Prices of several iPad apps to soar

Prepare for some sticker shock.

When Apple Inc. releases its iPad tablet computer Saturday, some shoppers may be surprised to find that prices for some applications have been super-sized overnight, while others will remain free.

IPad apps: An article in Friday’s Business section about iPad software reported that some applications cost as much as 500% more for the iPad than they did for the iPhone. The largest increase was 400%. —

According to several websites, including AppShopper, Appolicious and Silicon Alley Insider, some apps are expected to cost 50% to 500% more on the iPad than they do on the iPhone.

Fieldrunners, a game by Subatomic Studios, goes for $2.99 for iPhone but is expected to be $7.99 for the iPad. Another popular game, Flight Control from Firemint, which sold for 99 cents for iPhone, is expected to be $4.99 for iPad. Need for Speed Shift, published by Electronic Arts Inc., is $6.99 for iPhone but $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 those from NPR and USA Today, as well as utility apps such as Twitter and Kayak, a travel site. Netflix Inc. is also releasing a free app that would let its 12.3 million subscribers view movies and TV shows in its library on demand via the Internet connection on the iPad, according to sources familiar with the deal.

A Netflix spokesman would not confirm the arrangement.

Apple declined to comment on the iPad app prices, which are determined by the application makers.

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, PopCap Games Inc., released a smaller version several months later for the iPhone for $2.99. The iPhone game comes with fewer levels and features. But the iPad version, at $9.99, is expected to have all the bells and whistles of the full game. A PopCap spokesman would not comment.

Why the higher prices? At 99 cents an app, few developers can make money. Only a handful of the 197,000 apps available in Apple’s app store are able to command more premium prices.

The iPad is a chance for publishers to hit the reset button on those rock-bottom prices and start ramping up what they charge, 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.”

Some software investors are already counting on this. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Silicon Valley venture firm, on Wednesday said it would double the amount of money it invests in apps to $200 million. The firm’s partner, John Doerr, called the doubling an investment in the “brave new post-PC era.”