I came across an interesting blog post earlier, in which the creators of some iPhone applications dropped their pricing and asked their users to consider donating money to them if they felt the applications were worth more. This being a reaction to applications on the store generally trending towards $0.99 in a massive war of attrition among the 15,000 applications there. It’s a market worth fighting for considering there are 5 million downloads a day, but you need to be compelling, and price is the easiest way to do that. Not necessarily the best though. I had never heard of their apps, so I went to their site to check them out and they certainly look good - something that a lot of the apps I’ve tried don’t, but I noticed straight away that it was basically just the same idea rehashed in a few different forms. I felt compelled to comment on their forums:

I’m not trying to be dismissive of your work, indeed I’ve never tried any of your apps (nor would I, since I don’t have a car, go to the gym, etc. I’m lazy and I live in a big city). My natural reaction when I see a selection of apps such as yours is that you’ve had an idea and you’re trying to milk it. Again, I’m not trying to be mean or cruel, it’s just my gut reaction. You appear to have some very pretty and quite flexible technology for logging events, and jotting up costs, so why is there not a single awe-inspiring app for people to do those things in the way *they* want to, not the way *you* want them to. $5 just to keep track of fuel bills seems a bit bizarre when you can just keep a stack of paper receipts, or search your online credit card statements. However, a generic tracking tool that lets you create arbitrary tags…. that’s a whole new kettle of fish, I could be tagging any work related expenses, things that relate to clothes, or iphone apps, and it’s entirely up to me to develop a workflow that I’m comfortable with. I could also be logging when I go to the gym (if I did), and when I walk to work, which kinda counts as keeping fit, or when my washing machine breaks down so I can complain to my landlord, etc, etc. I think it’s deeply unfortunate that you’re finding yourself in a situation where you feel you are undervaluing your hard work, nobody likes that kind of thing, and I don’t at all doubt that a significant factor is the general race-to-the-bottom of pricing in the AppStore. At that point it seems like the best way to succeed is to stand out on quality and features. Your screenshots suggest you have the design flair to pull off a quality application, but you’re deliberately trying to restrict the features in each app, so people end up buying two apps if they want to track gym and fuel events, but they still can’t record their expenditure on flowers for their wife. Make a free, or $0.99 app that lets people track two or three things, and a $5 app that lets you track as much as you want. I would buy it the $5 version and my gut feeling is that lots of other people would too.

The interesting thing is that I actually asked a Mac developer friend of mine the other day to consider making a generic kind of event logging app, because I do have infrequently recurring events I’d like to keep track off, and I might well be tempted to keep track of arbitrary groupings of expenditure if I had the facility, but I have no reason to buy an application for tracking car fuel costs, or company trip expenses. As it happens I don’t have a car, but even if I did I would feel like I should be buying something that can track *anything* and creating a tag for car related expenses, and a second tag for fuel expenses, then creating events with both those tags when I fill the car up. I guess my fundemental problem is that the iPhone is a general purpose computer, but these apps are very specific in their functionality, and that fundementally annoys me.