Almost since the inception of the App Store, developers have bemoaned the fact that they aren’t able to provide free trials there. It took forever, it seems, but Apple finally provided a mechanism (or two) for doing offering a free trial on the App Store. Now there are two ways to do it, and developers are strongly favoring one over the other. The preference shows that making money on the App Store is still consider a dicey proposition for many developers.
A Truly Free Free Trial on the App Store
I barely realized it, but Apple gives developers a way to offer users a free trial on the App Store without any commitment or possible charges. Let me explain. The most popular way of providing a free trial on the App Store is to implement a subscription model. The developer gives users a free trial period to that subscription. If the user doesn’t unsubscribe, he or she gets billed at the end of that trial. It might be three days, it might be a week, or maybe it’s a full month. Omni Group has been doing this at least since September 2016.
The other way of giving a free trial on the App Store is through a timed In-App Purchase (IAP). This is a way that the developer can unlock all or some of the features of an app, sometimes just for a predetermined amount of time. At the end of that trial, the features stop working and the user is prompted to make another IAP to unlock them forever.
So, Why Choose one Method Over the Other?
Those of us who are “in the know” are often leery of free trials. There’s a reason services and developers offer them. When you subscribe to something with a free trial offering, there are three possible outcomes at the end of the trial period:
- You’ll realize you can’t live without the app or service, and allow the subscription to renew.
- You’ll realize you don’t like or need the app. You’ll be smart about your subscriptions, and unsubscribe before the trial ends.
- You’ll forget all about the end of the trial period, and suffer an “accidental renewal.”
The most common things that happen are options one and three. That’s just how the business works. We’re all so busy that we forget we’d subscribed until we get charged for it. Sometimes, we’ll unsubscribe and ask for our money back, but that latter action is pretty rare. It’s difficult to do.
A Slightly Shady Monetization Strategy
In my opinion, this is somewhat of a shady way to make money. It plays on the forgetfulness of the average as well as the not-so-average user. Yes, you can usually get a refund (but not always), but who has time for that? I’ve heard a number of people complain about this, but the truth is that Apple makes sure you are given full disclosure of when your subscription will renew. What happens next is up to you.
When I discovered the totally free trial option, without any strings attached, I initially wondered why I hadn’t seen it used more often. Then I got to thinking about it. While providing a free subscription that automatically renews might be shady, it’s still a perfectly legitimate business model. After all, you’re told on your screen and in email when your subscription will expire. After that, it’s up to you to take responsibility for unsubscribing if you don’t like the app or service.