How an Awkward Moment at WWDC Underscores the Need for App Trials
A long-requested feature of the iOS App Store by both developers and users is the ability to set up “demos” for paid apps. The concept of demo or trial software has been around for years, since virtually the dawn of commercial software, but in Apple’s new mobile app ecosystem, there’s no official way to try a paid app before buying it.
Some developers have worked around this limitation by offering “lite” versions of their apps for free, with the expectation that the user will move to the full paid version if they like it. Other developers have leveraged in-app purchases, giving the primary app away for free and offering additional paid content à la carte.
But neither of these approaches are universal among developers, nor do they work for all types of apps. A true demo system, which grants access to apps for a certain period of time, would go a long way toward improving the App Store experience.
Google Play, for example, the Android-based counterpart to the iOS App Store, gives developers the option to offer users a 15-minute return period. After downloading a paid app, the user can access an automated return and refund procedure right on their Android device, with the app automatically uninstalled and the purchase price refunded to their account.
15 minutes may not seem like much of a trial, but it’s often enough time to, first, make sure the app performs well on your device and, second, determine to at least some degree if the app’s capabilities and features meet expectations.
And so when Apple CEO Tim Cook was quickly highlighting new features for the iOS App Store during Monday’s WWDC keynote address, the crowd of Apple fans and developers erupted into applause when a slide labeled “App Previews” appeared on the screen. Unfortunately, Apple had something different in mind for the term “app preview,” and the premature reaction by the crowd and subsequent clarification by Mr. Cook created a humorously awkward moment.
At the time, Mr. Cook was on a roll, rattling off great new features for the App Store like Editor’s Choice labels and App Bundles. But then came app previews: “Also, we’re introducing App Previews,” Mr. Cook began, with the crowd immediately applauding and shouting the praises of the Apple executive. But as he continued, the room fell quiet, and the roaring reaction quickly dropped to a polite smattering of applause: “so developers can make short videos of some great features, and the user can make certain that it’s an app that they would want.”
This was a minor bump in an otherwise exciting presentation, but it underscores the desire of developers and users to see Apple implement its own version of Google’s app return policy. Why continue to clog the App Store with countless “lite” and “free” versions of apps? It’s already hard enough to find good content, there’s no need to inflate the number of apps with these limited demos when a well-engineered trial or refund period could be introduced.
Make no mistake, app videos are a good idea, but they don’t go nearly far enough. And with iOS poised to gain a whole new slew of apps based on groundbreaking developments like Metal and Swift, iOS users and developers deserve a full-featured App marketplace, one that includes some component of app trials or easy refunds.