Fireball, it makes it sound like this is not just a business decision—that lower prices were simply untenable—but also a bit of an attempt to start a trend. Is that accurate?

Yes, I hope so. I can’t speak for any other developers, but it blew me away in Panic’s annual letter when Cabel said that the revenue from their amazing iOS apps aren’t justifying the cost of building them.

Do the economics of an app like this just not work at those low prices? Does this also address the economics of the sync back-end, by pricing it as a premium app?

There’s a chicken-or-egg problem with some of this. Maybe the big problem with Vesper is that it was iPhone-only, and $2.99 would have suddenly worked great when we added iPad support. But I don’t think so.

The basic problem is that casual App Store users go for free apps first, and go for chart-toppers after that. And the only way to top the best-selling charts is with super-low prices. And the super-low prices don’t generate enough revenue to cover the cost of developing the app.

In most categories, and “notes apps” is certainly one, it’s not hard to find a “good enough” solution among the free choices, so most casual users never even consider a paid app. So I think it was a waste to try to entice them at $2.99.

Instead, we want to embrace the users who are looking for the best app, and who are willing to pay a fair price for it if they think Vesper might be it. Going low didn’t work; we lose nothing by trying to go high.

I would like to see other developers follow.

What I see is that among long-time Mac indie developers, almost all of them are still making the majority — often the vast majority, sometimes the entirety — of their revenue from Mac apps. That’s good business — the Mac market is willing to pay reasonable prices for apps. But it’s a lost opportunity for iOS as a platform. I think we’re lacking for good, deep quality apps on iOS.


  1. In the James Bond parody films my friends and I made in high school, 005 was an English agent killed in the very first scene, only to be revealed as having faked his death and turned evil. It sounds more exciting than it was. ↩