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The $1,000 iPhone App That's Worth It


Facing a tough job market, law grads now have a cheaper way to prepare for the bar.

It's been a year and a half since a certain app turned the iPhone (AAPL) into a status symbol beyond its sleek design and shiny screen.

Unveiled in August 2008, the I Am Rich app was as barebones as humanly possible: It displayed a glowing red gem that, when pressed, ran a brief, half-hearted mantra complete with a glaring typo. The point of the app was the cost itself -- a whopping $999.99 -- in order for snobs to prove how much disposable income they have. Though I Am Rich was available for a short 24 hours before being pulled by the App Store, it managed to garner eight purchases -- and one return -- and a few grand for its creator, proving that some people will pay anything for a status symbol without a justifiable purpose.

But apparently presuming the novelty of a $1,000 app had run its course, app designers have yet to slap a program with a $999.99 price tag -- the maximum cost allowable by Apple -- until now.

And this time, believe it or not, it might actually be worth the money.

BarMax CA is a one-gigabyte application that prepares California law students for the bar exam. Holding thousands of pages of study material and days worth of audio lectures, BarMax comes at a bargain compared to the typical cost of in-class training -- between $3,000 and $4,000 -- offered by the most popular bar exam preparation course in the United States, BarBri.

Creator Mike Ghaffary justifies the lower cost because there's no two-month in-class course. But the app itself is complete with all the necessary training provided by the competition. It covers the multiple-choice section, essays, the performance test, and the ethics exam. The $1,000 also buys students additional paperwork for specific sections, if needed, at no extra cost.

Ghaffary designed BarMax CA after facing the exorbitant cost and limited materials provided by BarBri. Realizing there was no viable competition among bar training courses, he teamed up with iPhone app developers and fellow Harvard Law graduates to design a low-cost alternatives for would-be lawyers in the same boat.

As indicated by the name, BarMax CA caters only to California graduates and their state-specific bar exam. However, the BarMax team hopes to release a New York version, along with five other states, by the end of the year. And an even bigger incentive for law graduates: BarMax is working on a multi-state version of the app comprised of the sections of the bar that don't vary state to state for $500.

BarMax CA currently sits atop the App Store roost as the most expensive app, a full $100 more than the second-highest -- iRa Pro, a mobile video surveillance app. And given the rarity of an iPhone app proving a need that would necessitate such a high price tag, it doesn't appear BarMax will have any fellow $1,000 buddies.

Although quick with the "Rejected" button when it comes to apps, Apple reportedly had no reservations about approving BarMax CA. Perhaps with market research firm Gartner's recent study that shows the company is responsible for 99.4% of mobile app sales last year -- far above Research in Motion (RIMM), Microsoft (MSFT), Palm (PALM), and Google (GOOG) combined -- Apple has reason to loosen up a bit.
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