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Technology Bytes: Are IPhone Apps Raising the Bar for Businesses?

Technology + Gear
by Michelle Schusterman Feb 15, 2010
High priced iPhone apps are forcing established businesses to reexamine their prices and services.

I just learned that Apple has a cap on application prices, and that cap is a penny shy of $1,000. The only app charging that price right now (since the ridiculous “I Am Rich” was thankfully pulled from the store) is the newly released BarMax, a study aid for students preparing for the bar exam.

It’s pricey, yes – until you find out that BarBri, the most popular course aimed at bar exam preparation, charges between $3,000 and $4,000. Unlike a few other outrageously expensive apps, this one suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. From TechCrunch:

“BarBri has long had a complete stranglehold over this particular kind of exam prep. Because of that, it was able to charge whatever it wanted. Thanks at least partially to this, it has been subject to multiple class-action lawsuits (again, hardly surprising when you’re pulling this kind of stuff with future lawyers) saying the service was using anti-competitive tactics to maintain their dominance, among other things.”

Other bar exam courses have tried to compete, but BarMax seems to be the first one that might succeed. BarBri is making changes, like including unlimited online access to their materials and getting rid of the $2,000 re-enrollment fee for students who don’t pass the exam the first time around.

Just a few days ago I was reviewing a great Spanish language class app when a thought occurred to me. Depending on you own language learning goals, you’ve got books, CDs, DVDs, and computer software to choose from, along with private instruction or classes. With this particular app, I had textbook explanations of grammar rules, audio recorded by native speakers, games that were actually pretty fun and educational, cultural information, and writing and reading exercises.

The price was $6.99. Less than a book (with no audio help), less than a “Learn In Your Car” CD (no help with writing or reading.) Some computer programs and classes might be more helpful, but again – look at the price! I felt like I could get a decent, well-rounded start to Spanish for seven bucks.

Smartphone apps are changing the game. Developers are coming up with brilliant, useful, affordable programs that could potentially challenge almost any business to rethink its products and pricing. Now that BarBri is scrambling to change its ways, I’m just wondering who’s next.

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