I found out this morning that I have competition for Seattle Bus!
Barry Kaplan made a damn-near copy of my application and is selling it on the App Store for $0.99. From the initial reviews, he apparently started selling it for free. He also appears to have completely ripped off the icon from Zhenwang Yao – author of iBus-Portland (a similar concept application, except aimed at Portland’s transit system).
Good way to get some notice, no doubt about it. I’m giving huge points for being original. Of course, I give those same huge points to Microsoft quite a bit, and they’ve done OK.
Unfortunately in the iTunes search, his is showing up where mine isn’t on the search results page. Not surprisingly, my sales have dried to nearly nothing.
I’ve dropped the price on Seattle Bus to $4.99 now – I’d originally intended to do this as a one week sale to see how elastic or inelastic the price was on the market. I’m afraid that’ll be almost impossible to tell at this point.
If Barry (author of Seattle Metro) was hoping to rake in the big bucks with this fancy app, I’m afraid he’s going to be disappointed. I am glad to see more applications along these lines out there – if nothing else it will at least encourage King County Metro to realize that they’ve got a completely unfulfilled need out here. Not that I expect them to be able to make a decent application, at least based on existing efforts.
From a pricing perspective, I wonder if the application market can sustain the niche efforts at the incredibly low price points of $0.99 and the like. I staked my price higher because I believe in the value first and foremost – not comparing it to other applications (shoot, it’s free on the web) but to the value that you’re getting from the application compared to other things you’re paying. A ride at peak on Seattle Metro (outside the free-ride fare zone) is $1.75. That put Seattle Bus at roughly 6 rides. Seemed like a very fair recompense, especially considering that I didn’t have any base data to work from and put together all the points myself.
The money I have made on the application to date would not have been enough to pay a decent contractor for the exact same work. I seriously doubt that Barry will be able to make up the time he spent on the application with any reasonable wage.
In the larger market, I can see where a $0.99 application might just win for everyone. Low cost, impulse purchase, and a potentially huge market. You’ve fundamentally got to have the scale to make that work. For the niche applications like mine, it’s a much more limited demographic market – the scale just isn’t there.