Trial versions in the iPhone App Store

June 26, 2008

Paul Kafasis lists a number of “Open Questions for The App Store” over at the Inside iPhone Blog. In particular, he asks about trial versions of software made available through the store:

We provide free trials of all our software for Mac and Windows. Just like test-driving a car, you can test our software, before you buy it. The goal here is to make sure our users know just what they’re getting, and that it will perform as expected. How will we accomplish this in the App Store? Can we have free software that’s just a trial, and then link it to a paid version?

Commenter Mitch Cohen replies:

The general consensus for trials seems to be to have two versions on the App Store – a trial and a real version.

I’ve been hoping since the announcement of the App Store that this isn’t how trial versions will be handled, as I believe this to be a completely uninspired approach to the problem. Why is there a need for two separate downloads? There should really only be one, which is automatically swapped for the full version if the user chooses to purchase the app.

Conceptually, I don’t see why it needs to be any different than an app on the Mac that you can “unlock” with a license code. Only that in this case you’d unlock it through the App Store, obviating the need for entering codes. Whether a new binary is actually downloaded and installed behind the scenes should be an implementation detail that need not concern the user.