iOS apps – Go Free or Die

As I work on building a small app business, its been great to hear the public commentary on pricing iPhone apps lately. The blog from Marco Arment and TechCrunch both point out clearly that mass market customer acquisition apps have to be free with in app purchases to have any chance of being downloaded.

Marco’s blog is especially interesting because he’s speaking from personal experience and is trying to solve a problem today. As a consumer myself, I’m much more likely to download a free app than a paid one. In fact, I only have one paid app on my iPad and none on my iPad. And.. I dont even use that paid application more that once a month. I have owned an iPhone for 5 years and an iPad for 3 years. 90% of apps on the Apple app store are free and 6% are priced at $0.99 as per Flurry, a market research firm.

There is also a great book by Chris Anderson called “Free” that can help you understand how to make free work for you. Even this book is no longer available for free. You might be able to find an illicit copy but its worth buying on amazon if you really serious.

Personally, I don’t see the point of creating a free app that provides a ton of value to the user. Your free app only helps Apple build a stronger ecosystem around the iPhone. Build something of value and don’t be afraid to charge for it.

I’m looking at building an location based iPhone app to help tourists. I am confident that I don’t want to give this app for free. I want to charge $20. You may think that this is absurd considering what I just wrote before but the fact is that this application is not a mass market app. It is a niche app for a very small and targeted set of customers. And, in talking to these customers, they have indicated that are comfortable paying $20 for this app. I dont think this app will make millions of dollars let alone even $500,000.

To get $500k, I will need to sell this application to 25,000 customers. That will take more than 20 years based on current estimates of users. 🙂

So.. why build it? Because I believe in the usefulness of the idea and the value it provides users. I dont expect to spend a lot of money building it and I already have customers to sell it to.



Buying an iPhone 5 on craigslist

I recently bought a used iPhone 5 on the SF Bay craigslist. I wanted it to be unlocked so that I could use it in India. I could not find a checklist of things to test online so here’s my list. Hopefully it will help your buying experience easier.

General guidance

  • Only search for factory unlocked phones. Buying locked phones and hoping you will be able to unlock them somehow just leads to stress and early death.
  • Reject low ball and high ball offers. As of today $450 seems like a reasonable after market price for a phone is reasonably good condition
  • Prefer postings that have photos so that you are not surprised by the appearance of the phone at the meet.
  • Meet in a public place, preferably an ATT or Verizon store so that you can get the phone working at the store before you buy. This guidance is only for folks that have a US number.


  • Ensure that the phone is under warranty before you buy. This will save you a lot of hassle in case anything goes wrong. The phone I bought had a bad power off/sleep button. I found this out after the transaction was over. Luckily the phone was under warranty and apple gave me a brand new unit 🙂 So… the warranty is really valuable!
  • Ask the seller to send you the warranty status by sending you a screenshot from this page:
  • You should also ensure warranty status by going to: and entering the device serial number yourself.  You can find the serial number by going to Settings->General->About.
  • Check the phone is unlocked and that its IMEI number is not blocked. This ensures that the phone is not stolen by going to atleast two sites and confirming the status is the same on both. You can find the IMEI number by going to Settings->General->About. Here are the sites I used:
  • Try to have your “nano sim” ready so that you can test it in the new phone. The iPhone 4S sim is a micro SIM and it will not work in the iPhone 5
  • Check the phone for defects by:
    • Making a call
    • Test the speaker during the call
    • Test the headphones
    • Test the mic if its built in to the headphones by voice the “Voice memo” app under utilities
    • Test the home button works
    • Test that the lock/sleep/switch off button works
    • Test that the charging cable works. This was not working for me and I was able to get $20 back from the seller. There are lots of “lightening” cables that are not legit. So, do check this before you buy.

Oh, before I forget, keep your fingers crossed. 🙂

Hope this helps