Can you make money on Blackberry or iPhone apps?

Lots of people ask the question – can you make money writing apps for smart phones like the iPhone and Blackberry?  There are certainly stories of great successes, but many more of disappointment.  An app is written, released, great reviews are written, and the sales don’t come.

It has been interesting trying to develop and promote the “A Touch of Learning” web site (iPhone app reviews for preschool children) and talking a bit with different developers.  Some are doing well, others are not.  Certainly the Apple app store makes it easy to get an app out there, but that does not mean success.

One article I found recently was Versatile Monkey’s story about a Podcast app for the Blackberry.  It was selling for $10 – more than most iPhone apps, for all the iPhone hype, there are many more Blackberry devices out there than iPhones.  And for all the success, getting in on the ground floor etc, the analysis was it could turn out to be a good second job – certainly not a replacement for a day job.

And maybe that’s how it is.  Because its so easy to get an app out there, unless its a truly innovative idea, its better doing it as a part time venture as it may or may not succeed.  There are lots of other programmers out there also probably developing and releasing apps because they can (whether they make money or not).  Building a businesss on iPhone or Blackberry apps, like any other software, is by no means a certain thing.  It is certainly possible to be successful, but not just because its easy to get an app out there.

It reminds me of one theory of pricing I read somewhere which said all products are eventually driven towards the cost of producing one more copy (not the initial copy).  Software sold via the iTunes store has zero cost to download.  So eventually any useful app is likely to become free.  Someone who does not plan to make money out of the software sale itself will eventually release a copy.  Of course its easy to come up with exceptions – it is just a theory after all – but it was interesting to see iPhone app prices tend to dive to the bottom end of the price range as that becomes the expectation of buyers.  “A $2 app! Gee, what a rip off.” Hmmmm.

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