I think it's an interesting coincidence that there’s an article in today’s NY Times about the difficulties of being an independent app developer. It’s interesting because I read the article on an iPod Touch 5G which I bought on Friday.
Why did I buy this thing? Because it’s nearly identical to an iPhone but without the telephone, and it’s a lot less expensive way to find out what the iPhone fuss is all about without buying an iPhone which I don’t need (because I have a free Blackberry).
So naturally I couldn’t help but think, wouldn’t it be cool if I can write some highly desirable app and become super-rich? Didn’t those Instagram guys make a billion dollars? (Why that app is worth so much money if they give it away for free?)
But of course the reality is that hundreds of thousands of people have at least dabbled in iOS development, and hardly any have made any money at it. The NY Times article tells the story of married couple who gave up their jobs to be full-time app developers. And they made practically no money from their apps. And lost a lot of money from not having jobs and buying far more Apple devices than they needed to develop apps for pre-schoolers. Although you do need at least one Mac, because you can’t run “XCode,” the iOS development tool, on a PC. And Macs are really expensive. For example, you can buy a cheap Windows 7 laptop for less than $500, and maybe even less than $400, but the least expensive Mac laptop, the MacAir, is $999. Admittedly it’s a nicer computer than the $400 PC, but with Mac you don’t have a cheap option. Maybe it’s that exclusivity which makes SWPLs like them so much. And you can’t even play most good games on a Mac (although World of Warcraft and Starcraft II are available in Mac versions).
So going back to problem of making money as an app developer, the problem is that there are zillions of other people doing the same thing. Why do you think your pre-schooler app is gong to be any better than the numerous other such apps out there? Computer software is a winner-take-all activity. People only need either the best program or the program that everyone else is using
I, for one, really can’t think of anything I could program for an iPhone or iPod Touch that might make me six-figures of income. The most likely way to make money would be to start a company that sells iOS development services to big corporations. But Indians have a big advantage with these types of companies because they know how to hire cheap Indians both in the U.S. and in India where they outsource most of their development.
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And about the iPod Touch 5G. It has a beautiful screen and touch-interface. I can see why this beats out the Blackberry. I even like the touch-keyboard better than the little tiny physical keys on the Blackberry.
But is it worth $300? Not as an mp3 player. It's too big and kludgy to be an mp3 player. The $110 Sony with 16GB is a better mp3 player because it's smaller and lighter and has physical controls for controlling your music. To skip a song on the iPod Touch, you have to use the touchscreen, while with the Sony you can just reach into your pocket and click the button without even looking at it. Sometimes you can find the Sonys on sale for even less; I think I paid less than $80 for mine.
Do you want to watch movies on this? Only if you have really good vision and maybe are slightly nearsighted. Not good for people who are middle-aged.
As a computer, even though it's as powerful as a desktop computer from a few years back, it's just too small and there's no keyboard.
As a camera, the lens is surprisingly good (but very sensitive to flare) if you don't mind that it doesn't zoom. But the quality of the 5MP sensor is really bad; even at the lowest ISO (32) the photos are full of noise and detail-reducing noise filtering. Dynamic range is also very poor. It's also very hard to hold steady because the iPod Touch is just not shaped right to be a camera. You can buy a better camera for less money, although the iPod is probably good enough for many people. Looking at the photos on the tiny iPod screen, most viewers won't realize the photos are flawed and they might even like the contrasty images that are a result of the poor DR.
So mostly, it's just something you can be amazed at for having so much cutting-edge technology in such a tiny package.