Why charge 99 cents for an app that could also just be given away for free?  After all, the economics that go with 99 apps is pretty grim.  Grim as in, don't quit your day job.  Grim as in, welcome to the new World order of whales and free-minums.  It costs about a dollar to drive a single visitor to your app website using online advertising.  If the app store lets you keep about 70 cents on the dollar and you are charging just less than a dollar, it is a losing proposition.  So unless you are selling $5 bejewelled pandas icons to the hardcore one percent, you are not making any money.

You could build a roster of apps for the simple satisfaction of doing it or to create a portfolio which you add to your Linked-In props.  But to create a meaningful stream of income is difficult.  Sure there is the lottery ticket prospect of the million selling app, but these are rare and getting rarer as the app market gets ever more saturated.  Many simple apps are asking several dollars, but unless you are able to convert most of your online ad traffic to sold apps, you are still losing money.  

The problem of how to monetize capability delivered over the internet is more than a decade old.  One solution is the whale.  A whale is what casinos call the rare big spender who brings in a large slice of the overall revenue.  A business can be built around a collection of hooked whales.  In the app gaming World, these are the people buying the bejewelled pandas.  Bloomberg magazine quotes the IPO prospectus of a well known social media gaming company.  It states, "we rely on a small percentage of our players for nearly all of our revenue".

If you don't have whales then you can still have free-miums.  These are the enticing, paid upgrades you can purchase to enrich an otherwise free service.  Examples of this range from drafting software to website building services, and they are less dependant on whale-like behaviour.  For example, SnapEng F Effort Profiler could supply an in-app purchase that lets you activate the tilt adjustment. What a bummer that would be.  Better to just bite the 99 cent bullet and have it all.

If you put whales and free-miums aside, then the 99 cents has to represent something else.  For SnapEng, it introduces the tinniest of a curbs, a small lip in the app store pavement to separate those who think the app is actually worth something and those who do not.