Why Apps are not Free

As much as we all enjoy free stuff, it is very rare that something is truly free. That also applies to apps. Although the additional cost for one additional user is usually very low, developing and maintaining an app that people like is still very difficult, expensive, and requires many iterations. Let’s dive into the phases of developing an app and why there are no free apps.

Research & Development (R&D)

Not all apps contain a tech component requiring R&D. But if the product does, it brings certain challenges. The complexity of problems requiring R&D to find solutions will make these activities difficult to plan. The relationship between input (time and other resources) and outcome (e.g. working solution) is not linear. A problem that occurs can be solved within days or within months or, in the worst case, never. In our case and the case of SNAQ this phase was an investment worth 2 years of 2 people working full-time.

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Photo by Slidebean on Unsplash

Product to Market

After resolving the R&D challenges of an app, there is still a long road ahead to make a product that people actually use. The first thousand users will likely provide feedback about many of things which do not yet work as expected or are simply still missing. As a result, people stop using the app very quickly.

So how can this be fixed? There is no magic solution, but the faster the iterations between new product releases and market feedback, the sooner the product will match the market’s needs. The speed of the iteration cycles determines the probability of success before running out of money. These iterations take at least (in the best case) months even with weekly releases until the app is used over longer periods of time.

Whiteboard
Photo by Slidebean on Unsplash

Commercialisation

The previous phases mostly require time which usually means money. Apps can keep being free for a while to fuel growth and delay monetisation when they have investors supporting that strategy. But this is not sustainable in the long-term. There must be a business model at some point. But what is the right business model? At SNAQ we strongly believe incentives need to be aligned. The people using the app should have the power to decide if the app is worth what they are paying for or not. This creates the right incentives for SNAQ to provide an awesome solution to a problem. Why not use other business models? Ads, licensing, reimbursement, etc. all create additional incentives to do things other than provide an awesome experience for the people using the app.

Your Support matters

Many of the apps you frequently use have costs of at least 6 digit figures that were required for its initial development. Besides the initial investment it’s hard for many apps to cover costs for continuous development and maintenance. For example, in our case with SNAQ, at least 7,000 paying users are required to cover the monthly costs. Your support really helps us to maintain SNAQ and continuously provide new features like the ones we are working on as part of the roadmap: Check it out here

A big thank you from SNAQ!