Over Christmas, some of the best software on the App Store was discounted. I went on a bit of a spending spree and I ended up facing the scorn of a few friends. They claimed applications were too expensive and that free apps function just fine for most needs. So, to determine a more true estimation of the cost of paid apps, I headed over to the App Store and looked up my download history.

The first apps I downloaded, like everyone else, were Facebook and The Weather Network. I then downloaded a bunch of crappy utilities and games, like scanners, flashlights and Paper Toss. After my period of free crap1, the following list of apps were downloaded:

  • Instapaper
  • Angry Birds
  • Reeder
  • Pages
  • Twitteriffic
  • Day One
  • Tweetbot
  • Due
  • 1Password

(There was some more free crap in between these purchases, but the amount of free crap decreased.)

I bought these applications in early 2010, so I was slightly late to the party. But today, in early 2014, seven of those nine apps remain on my phone.

The consequences of this observation are paramount in determining the value of paid apps. Not only did I buy them about four years ago, I have consistently used them ever since the time of purchase. I can’t name a single product in my house right now that has been used daily for the past four years. And, best of all, even if I had bought an item four years ago that I used daily, you can bet that item would not have received free updates throughout that timeframe.

All of these apps, at the time of purchase, cost less than $10. In fact, I think all except 1Password were less than $5. If I assume I had these applications on my iPhone on January 1, 2010, I have used these applications for a total of 1,465 days (I can't rightfully assume this because release dates of the apps were not necessarily on or prior to January 1, 2010, but it does support the theoretical argument). That equates to a maximum cost of $0.0034 per day.

You actually earn more than that amount in one second with a $20/hour wage.

For about one penny every three days, I have used and enjoyed some of the greatest software ever written for the iPhone. Having said that, I hardly believe such concrete stats can substantiate the amount of enjoyment and productivity enhancement which came from that purchase.

In the case of Day One, for example, I have a personal journal which I began writing the day the app was released. Day One is 1032 days old. I believe I paid an original price of $3 for the iPhone app. So, I have paid $0.0029 per day for a digital journal that is a collection of my thoughts, a collection of my photos, a mapping of my adventures and an almanac of crazy weather. I can guarantee I would have spent more money buying paper notebooks and pens with a finite lifespan to maintain the vast collection of my life events.

Calculating the minuscule cost for an app that seems so essential to my present and future self is empowering. I have a hard time accepting the belief that free apps are fine. For an insignificant amount of money, you could own an application that improves who you are, improves how you communicate or improves how fast you can complete a minor task.

My costs are decreasing every day and I can only imagine how cheap these apps are for users who bought them once the App Store was open for business in the middle of 2008.

For the next person who states that apps are too expensive, get off your high horse and buy one app. After using that app for the next four years, I dare you to tell the world it was expensive.


Paul Mayne, founder of Day One, updated me on the price of the app in its first year. If you purchased Day One on launch day, the original $1 purchase price equates to $0.00096 cents per day after 1032 days of use.

My digital journal just became that much more cheap.

Thanks Paul.

1 Free does not equal crap, but it often seems that way.