Apple has surprised developers with a change to the pricing tiers in the App Store. While US prices remain unchanged, international buyers will now be charged more for their purchases.
The pricing structure for Apple's iOS App Store is based on a series of tiers. Rather than setting an individual price, a developer picks from a series of tiers which start at Tier 0 for free-to-download applications. Tier 1, the cheapest for-cost option, starts the ball rolling at $0.99, while each tier above that adds a dollar on to the cost.
While the US pricing follows an obvious structure, the international pricing is a little more oblique. Tier 1 for UK sales is 59p, while each tier above that increases the cost by 60p. That is, until you hit Tier 6, which - at £3.49 - is 50p above Tier 5. Tier 7 is another 50p above that, while Tier 8 jumps a whole £1.
Apple's changes do little to change the overall complexity of the international pricing structure, but they do boost the proceeds given to developers. Before the changes, US developers could expect to receive somewhere in the region of 70 per cent of the purchase price once Apple had taken its cut. UK developers, however, only received around 60 per cent.
While the percentage remains the same, the new prices mean that a UK developer can expect to make around the same amount of money per sale as a US developer. Buyers, however, can expect to pay more for the same apps.
A Tier 1 app, as an example, now costs 69p. While that's a mere 10p price rise, the news gets more serious as you travel up the tiers: Tier 2 jumps 30p to £1.49, while Tier 6 gets a 50p rise to £3.99. Premium apps priced below the magic £10 barrier will have to find a new way to tempt buyers - or drop to a lower tier - with Tiers 13 and 14 rising to from £8.99 and £9.49 to £10.49 and £10.99 respectively.
The increased prices have been applied by Apple without prior notification to any of the thousands of developers who create the apps that form the core of the iOS sales pitch. While some have welcomed the price increases, others believe that Apple should have consulted the community before making such a move.
"It's not surprising to me," iPhone developer Stuart Sharpe told thinq_ earlier today. "Developers currently get significantly less money per UK sale than pretty much any other territory."
Asked whether the price increases could put buyers off certain apps, Sharpe confirmed the risk. "It's a fair possibility," he explained. "iOS app customers already complain enough about £1.19, lord knows what they'd say about £1.49."
If the increased prices don't harm sales too much, they are likely to have a beneficial impact on the smaller developers. "Increased fees mean it's easier to reach the mark for minimum payouts per territory," explained developer Zack Brown.
User reaction to the price increases hasn't been quite so positive, however. While punters in Australia have enjoyed a price drop as a result of the changes - thanks to a shifting currency conversion rate between US and Australian dollars - UK buyers are crying foul. Venting on Twitter, one irked iPhone owner asked: "Do they not make enough money? A 'small' 10p price bump will make millions."
Only time will tell what effect the price increases will have on app sales in the UK: while increased payouts for developers sounds like a good thing, if it comes at the cost of volume sales it could well leave developers of all but the most popular apps out of pocket.