There Are Four (+1) Audiences in the App Store

There’s been a significant amount of chat about how the traditional ‘sell something for money’ model no longer really works in the iOS App Store (and likely never has in the Android/Google Play stores).

NB: Tweetbot is an outlier.

With Apple’s recent touting of ‘free’ being a good price for their iLife and iWork suites it’s clear that the software complement to their hardware business is being commoditized. Shame, as that’s where a lot of us attempt to earn our living.

I believe that these days there are four main audiences that behave in similar ways across app stores (maybe a bonus fifth). It’s important, when launching your next project, to know who you’re aiming at and how you’re going to make money. As always.

Four Audiences

The Nerds

Have paid for at least three twitter clients and multiple text editors. Understand the mechanics of the App Store for the indie developer, happy to impulse purchase.

This is me. Still. I’m happy to buy apps. I think that the price war to the bottom is crazy. I’m completely willing to pay the ‘less than a coffee’ price for a new upgraded version of an app I use every day, without bitching about it. I don’t want to see ads and I’ll even pay to make them go away. I’ll even pay for something to see it survive.

Most iOS developers fall into this group of people, but we have to realise we’re not normal. Beware creating apps for this audience. Unless you’re Tapbots.


Bought Angry Birds but not much else. Buys digital music and magazines. Often prefers apps over the web to online shop.

This is a big chunk of the market, but not one that’s easy to get to give you money. Your non-nerd partner or friends may well be in this category.

Only likely to pay for non-free, non-game apps on the extremely strong recommendation of a friend.

May well spend money on ther device through apps from trusted brands on magazines and music.


Will not pay for apps. In any circumstance.

This group is formed of several sub-groups. Those who don’t really engage with the App Store. Those who will trawl for a free version of an app to do a task. Those who believe software is made by magical pixies. And those who don’t even think about where their software comes from.

These people. We can all be these people.

In the main not bothered necessarily about app quality.

Can only be monetised through ads. Not most ‘indie’ developer’s preferred method, and also requires a big audience to pay any salaries!

The ‘Free to Play’-ers

Spend lots in the App Store but only on games designed to extract their money

I don’t understand this market, despite it being the largest economy on all the app stores. Of the top ten grossing apps in the UK (at the time of writing) nine are of this type.

iOS Top Grossing Apps circa Nov 2013

Even FIFA is a free to play app with IAP, the 2013 edition was a paid app where they experimented with some IAP. If EA are doing it, you know it has to make much more money this way.

Many games are going in this direction, but it’s only games, and not games in teh way I understand games. A useful (non-evil) app is unable to encourage virtual currencies.

The bonus ‘Pro’ market

Anyone in the above four groups can be an audience for apps that are above the hoi polloi. They should offer niche, specialised, high-end, typically work-related functionality.

Often these are apps that replace encyclopedic paper books (Sentencing Guidelines) or even expensive dedicated hardware devices (OneVoice).

The app stores remain a tough place to make money, aside from building other people’s apps on a freelance basis, which can be pretty lucrative. And if not lucrative, then at least a more predictable income stream.

There’s still a market to attack with those who are willing to pay for apps but that market is shrinking everyday with a) the continuing downward pressure on prices generally, and b) the amount of competition increasing in every category.

The best way to attack a paid market as an ‘indie’ seems to be to provide a free app to access paid services or provide enhanced functionality through IAP.

Trying to win at the hits-based business of real paid apps remains very tough indeed, even the ‘successful’ indies aren’t bathing in the riches you’d expect. It’s tough when you’re selling your creations for less than a latte.