Are many paid-for mobile apps doomed?

Are many paid-for mobile apps doomed?

Will the mobile web kill many type of paid-for apps? That’s what a report commissioned for the BBC suggests.

The BBC Trust’s decision today to allow BBC mobile apps to be published for free in the UK, despite critics saying they would threaten income for commercial app developers, was partly influenced by a report [PDF link] prepared by Mediateque and submitted to the Trust at the start of June.

Paid Content noticed an interesting claim in the report:

“We conclude that the availability of content for free online, which is increasingly accessible via web browsers affording re-purposed content via mobile devices, will make it harder over time for content suppliers to charge for apps that provide access to content available online for free; the advantages of apps (bespoke mobile-purposed content, findability, novelty) will therefore reduce over time.”

The report notes that although only 25% of Apple App Store apps are free, they account for 77% of app usage, stating “The BBC would be entering a market that is already trending toward free apps (in news, sport and long-form video content) and is likely to trend further in that direction over time”.

This report isn’t talking about games or other specially created content, just apps that replicate content already available on the web for free.

It’s very likely that as browser-based mobile web apps become more like the downloadable apps we know today,  stores might not be the limitless goldmine they appear to be right now. After all, if you can get something presented nicely on your phone’s browser for free, why pay for it?

While this is just one report, it might cause those who rely on income for paid-for apps to pause for thought about the type of apps they create. Apps that provide a unique experience unlike anything possible in a mobile browser seem far more likely to have a future if Mediateque’s report is to be believed.

Definitely a trend to watch over the next few years.

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