I priced SeattleBus, like many other iPhone application developers, in a bit of a vacuum. It’s hard to set a value, but I took a stab. The initial pricing tier was “15”, meaning the price that showed up on the Apple Store was $14.99. First day out of the gate – without the AppStore even really being to anything but the serious early adopters – I got panned in the reviews for the price. There were few other applications priced up that high, and universally the “reviews” of my Application reflected a sense of “costs too much”. It was also clear from a few of those reviews and a couple of emails that I received that I hadn’t done a decent job of making it clear what the application actually did. It’s all so clear to me – I’ve been working on the thing for months…
So last night after the Seattle Xcoders meeting we shut down the bar and I read the reviews aloud to my compadre’s over scotch (Macallan 12yr – nice stuff). We were laughing at the tone of some of them, but the message came through loud and clear. The tough question is what do you reduce the price to? What’s a reasonable value? It’s a damn tough choice. While I was laughing and agonizing over the reviews, Brent welcomed me to the world of “developers learning to get a thick skin”.
Earlier in the course of the night, I pestered lots of folks around me for what they thought. What would they do in my shoes? The end result of those conversations and my own thinking was to reduce the price to tier 10 ($9.99) – which I did late last night/early this morning. SeattleBus is a niche application, and I think the value of what you get from the application is sound:
- You can find bus stops near you and get arrival times for the routes that serve those stops.
- You can keep a stash of your “favorite” bus stops.
- And you can search the list of over 1000 recorded stops in the greater Seattle Metro area to find just the one you’re looking for.
Once you’ve select your bus stop, you get the arrival data for busses coming within the next 30 or so minutes, with detail on when those buses are scheduled to arrive, and a pretty darn good estimate of when they’re likely to really arrive. The data is provided as an online service by Seattle Metro (or MyBus.org – same thing under the covers). My application provides a nice user interface over the top and a convenience for getting to that data much more quickly than working through the web sites. Obviously I’m convinced that convenience is the key value.
I tacked into my calculations that this is a very niche application. I don’t know how many we’re talking about specifically – but it’s basically iPhone owners in Seattle, WA. I could re-work parts of the data and likely provide a version for Portland, OR – that’s would end up being a separate application and again we’re talking about a small niche compared to other iPhone applications. And no – I’m not likely to internationalize the application. The time effort of internationalization against the potential sales just doesn’t make sense.
Finally there’s looking at everyone else out there. Pinch Media has a nice graph of the price distribution of iPhone applications on launch day and an associated write-up. There’s a lot of activity in the $0 to $4.99 area – and if this was an application that would appeal outside a fairly narrow geographical area, I’d be way more likely to head into that region. Between $4.99 and $9.99 there’s a dead zone – and almost nothing until a huge spike at $9.99. Paul Kafasis seemed to have called that pretty well back in June in his article at Inside iPhone. A day later and pinch media updated it’s pricing histogram – more apps have pushed in, but there’s still this huge gap in the $4.99 to $9.99 price point – now with a little spike in the $7.99 area. In the end, with a fairly limited market and a pretty firm conviction that I’m adding sufficient value to warrant it – I went with $9.99.
SeattleBus a 1.0 application and I’m definitely planning on continuing to add value: I’ve got some improvements to make in the overall performance, I’d like to add some features like tracking by route, and potentially using that geolocation data to drop you to a map of where a bus stop is located on Google Maps. I plan to provide these (and potentially other ideas) as free updates to the $9.99 version. I’m not sure I’d be as ready to provide free updates to a $4.99 or lower priced version.
I’m planning on keeping the price point where it is now for a while – letting the launch really take hold, rather than whip-sawing around in any frenetic changes. Hopefully enough folks will bear out the value. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I also have other application ideas (some of which are better described as “whims”) that are coming along as well. I expect a number of those will fall in the free to $4.99 range.