When the App Store first opened, expanding the use of Apple’s smartphone beyond calls, photography and stock watching, it quickly became clear exactly why Steve Jobs had put so much effort into the device. He knew that it would become the perfect fart machine. iFart Mobile, an app that did little more than play fart sounds, was one of the most successful apps in the early App Store, at one point generating more than $10,000 a day in sales.
That was a silly idea whose success surprised even its maker and it paved the way for a number of other novelty apps that do little more than place a moustache on a picture, allow users to shake a magic 8 ball or, in the case of the short-lived and $10,000 priced “I am wealthy” app, just show off their wealth (and stupidity). But in between those novelty apps, few of which ever sell, and the games brought out by leading studios lie a number of unusual, high-priced but surprisingly useful, apps. They’re odd but creative. They required an investment of time, effort and money to make and they often cost a small fortune to buy but they all fill a real need which has allowed them to generate downloads.
Most importantly, they prove that you don’t need to give away your app idea or hope to make a heap of one-dollar sales to make your efforts pay.
Here are four app ideas that will make you slap your forehead and make you wonder why you didn’t think of them yourself — and inspire to go ahead and stick a big price tag on the app you want to build.
Private Jet Charter
PrivateFly is a charter company that takes bookings for private jets. Back in June, the UK-based firm received an order from a family in the Middle East that wanted to charter a Boeing Business jet to Europe. The price? A snip at half a million dollars.
That’s not an unusual price for the kinds of high-wealth families that charter their own jets but what was unusual was that the order was placed on the company’s iPhone app. Instead of calling the firm to place the booking, the family was able to accept a half-million dollar fee by pressing a button on their phone. (Although the sum was so large that they still had to call the firm to make the payment.)
According to Business Insider, PrivateFly is expecting the percentage of sales made through its app to double to 15 percent over the next year, and it’s not alone. BlackJet, another charter company, says that half its bookings are now made through its app, while Gotham Jets is planning to launch an app early next year.
If you’ve been thinking of building an app to take high-value orders — such as for real estate or cars — then don’t let the doubters hold you back.
Having coughed up half a million dollars for a private jet, you’d think the users of air charter apps would have finished with their credit cards. Apparently not if BizjetMobile is anything to go by. The app lets the passengers and crew of corporate and VIP aircraft connect their devices to their plane’s satellite phone and data link. They’ll then be able to send emails, make VoiP calls, and write text messages.
The app launched with the remarkable price tag of $249.99 but it’s since dropped to just twenty bucks. It’s not clear how successful the app has become but if passengers on private jets can’t do what passengers on Virgin America can do, then you have to assume they’ll pay an extra twenty bucks to trade up.
VIP Black is consistently included in the list of most expensive apps in the App Store. It costs a cent shy of a thousand bucks, and the proof of wealth doesn’t stop with a willingness to fork over four figures in the App Store. Having bought the app, users have to prove that they have assets and/or income in excess of a million dollars.
And what they get for emptying their wallet, then flashing their bank account is effectively a load of targeted advertisements. The app points out that it’s not a booking portal or “a gateway to thousands of hotels” but a “curated collection of the world’s finest brands, venues and services.” By purchasing the app, users get VIP treatment from participating brands, access to exclusive events and even priority booking at exclusive restaurants. Different (and cheaper) versions of the app provide similar services targeted to London, New York and St Petersburg. Apps for Sydney, Paris and Shanghai are in development.
The idea of pricing an app that provides little if any functionality at nearly four figures might seem odd, but clearly exclusive brands would be very happy to put their products and services in front of proven millionaires and if those millionaires can see a benefit in the rewards offered, the idea will be a winner. Judging by the ten reviews the app has received, it’s already brought in at least five figures in sales.
Users of VIP Black are already rich but aiming at the future rich is a good idea too. That’s what the makers of BarMax CA are trying to do. Created by alumni of Harvard Law School, the app contains 50 hours of audio lectures from Harvard Law School-educated law professors, 1,471 real MBE questions from previous bar exams, 800 flashcards, a task list and study calendar, and even personalized feedback on two essays. Like VIP Black, the app costs an eye-watering $999. In 2012, the makers say, students of the app had a pass rate of 73 percent, more than 22 points higher than the average pass rate in California.
None of these apps are ever going to be become top sellers. They’re not going to be listed in App Store picks but if they pick up just a small number of sales, they’ll have earned some serious money for their makers and for the people who dreamed up the idea.