By Harry McCracken | Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 10:27 am
Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, has a smart post up on why he’s discontinuing the free version of the app and asking every new customer to buy the $4.99 version.
I think he's totally justified and his reasoning is sound, BUT, having been a LONG TIME Windows user, I can tell you I don't buy any app–even for 99 cents–if I'm not sure it does what it says it will do and will be useful to me. Windows apps almost always allowed a trial and more often than not got me to buy (unless it didn't work). Maybe others have disposable income to throw at ever little impulse they have, but I don't, and in this plethora of digital playthings I am NOT going to pay first and try it later unless I see enough reviews or talk to real people who verify it. I am totally won over to the iPhone but have already been burned too often, even at 99 cents. I don't know the solution for developers or why the Apple system can't allow trials, but this is my personal stance. I have always wanted to support developers whose stuff I use, but I also know, he's right, many many others don't and won't.
I agree totally. I'm a long-time iOS user; I had an OG iPhone, and now I carry an iPod Touch at all times. I have only ever bought 2 apps. There are a number of apps which have piqued my interest at various times, but I've always been reluctant to pull the trigger, because without being able to try an app, you really don't know what you're getting. Let's face it, out of 200,000 apps in the store, there's maybe 50 or so which are actually useful and worth paying money for. With the odds 4000:1 against, it pays to stick to the free apps.
Generally, I support the notion of having 2 separate versions of an app: an ad-supported "Lite" version, and a paid-for, ad-free "Pro" version. Given the limitations of Apple's app store, this seems to make the most sense. Even if you NEVER upgrade to the paid-version, the developers still make a little money from the ads. If it's a REALLY good app, devs make more money from ads than from charging everyone $1 up front.
Having no trial or "lite" version, i.e. erecting a pay-wall around your app, just doesn't seem like good business to me. Getting your app into the more people's hands should drastically increase the chances of making a sale, as MOST people won't buy a product they haven't seen or used first-hand.
I agree with David, and would add that if it's a useful app, someone else might make a free one.
It was so incredibly refreshing to read something from someone NOT pandering to the economics-ignorant masses. This was just good business sense, that every sane businessman thinks, but is afraid to say anywhere but behind the closed boardroom doors, because they're afraid it will hurt sales to people who think "they're only out for profit, and I hates them!!11!11!!!!"
Delightful and appropriate quote from the timeless Adam Smith: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages." (Wealth of Nations, I.2.2)