My company leases 10 servers from a DC.
Eight hold SQL databases which are full of years and years worth of accounting information for our clients.... The other two machine are used as development machines for the software that our clients purchase.
Cheap isn't an option for us....so I'll go with Premium.
What we are really trying to determine is whether or not the investment in 'premium' service teams, equipment and features is what the majority of our customers WANT or would they rather have cheaper hosting and lose out on quality and offerings...
It will be interesting to see how others respond...
So what you are looking to do is to figure out which of the two markets are bigger in dollar amounts - the market for cheap hosting, or the market for premium hosting. Do you really think you're going to find out the answer to that on a small web dev forum? Shouldn't you really sink some dollars into researching what the current market sizes are for this two niches elsewhere?
I've switched careers...
I'm NO LONGER a scientist,
but now a web developer...
In the past, when I have gone looking for a host, my biggest point is top notch custom service. I usually spend days, if not weeks, researching the companies I am considering. I look for legitimate review sites (favorite is webhostingtalk.com) and see what customers have written, and even if it is a good review if your taking days to get back to the customer or to solve the problem, I move down the road. When my clients are having a problem that looks server related (may not be, but have to ask) even an hour can be a ton of lost revenue. And to me it could mean a lost client.
When researching a company, if I can, I will try out their customer service. If they have a phone number (most don't) call and see how log the hold is. If they have a sales chat see what that wait and experience is like. If it is forums (in most cases it is) post on the site to see what kind of response time there is. I did this recently on a large well know hosting company, I was looking at getting a VPS, it took a week for sales to reply to my post definitely won't be using them. They lost $40/per month because they couldn't spare, at most, 10 minutes.
As for added features they are just gimmicks. KISS, keep it simple stupid, provide the basics, but do it extraordinarily well. For myself all I look for is Linux and cPanel (personal preference), after that maybe multiple MySQL databases. Not too much more is needed for basic hosting.
As for price cheap always scares me. List it for $2/month and I don't even look, list it for $5/month and I am skeptical. Starting around $7/month (I am not afraid to pay more) is the point at which I will tentatively add you to the list I am considering, and then I start the real research.
Even having a low price on your list of hosting services worries me. It means you are catering to very inexperience web developers (nothing against them, I was once one), which opens the door to a few problems. Even for those cheap accounts you still will have limited customer service meaning you will at least have to answer tickets and/or posts to let them know they will need to pay additional for help with their problem, that takes time from others. And being inexperienced means they will have more problems than others. The other issue is that it is shared hosting, poorly written code could bog down the server or allow a malicious user in to cause problems, which will effect everyone on that server. Also a cheap account is great way to attract spammers, nothing like finding out most emails from a PHP script on your site aren't getting through or are marked as spam. And as cheap usually means smaller accounts that means more per server, meaning more risk per server. Now, maybe in resent years some tools for hosting companies have improved, but I have had to deal with hosting accounts that have been on servers where these kinds problems have arisen.
I guess that got long but you wanted opinions, so I hope it helps.