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Apps Analysis – Is There an iPad Apps Tax?

by on March 22nd, 2011

As an avid iPad user, I spend a lot of my hard-earned cash on apps. I’m sure you’re in the same boat. Furthermore, if you also own an iPhone, then chances are good that you have the same apps on both devices. That’s the beauty of multiple devices running the same OS, right?

Well…maybe.

More recently, I’ve been noticing that my credit card has been racking up quite a lot more iTunes Store charges than before, so I decided to sit down and do some maths based on the top paid apps from both the iPad & the iPhone side. What I found was quite shocking. Here’s some non-scientific numbers to get you started.

Top Paid Apps Are Predominantly Device-Centric

A quick analysis of the top 200 apps in the iPhone store yielded only 24 native cross-device apps. That’s just 12%. This, in itself, isn’t much of a shocker. After all the iPhone is a lot more pervasive than its tablet cousin. When you do the same analysis on the iPad side, however, you still only get 63 of the top 200 apps are native cross-device. That’s 31.5%. Better, but that’s not even 1/3 of the top apps.

What’s a bit more interesting is that the top native cross-device apps doesn’t even appear until the 15th position (iPhone; Minute to Win It) and 16th spot (iPad; Infinity Blade).

But Wait A Minute…Aren’t There A Lot of App Overlaps?

Well…yes. There are a lot of familiar apps that span across both the iPhone [or iPod Touch] and the iPad including Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, MotionX GPS and Fruit Ninja. However, all of these mentioned have a specific HD or “for iPad” version that costs marginally more than its iPhone cousin. In fact, in the top 200 paid apps, there are over 60 apps that overlap both lists, of which only 14 natively offer cross-device functionality. The rest are “HD” versions of the iPhone app.

Now, I’m not saying that app developers are gouging or milking us for the extra dollar. I’m sure many “HD” edition apps have been optimized and re-designed to suit the tablet experience. As a proponent of value for value, I should be fine with paying for the optimized functionality and design. As a consumer, however, the steep incremental cost just feels too much.

So Let’s Force Native Cross-Device Compatibility Then!

Easy, right? Nope.

Forcing native cross-device compatibility isn’t an option. Let’s keep in mind that not all iPhone owners have iPads, and vice versa. The iPad is still a very pricey device, and only a handful of people I know have one, whereas iPhones are still quite prevalent. Doing this will only raise app prices and delay product launches and bug fixes. Under the same value for value concept, this simply makes no sense.

So Is There A Way Out?

Maybe there’s a middle ground we can strive for here, but it’ll need Apple to step in.

Apple can allow developers to incrementally charge for the cross-device version of the same app via an ‘In-App Purchase’-like mechanism. This may lower app costs slightly [unlikely though], but should suffice in making consumers happy.

Would Apple make this happen? To be honest? Not really. At a 30% cut across all iOS apps, Apple stands to make more money keeping the existing double-dipping model in place. Though a man could dream, no?

Want to check my App Store maths? I’ve uploaded the data I’ve used to Google Docs here.

Do you feel like you’re being double-dipped? Let us know in the comments below!

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Posted under: App Store

  • http://twitter.com/rpokane Richard OKane

    Put SlingPlayer in this category…$30 for iPhone, and then another $30 for the iPad.

  • http://twitter.com/scwleung Sam Leung

    Oh wow! I didn’t even realize that!

    Are the two versions all that different?