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IPad apps: Sticker shock for some; others will remain free [UPDATED]

April 1, 2010 | 10:53 am

This one's not an April Fools' joke. When Apple releases its iPad tablet computer Saturday, some shoppers may be surprised to find that prices for some apps will have been super-sized overnight while others remain free.

According to several sites, including AppShopper, Appolicious and Silicon Alley Insider, some apps are expected to cost 50% to 500% more on the iPad as they do on the iPhone. Here's a sample of some best-selling apps that are expected to see a sticker surge:

  • Fieldrunners: $2.99 for iPhone, $7.99 for iPad
  • Flight Control: 99 cents for iPhone, $4.99 for iPad
  • Flick Fishing: 99 cents for iPhone, $2.99 for iPad
  • Plants vs. Zombies: $2.99 for iPhone, $9.99 for iPad
  • Need for Speed Shift: $6.99 for iPhone, $14.99 for iPad

Several app developers who wanted to remain anonymous because of their confidentiality agreements with Apple confirmed an uptick in price.

Some apps, however, will remain free, according to reports. Those include news apps such as NPR and USA Today, as well as utility apps such as Twitter and Kayak.

Apple declined to comment on the iPad app prices.

Pvz To justify the extra dollars, some apps will come with added features for their iPad versions. Take Plants vs. Zombies, for example. The original game for Macs and PCs cost $19.99. The publisher, Pop Cap Games, released a smaller version of the title several months later for the iPhone for $2.99. The iPhone game comes with fewer levels and features. One theory is that the iPad version would contain all the bells and whistles of the full game. A Pop Cap spokesman would not comment.

Another app, Flick Fishing for iPad, contains three separate levels, each available for the iPhone for 99 cents apiece, according to its developer, Freeverse. "So there is no price hike!" said Freeverse's marketing director, Lydia Heitman.

Why the higher prices? At 99 cents an app, most developers can't make money. The iPad is a chance for publishers to hit the reset button on those rock-bottom prices, said Colin Sebastian, analyst with Lazard Capital Markets.

"Higher prices will make it a more attractive market for developers," Sebastian said. "That should open the door for more money put into the development of apps. And that should result in higher quality apps."

UPDATED 1:35 pm: This story has been updated to include details from Freeverse, the developer of Flick Fishing.

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.

Photo: An icon for the Plants vs. Zombies iPod application. Credit: Pop Cap Games.