How do you budget your mobile application purchases?


There are a ton of mobile applications. Between Android and iOS, there were nearly 1.8 million applications as of May and June. Of course, that number is somewhat inflated, if you count the number of free and premium versions of the same application, and duplicate applications across both platforms (Evernote, Dropbox, Skype, etc.).

Chances are, that number is quickly approaching one million a piece, and that means a couple things.

There is an application for virtually everything. Seriously. Take a minute and think of something you wish there were an app for. Take another second to search for it. Odds are, there’s already something that either does exactly what you need, or something that’s pretty darn close. If it’s not there, someone is probably developing an app for it this very minute. And if no one is, you might want to learn a couple programming languages and develop it yourself and sell it for a buck … or five.

It also means there is variety. There are hundreds – maybe even thousands – of calendar applications on both Android and iOS, despite the stock offerings. And although most calendar apps do exactly the same thing (cloud sync, give dates, and help you keep track of appointments), there are a select few that offer something more, such as natural language. The same can be said for virtually every other type of application – games, calculators, IM services, camera apps, etc.

Finally, it means these two application libraries are growing at such a pace, it’s hard for anyone to keep up. Between February 2012 and this past February, the Google Play library nearly doubled – from 450,000 to 800,000 applications. And between March 2012 and May 2013, Apple’s App Store grew from over 550,000 to over 850,000.

google-android-appsPoint being, there are more and more applications every single day. And while not every one of the thousands of new apps every week are mind-blowing, a large portion of new apps are.

There are applications I stumble upon every single week that I feel like I have to try out.

Unfortunately, I can’t try them all. I mean, sure, technically, I can try any application on Android for 15 minutes. But a lot of the time, 15 minutes isn’t enough time to get a feel for the app and to see if it’s going to suit my needs. And, yes, you can contact the developer within the first 24 hours and sometimes get a refund. But even though most premium applications are between $0.99 and $5, it really begins to add up over time.

It’s almost enough to make my stomach turn when I look through my purchases on iOS and Android. I have two accounts that I purchase content with through Google Play, and on one of my accounts, the Web version of Google Play can’t even display a fraction of the applications I’ve bought. It only supports up to 50 pages of previously installed or purchased applications, and my 50th page ends in the Ls.

app-budgetBasically, I’m extremely quick to buy any and all applications that look like they might be useful. And I’m a sucker for anything that goes on sale. Of the top 100 applications in Google Play, I have purchased 43. And while I’ve only purchased five of the top 100 apps in App Store, I’ve spent roughly $100 (if not more) on iOS applications.

It’s entirely too easy to impulse buy apps. “Oh, I definitely need that right now!” And sometimes there are instances where I have to buy an application for work. For example, I bought SoftKeyZ for a video I made yesterday.

apps-iOSAnd over time, these things begin to pile up … and add up. If I were to estimate, I would guess I’ve spent between $250 and $300 on iOS and Android applications and games. The most expensive being the Korg iELECTRIBE app when it was on sale for $10. I’ve also gone on buying sprees, spending over $30 in just a couple minutes on a half dozen apps. What’s worse is when I buy an app on Android or iOS and love it so much I end up also wanting it on the other platform, or on OS X. The developers of Tweetbot and Reeder have each earned nearly $40 from me for their separate iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps.

In my defense, I consider it to be part of my job, to be on the pulse of new applications. I peruse App Store and Google Play regularly, in search of anything new and useful. And, technically, any new application purchase is an expense for my business.

Lately, however, I decided it was time to cut back my app spending. I used to buy a handful of applications and games every week. And recently, I’ve cut back to only a few per month – only the ones I truly, honestly need. (Also, I opt for premium applications when they’re available, because I appreciate the work developers do. Without them, Android and iOS would be utterly boring.)

In the past month, I have only purchased four applications – SoftKeyZ, SleepTimer, Package Buddy Pro, and Ice Rage. Okay, maybe I didn’t need Ice Rage. But it’s addictive! (If you look back only one more week, that number more than doubles. Oops!)

While I’m not a great example of how most should budget for mobile applications, I’m a great example of how not to be when searching for new applications. And I’m not your average consumer anyway. But I could definitely stand to be a little more stiff with my money when it comes to mobile apps.

Tell me, readers. How do you budget your application purchases? Is trying to budget yourself futile? Or do you only allow yourself to spend on apps every so often? Do you catch yourself going on impulse app buying sprees, too?

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition. | Google+