Sunday, February 22, 2009

iPhone App Store Price Sensitivity

Free apps are everywhere and it's easy to download as many as you want. I've probably downloaded a dozen or more free apps that I haven't even opened. Ever. There's also a huge difference between a free app and a 99-cent one. I've bought 2 apps (99-cents each) and I've downloaded 30+ free apps. What's the mix on your iPhone?

I bring this up because app developers are trying to figure out the right model for the iPhone. We had some related data we shared at our recent TOC conference. Our CEO, Tim O'Reilly, mentioned that we introduced our iPhone: The Missing Manual as an iPhone app priced at $4.99. The app sold phenomenally well, but we wondered whether we were leaving money on the table, so we raised the price to $9.99.

Guess what happened? Tim noted that by doubling the price, we cut the sales to a quarter of their earlier levels. Yikes.

The lessons learned: First, there's definitely a good deal of price sensitivity in the App Store, even (especially?!) below the $10 point. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the convenience of always having your book with you is nice, but there's a point somewhere below $10 where the smaller screen's limits trump the convenience factor.

As a book publisher we'll continue experimenting on this front. Rather than just playing with price points and form factors though, I tend to think we need to focus more on the content. Instead of simply porting the print product to an app, what functionality can we add to create a richer reading experience that takes advantage of the iPhone's capabilities? IOW, forget about the limits inherent in a print the app so that it fully leverages the device!

Speaking of which, Amazon's new "Text-to-Speech" feature in Kindle 2 would be awesome on the iPhone, don't you think? See my Publishing 2020 blog post for more about this opportunity.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

So What About that Secret?...

I twittered it, but I neglected to write a short follow-up post here about the secret iPhone service I mentioned I had been testing last week. It was announced at the TOC conference on Tuesday and attendees had a chance to test drive it for free for a day.

What am I talking about? It's the mobile UI for Safari Books Online. The url is but it's still in beta for the time being. I'm told the service will go live for all Safari subscribers later this month.

What's so exciting about that? The Safari mobile UI will enable you to access your Safari book subscription from the convenience of your mobile device. I've been playing with it on my iPhone and it's terrific. I love that I can read portions of a book while I'm standing in line at the grocery story, sitting at the airport, etc., all without having to pull out my laptop.

If you're a Safari subscriber you'll soon have the same access I do. If you're not a subscriber, go check out the service now -- it's unbeatable access to an extensive library of books, all for about the price of one print book per month.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I Know a Secret...

...but I can't share it just yet. I've been beta testing a great new service on my iPhone and it's scheduled to be publicly announced at O'Reilly's Tools of Change (TOC) conference this week.

You can connect the dots a bit on this and easily figure the service has something to do with content/publishing, since that's the industry I work in and it's also the focus of the conference. All I can say right now is that this service is very cool, it's for a variety of mobile devices and it looks terrific on my iPhone.

Curious to hear more? Stay tuned, especially to my Twitter feed since that's where I'll be talking more about it during this week's conference. If you're interested in the publishing world but can't make TOC, be sure to also follow the #toc hashtag in Twitter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

RepairPal iPhone App

I usually buy my cars and drive them till they drop. Given current economic conditions I'm sure and more car owners will be doing the same. One of the worst aspects of this is needing a car repair and having no idea how much it should cost.

That sounds like a job for...RepairPal, a great little iPhone app that not only gives you cost estimates but also points you to garages in your area. Just broke down in the middle of nowhere and have no idea where the nearest garage is? Use your iPhone's built in GPS service to find the closest options. It's all built into this handy, free app. Highly recommended!

A tip o' the hat for this recommendation from blog reader Newt Barrett.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Favorite (Free) iPhone Apps...So Far

I've downloaded a boatload of apps on my iPhone over the past few months and thought I'd share a list of my top 5 favorites. They're all free, btw, partially a sign that I'm such a tightwad (I've only downloaded 2 paid apps so far) but mostly because there's so much great free stuff out there.

OK, here's my top 5, in no particular order:

TwitterFon -- I had been using Twitterific and several people told me about TwitterFon. It definitely loads tweets much faster than any other Twitter app I've tried for the iPhone.

USA Today -- I've always looked forward to the copy at my hotel doorstep when I'm on the road, but I don't feel that way anymore. Now I just pop open my USA Today app and read it on the go. Sure, some of the cheesy graphs and charts don't make it into the app version, but the stories all seem to be there. And as an added bonus, I don't get all that ink on my hands!

The New York Times -- I currently pay $13.99/month to get the Times on my Kindle. If they'd just add a "download" button to the app I'd cancel my Kindle subscription and just read it on my iPhone. And, I'd gladly pay Apple the $13.99/month I'm currently paying Amazon. I stick with the Kindle version now because I often find myself reading it on a plane and I can't do that with the iPhone version.

Instapaper -- This one sort of addresses that download issue I mentioned with the Times app. Have you ever found yourself reading a lengthy article in Safari and wanting to download it for later reading, especially if you expect to be without a wireless signal (e.g., on a plane)? If so, Instapaper is for you. It allows you to quickly download the current page you're viewing in Safari and read it later. Very handy.

iheartradio -- Apps like this and AOL Radio are further nails in the coffin of satellite radio services. I'm listening to WDVE out of Pittsburgh on it right now and I've also used it in my car and at the airport. The "portable" XM Radio device I used to own was never able to pick up a signal without the docking antenna. The iheartradio app gives you live access to loads of radio stations anywhere you can pick up a cell signal.

P.S. -- I bought my iPhone after baseball season but I suspect the app will slide into my top 5 later this spring...