Thoughts about licensing and app prices

TL;DR Every app developer who wants to release their app for free should take some amount of money for the app and release the code as open source.


I have been thinking a bit about apps, the price of apps and open source licenses.

Since I am an android user this will mostly reflect the Google Play store (and other competing stores).

In Google Play there are a lot of “free” apps. I use the quotation marks around free because most of these free apps contain advertisements instead. Many of them have an unlock app that can be purchased to remove the ads.

My app

When I made my first app mem, my thought wasn’t to make any money from it. But only to learn and to go through the process of getting an app in the store.

But when releasing I had an idea:

I have been sitting here for a couple of hours and building the app (it’s made in JavaScript and I used a desktop browser to develop it). Why shouldn’t I take a little bit of money for that work (packaging the app for easy download and usage). And then I could release the source code if someone wants to play the, game but is able to build it themselves. The pricing would also work as a “pay if you think it’s worth it” thing. I also made it available to test out online on the project page.

In my mind this has some benefits:

  • People are able to learn from each other. One of the main things about open source.

  • More awareness about app development and more people will be able to build apps. Either because they don’t want to pay or the try-it-out model.

  • Ads in apps are both distracting/annoying and make the performance of the apps worse. So why not get the money from purchases?

  • More app developers. Since more people are able to build apps they might get interested in actually writing apps too.

  • More developers for your app. Since the code is open source people can modify it, fix bugs and implement new features.

What needs to change

For this to work I guess people have to charge more for the app. Since advertisement money is a continuous income, whereas purchases is a one-time income.

Another thing that has to change is the consumer mindset, especially on android since android users are less likely to pay for software, and realise that 1$ for a game you will spend 10 hours on, whilst on the toilet, isn’t that much compared to the 6$ coffee you chug down on the way to work. Especially if the code is available and all you need to do is to learn to build the app for yourself, which is in itself a good investment, to test it out before you give your money to the developer.