My job is weird. I enjoy using technology, and my family are all early adopters by dint of our characters. This means that apps, in this increasingly digital society, are very much a part of our lives. I pay for a lot of them.


I’ve downloaded somewhere around two thousand apps for my various smartphones, and probably about another five hundred for my iPads and Android tablet. Adding in apps my family have purchased to go on their iPhones and iPads, and the grand app download total rises to probably about 3,000 in total. About a third of that total are paid apps. Which means we’ve clicked “okay” to spend between 69 cents and about 10 Euros on the wares of roughly a thousand app developers over a four year period. Most of that spending is on my part, as we tend to download and try out many more free apps than paid ones for the kids.

Considering that recent info suggests the average global smartphone user downloads about 25 apps, this makes me rather unusual.

Yes, this is partly a perk of my job—in fact it’s a necessity for part of it. It’s also important for my writing in general, because I use apps to discover news, to “work” in my virtual office and newsrooms, to find and adjust images to illustrate my writing and to discuss and promote news over social networks. As the job evolves, so does the range of apps I use. I also use apps to listen to music, view videos, find recipes for cooking in my outdoor oven and…when I get a moment, for fun.

But clicking on that “okay” button the other day to download the tenth app for review on a particular topic, I was conscious of how it felt. I don’t mean the dumb tap of my finger against the glass screen. I mean how it made me feel to spend an Euro on the app.

That’s where things got interesting. I actually quite enjoyed the payment.

I’m no penny pincher but I’m also not a spendaholic in “real life”—so the notion of feeling good about spending money like this was just a little surprising. Until I thought about exactly what was going on during the process.

It’s all about where the money goes when I buy an app.


I’ve written about the inspiration and hard work of many app developers. I‘ve met a good number of them, online and in person.

And actually it’s these people I think of when I buy an app. Because on the whole the teams behind many apps—even hugely popular ones—are quite small. They’re not made by giant organizations. Thus the money spent buying an app doesn’t fund a CEO’s corporate jet, pay for teams of IP lawyers or for a fancy logo. Somewhere or other it goes directly to pay for the developer’s breakfast.

I’m simplifying things a lot, I know. Plus the app market is maturing so quickly, and is so stuffed with billions in potential income, that the developer community is changing fast. More “corporate” approaches to developing apps are emerging all the time.

But the fact is I feel a lot more cheerful about clicking that “okay” button to buy an app from a five person developer team than I do about buying a game from EA or, shudder, Microsoft. That’s not to dis the quality or fun factor of an app from a bigger name company. It simply comes down to the fact that when I buy a new app from what’s evidently a small company I feel like the money is going more directly to someone who earned it.


Is this a new kind of buying? I’m not sure. You could compare the situation to enterprises like Etsy, a marketplace where crafty creators can earn money from their often handmade products. Or perhaps you may think of Kickstarter, where all sorts of artistic or technological endeavors—usually coming from the minds of individuals in very small, very new companies—are made possible by hundreds or thousands of “donations” from the public.

The situation in app payments is likely to change, as the world gets more used to using apps for everything from knitting to communicating…and that’s true even without wondering how the balance of free or paid apps will change in the various app stores or counting the share of an app price that goes into Apple’s, Google’s, Amazon’s or Microsoft’s coffers.

You may even disagree with me on the whole idea here. But for now I’m going to carry on enjoying clicking on that “okay” button.

[Photo under CC from Flickr user Oyvind Solstad]