Aug 12, 2011

Lite and Full Versions of Apps – There is a Better Way

Consumers obviously love free apps, and app developers obviously love to make money. To bridge the divide – there seem to be 2 common ways to offer a consumer a free trial of an app.

1. Offer a free ‘lite’ version and a paid for ‘full’ version.

2. Offer in app purchases (eg free app with basics, but can buy extra levels).

I cant find any real stats comparing the two ways, but there are obvious problems with both.

The ipad App store has (at the time of writing) about 109,000 apps in it. A search for “lite” apps showed 4400 results. That’s 4% of the apps!! (more if you consider that all those apps are essentially duplicated in the app store because they have ‘lite’ and ‘full’ versions.

So when browsing the app store – 8% of the apps you’ll see are duplicates with arbitrary separation between trial and full. Each of these apps appears in the app store twice (noise) with separate reviews (inconsistency).

For the in app purchase – the common metaphor is buying extra levels, widgets, or content. Technically it is a lot more work, which will prevent a lot of developers from doing it just to offer a trial and full version i the same app. Secondly – although I can’t find any info comparing this, my hunch from my own behavior is to avoid apps that offer in app purchases unless they are content based (eg buy a new book). I don’t like the idea of paying for new levels or add-ons.

Here is what I’d like to see: an Apple sanctioned way of offering in app upgrades. When a user searches for an app they see a single app in the app store. They can install it as either the lite or full version. Either way, the same app is installed, and the app itself has an API call to check what ‘level’ it is. Eg – [theApplication isServiceLevelLite]. There would also need to be an API to upgrade from within the app.

This type of solution has a lot of benefits.

- cleans up the mess of doubled up applications (again – 8% of the app store)

- consolidates incorrectly segregated reviews

- a consistent way of upgrading apps if they are upgradeable

- a less intimidating way (than in app purchases) to offer an upgraded version of an app

- a consistent trial/full paradigm

I think it’s a big win for both developers and consumers. The lite/full app versions is clearly a paradigm that has become commonplace – and I can’t wait until app decides to properly streamline it.

Update : Aparently 66% of in-app revenue is from ‘consumable’ goods. (At least for apps that are games).: http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/16/what-ios-android-gamers-actually-spend-money-on/