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Free Trials From Apple’s Perspective

Drew McCormack:

I don’t want to get into a point-by-point debate on the topic; instead, I want to do something that I haven’t seen anyone do: try to understand why Apple don’t want the sort of free trials that are being demanded.

Apple currently allows free trials in two forms: if you sell subscriptions, you can give customers a free month to try the app; and, you can give your app away free, and offer a free In-App Purchase (IAP) to unlock all features for a fixed period of time.

So why does Apple allow these forms, but not offer a more formal version of free trials? Most developers seem to assume they are deliberately ignoring their protests, for no good reason, or that they simply are not willing to dedicate the resources to solve the problem. I doubt both of these assumptions. I think Apple have probably thought long and hard about it, and concluded that the options they have introduced are actually better than the free trials developer’s are requesting.

This is a thoughtful piece, and I think McCormack could be correct that this is more or less Apple’s perspective on the matter. And I’ve always thought it useful to try to think about things from Apple’s perspective.

I think it’s fair to say McCormack’s argument boils down to “Traditional free trials could be a source of confusion for typical users” and he backs that up with some good questions users might have. But I think this is where design comes into play. Design is largely about devising solutions to problems. I can’t help but think there’s a way that Apple could design a system of free trials in the App Store that would not leave typical users confused in any of the ways McCormack suggests.

I think “free app with a free in-app purchase to unlock a one-month demo period, which, when expired, will require a $20 in-app purchase” is fundamentally more confusing than “this app costs $20 but you can try it for free for the first month”. You just need good design to make that clear. The former is what we have now, the latter is what the indie community has been clamoring for ever since the App Store debuted. And don’t forget paid upgrades.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018