Apple's (AAPL) iPhone App Store is most popular for its free and
cheap apps. As a result, most apps and casual games are available for
99 cents or less. But there are plenty of expensive apps in the App
Store, too, and people do buy them.
The most expensive app in the U.S. App Store today is called iRa Pro: It's a dashboard to access and control live feeds of video surveillance cameras, and it costs $900.
The company that makes it -- Lextech Labs,
outside of Chicago -- won't say how many copies it has sold. But
Lextech president and CEO Alex Bratton says it's more than the five
people who have reviewed the latest edition on iTunes. He's "pretty
happy with the number."
Why charge so much? Because for the people who are buying the app, it's actually a relatively small cost.
Bratton says his target customers are monitoring security systems
for corporations, government organizations, universities, etc., that
can run more than half a million dollars. For them, a $900 app is just
part of the cost of doing business. Especially when the alternative --
getting a custom piece of hardware developed, instead of using
off-the-shelf iPhones and iPod touches -- costs thousands per gadget.
iRa Pro wasn't always the most expensive iPhone app. About a year ago, a German developer had an app briefly approved by Apple called "I Am Rich." For $999.99, it did absolutely nothing, and was controversial. After a day or so, Apple pulled it from the App Store -- but not before the developer reportedly sold eight copies.
That developer, Armin Heinrich, currently has 12 apps in the App
Store, including the similarly utility-free -- but just $0.99 -- "iShaver."
Today, no $1,000 apps, but plenty that cost more than $100, ranging from medical references to audio tools.