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I Don't Want to Pay Up Front for Your App

Being an iOS developer, albeit a new and amateur one, I understand the desire and the need for developers to make money from the things they make. I understand why apps cost the money they do, and the consequences of free, paid and in-app purchases for the developer and the reasons for doing so. While I can’t speak for everyone my age, I feel that I am in the minority in this understanding.

Despite my empathy for developers, I still don’t want to pay for apps.

In the case of apps, it’s not because of the cost - it’s the barrier. I research every purchase I make, regardless of price; I have to look into reviews, screenshots and blog posts as to whether this piece of software is worth it. I don’t know how many normal people do that in order to vindicate their decisions: most will see the price and opt for the free one. If I come across a few sub-standard reviews, a piece of UI I don’t like or any other innocuous detail with which I do not agree, I won’t buy the app. By setting an up front price for your app, you’re stopping people from trying it, and moreover allowing them to feel justified in leaving one-star about the tiny particulars that they dislike - they paid money, after all.

If the app is free, I’ll look at a screenshot and maybe the star rating on the reviews. That’s it. There’s zero barrier. It’s not about the cost, it’s about the purchase. With an in-app purchase, I already know what I’m getting - in this context by paying I’m going to receive more of what I already enjoy. With an up front paid app - I’m paying for the opportunity to try your app.

To me, a great example of this is the case of Tweetbot vs Letterpress. Tweetbot is $2.99, and is ostensibly the best Twitter experience on iOS devices. I know this; nevertheless, I persist with using the official Twitter client. It’s free - I have to wonder: how much better can Tweetbot be? The answer: a lot better, but the up front price tag is stopping me from wanting to try it out. Now, consider Letterpress, a free app which has in-app purchases to unlock themes and the ability to play more simultaneous games. I didn’t hesitate in downloading Letterpress, and I didn’t hesitate in paying the in-app purchase price because I knew what I was getting and I knew it would be better. With in-app purchases, the user knows that paying will get them more of what they want; paid up front is buying some unknown quantity of an unknown product. The former, in most cases, has a much better degree of user experience. The pricing on the up front purchase is completely intangible and arbitrary to the user.

No part of the consumer in me wants to pay for your app up front, but I don’t mind doing it for an in-app purchase: I’ve gotten some value already, even if the upgrade isn’t great.

Maybe it’s because I’m cheap, but at least I know what I’m getting with the official Twitter client.


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