iPhone App Store: Where Are the Free Trials?

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Matt Miller at ZDNet beat me to the punch about the lack of free trials in the iPhone App Store, but boy have I been thinking that all day. I spent the last 8 hours downloading applications to determine which ones we liked the best. I downloaded tons of stuff, including applications like the MLB At Bat, which costs $4.99, and Moo-Cow-Music's Band for a hefty $9.99. Granted, I don't pay out of my own pocket for software, but I racked up a bill of about $75 today in iPhone applications.

Sure, there are loads of free applications—and it turns out some of the best applications are the free ones—such as Facebook and Pandora. But other apps, such as games, can cost anywhere between $2.99 and $20. (LionClock Lite, which God knows what that is, costs $29.99.) Why download a $10 application that you may not even like? This is the reason software companies offer full, or even limited, versions of its software for 15- to 30-day trials. (Plus, it's a great way to reel in the addicts; after 30 days of playing Bejeweled, you try to live without it.)

So why has Apple decided against free trials? Probably because they want you to pay for a non-refundable game or application. On the other hand, this will probably mean the end user will want to read more reviews of mobile applications, so in the end that keeps the money coming to me, and then I can buy all the iPhone Apps I want.

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  • Ramin Says:

    Reason is because Apple charges developers for placing their apps on the store. And apple makes money off each purchase. So, apple's policy is perfect for a developer who's made a ridiculous app with a ridiculous price. But if you're a developer who really believe in what your app is about, you'd place a lite version for free (which you have to pay $100 to apple for another app);

  • Sharon Says:

    When Apple announce the are allowing a built in Trail mechanism
    this will be the time to buy the Apple stock because
    the sales of AppStore will increase dramatically.

    It is just common sense to allow people to try all the features before
    spending $$$ on application.
    if it is good they will pay.
    Apple is completely missing the point with their attitude
    and allow lousy apps to scare people from buying good apps.
    If I have bad experience on spending $$$ on apps that dissapoint me
    I will think twice before spending more $$$ on the next app
    even if it is maybe the best app ever.

  • Technoboy Says:

    I am a developer and have recently run into this issue. My main problem is that I need to sell my app for 99 cents to maximize revenue, even though it's worth much more than that to those who actually use it. But since most apps get deleted after being used once or twice, it is understandable that few people would pay $5 or $10 for an app they most likely will not keep.

    So I submitted a free trial version that expires after 15 uses to get around my issue. This got rejected from the App Store with the following explanation:

    ZipTunes Playlist Creator and Music Player - Trial Edition cannot be posted because
    it is a feature-limited version. Any reference to demo or trial needs to be
    removed from the binary and metadata. Free or "Lite" versions are acceptable,
    however the application must be a fully functional app and cannot reference features
    that are not implemented or up-sell to the full version.

    It's unfortunate how difficult it is for users to try out an app like ZipTunes before buying it. Game developers have it easier - they can just make a lite version with one or two levels - but with a music player app I don't have such options.

    By far the most thorough solution - pretty daunting but well worth it in my opinion - would be for Apple to allow users to download an iPhone simulator and try out apps from the app store by using them from the iPhone simulator on their desktop/laptop. There already is such a thing as an iPhone simulator, but it's currently only marketed to developers and has limited features. But if Apple would let developers submit a separate version for the simulator, I could definitely work with that. For example, when I run my music player app on the simulator, it has a hardcoded music library that I use for testing. You would be able to browse this hardcoded library and make playlists, but would not be able to actually listen to the music (since the simulator lacks an iPod music player). Still, even with these limitations, you would be able to get an accurate impression of ZipTunes - certainly much better than from looking at screenshots, descriptions, or videos!

  • Iv Ray Says:

    A real horror! Especially after it is virtually impossible to find applications with 5 stars. The majority have three or less. I guess this is an annoyance similar to the iPhone being offered by one provider only. Shows that nobody is perfect. Unfortunately.

  • Mike Orb Says:

    Apple is making a big mistake by not providing built-in trials of any $$$ apps. I can afford to buy apps, but am frugal and don't want to waste my $$$ on junk. How hard could it be to have the BUY button be TRY instead. Then, after XX days the app stops working and the phone/touch says "BUY / DELETE" if I try to run it.

    Obviously SW vendors on PC/Mac have done the calculus and realize that they make more $$$ via trial->purchase path then they lose via piracy that results from trial cracks.

    Apple, you are missing out on lots more $$$. I hope this is just something they are working on.

  • Fugo Says:

    There are some trial or "light" versions of apps. one for example is the vnc-client for the iphone. it has reduced functionality and is for free. You have to buy the full version if you need the full functionality. but often it would be more interesting to test the full functionality for a few days to check it in reallife.

    maybe this is coming - appstore is a very young platform and will grow with time.

  • Plinio Says:

    I think the reason why there is no free-trial apps is because Apple's partners are afraid people will just hack them after jailbreaking the iPhone/iPod 2.0.

    What I really didn't understand is why an app (I don't remember which one, I only know it's a financial/business app) has two version: the lite, for free, and the full for "just" US$ 499,90. My God, I think it has a link to the future so I can know the stocks prices for next week!

  • Kung Fu Says:

    because they are apple that is why. I love how when you type in your iTunes password it shows the character then encrypts it Brilliant man.

  • SierraMike Says:

    Maybe the "free" apps ARE the free trials... and once they get the addicts hooked to those, they'll charge you to keep using them...

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