Dear dad, don’t listen to my cheapskate brothers about iPad apps

This letter is to my dad, we got him an iPad for Christmas.

Dear dad,

Alex told me he counseled you against buying any apps that cost money. Sounds like Ben also is of that bent. Sounds great to be a cheapskate, right? After all, you’ll save money. I’d question my brother’s motives, though. Maybe they want more inheritance?

Anyway, to me the best apps cost money and you should expect to spend $200 to $400 in the first year on apps. Here’s some reasons why.

1. Paid apps are better games. Look at Angry Birds. They have free versions on Android, but on iPad and iPhone their versions cost five bucks. The thing is, on the free version you have interruptive advertising. Do you really want to live in a world where every few minutes an ad gets displayed? I don’t. So I invest in apps that cost money and apps that have a real business model behind them (IE, where I’m at least a customer that turned over some cash). Plus, I know that Scrabble is one of your favorite games. That costs $4.99. What a deal.

2. Paid apps help teach science. I know you do lots of tutoring at local high schools. One of the most expensive apps, The Elements, costs $14. This app is magical, though, and will open science up to kids in a new way. I wish I had this back when I was in Chemistry class.

3. Paid apps reward the arts. There’s a photographer, Quang-Tuan Luong. He took 10 years to photograph all the US National Parks. 3,000 photos. And you can own them all for $4.99. If enough people do that? Well, then, it’ll encourge more photographers and artists to share their work in apps.

4. Paid apps help you travel. The best apps, like TripIt, have “pro” versions that cost money. In this case TripIt costs me $49 per year. What do I get? Information. I often know my flight is delayed before the pilot tells everyone else. And it helps me get alternate flights and helps me with finding the best seat, and more.

5. Paid apps help you get better news. The Wall Street Journal costs $17+ a month. I know you buy lots of magazines and newspapers, why would it be any different on an iPad?

6. Paid apps help you read longer items. I paid $4.99 for Instapaper, which helps save web pages for later offline reading, optimized for readability. Invaluable.

7. Paid apps help you find better restaurants. Yeah, you can use the free Yelp app (I do that too) but Zagat’s app is better for finding the best restaurants. It costs $10. What’s a meal at a high-end restaurant cost? $50? Some, like at French Laundry, cost $330 and up. Having one extraordinary experience is worth the app’s price. Why? Because they can afford to have moderators that clean up the content, plus they have hooks into other systems, like Foodspotting and Foursquare, which give them better data.

Anyway, there’s some selfish reasons to pay for apps, too.

1. App developers are watching what platforms make the most money. So, if you want better apps, support the developers and they’ll work on more stuff for you. Otherwise they’ll go work on other platforms that have more customers that’ll pay for apps.

2. It gives you leverage. If they start selling all your private information, you’ll be able to scream about it. People who only use free apps should expect there’s some other business model in play behind the scenes.

3. The quality of the apps is higher when you pay for them. Do you work for free? I don’t. Neither do my cheapskate brothers. Yet they want everything for free. But, who do you think developers will do their best work for? A group of people who spends $5 to $15 on them? Or a group of people who forces them to do unnatural acts like put ads into their apps (which encourages them to sell your privacy down the street)?

Me? I’m a selfish baaassstttarrrrddd. I want the best experiences, and I’ve found the best way to get those is to pay for some apps.

–Your son, Robert