How Should Apple Handle App Store Demos?

There are no demos available in the App Store, we know this. No try before you buy, no download now, pay later. According to Erica Sadun at Ars Technica, even mentioning demo in your verbiage, like beta, will get you a swift kick in the rejection button. Free "Lite" versions are the only way to go.

Zach Epstein over on the Boy Genius Report wonders out loud why Apple, in its infinite usability, can't create a mechanism where Apps get downloaded free, and then expire after a short period of time unless you decide to buy and keep them.

So, does Apple really not know how to handle App Store demos yet? Or do they suspect, as TiPb does, f that demos would kill the $0.99 novelty App (and CrApp) impulse-buy business dead? After all, how many would really not tire of the gags before the demo period expired?

I'll fess up that the Lil John "YEAH!" "OKAY!" "WHAT!" travesty App would never have eaten my $0.99 had there been a demo! What percentage of Apps you've bought, do you think having had a demo period wouldn't have made sure you didn't buy instead?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

How Should Apple Handle App Store Demos?


Great ideas the only way this would work was if you were only allowed to demo the premeium apps the apps that are $9.99 and up. This wouldn't kill the .99 app and benifit the consumer. This I think is a great idea espeacially with the psp quality games hitting the app store.

I don't know, it might be best to have an entire separate section of "demo" or "lite" apps. Right now you often see lite version on the top 10 of free apps which can take space away from real free apps. Apple could create a new section for these apps that developers have deemed lite versions for people to try out before they buy the real thing.
Right now the system isn't very good just mixing them in with all the other apps.
There aren't really that many apps I've bought that I then got upset that I bought. Just a few that didn't work out. I normally do a lot of research looking for reviews and such before I pay more than $1 for something. Luckily I have TiPB, iLounge, and IgN with good app reviews to keep me informed.

Personally, Ive never needed a demo app. I've bought 6 apps and use them regulary. I don't buy ugly apps and I don't buy apps with low reviews. Beejive, LogMeIn, Caravan, WordBook, AirSharing, and Checkbook are all top notch apps that I have no regrets buying. I've also downloaded some very useful FREE apps.
You only need demos if you're a compulsive buyer of the vast selection of cr@p available on the App Store. And it's pretty easy to tell which are cr@p just by looking at them.

I have heard people say that time-limited trials are awful. "But what if I need more than X days to evaluate something!?" Okay, how long do you need? After using something for a week or two, either you're going to buy it or you're going to try something else. You can't just sit around for a YEAR going "gee, which password manager is really the best for me?" You're going to pick one as soon as you find something comfortable and get on with your life.
Thus, I think regular old full-function X day trials are probably the way to go.
That's what we want, right? We want TRIAL SOFTWARE. We want to "use it before you pay for it." That's what people complain about.

The no-trials, no-refunds policy of the App Store has stopped me from buying any more apps, period. I am simply unwilling to take the risk that the apps I buy are (1) without any practical use or (2) are implemented so poorly that they might as well have no practical use.
I am particularly peeved about the inability to test the individual apps in categories that have many options (e.g., RSS readers and file transfer apps). I know that I want one app from each of these categories, but am unwilling to invest my money in figuring out which is best.
So, Apple's short-sighted policy results in a loss of potential revenue from me and from the dozens of end-users whom I have counselled to use the App Store with great caution.
What are the odds of Apple's fixing this and other outstanding issues? Well, the company would first have to care what consumers and developers think and there is no sign of that happening.

I don't buy and install apps unless I'm going to use them a lot. I only have apps that are productive I don't play games on my phone or use joke apps. I don't see the point of apple putting in a demo section unless they just want to make osx like every other mobile os

The app store is still evolving so I think there will be something in the future for this purpose. On the idea of having trials for $9.99 and above...that could work, but it might send the wrong message. I think the better option would be to allow each developer decide. The dev could set demo on/off when submitting the app to the store?

I'm pretty sure I'd buy more if all apps had a demo. I'd certainly try more. It would raise the quality too.

I've purchased several (esp. when the App Store debuted) that I would have skipped if I'd had a demo. The most expensive: Super Monkey Ball. That was a waste of $10 for me. (I know there's a Lite version now, but there wasn't then.) Also bought 2 bad drawing apps I regret.
Now I've learned to wait on pricey apps: both for a Lite version to arrive and for a price cut on the full version. Witness Rolando, which quickly dropped from $10 to $6 and also came out with a Lite version.
I would definitely try way more paid apps if there was a demo mechanism. Whether I'd actually buy more apps depends on the quality of the software...

I think there should be demos, and the only .99 apps that it will kill are the crApps. I mean honestly the people that made iBeer and iFart don't deserve to be paid for them because they're useless! Plus if it's a good App, you'll buy it anyway once the demo period is up.

The most effective solution would be for Apple to allow developers to choose 1) whether they allow a demo period and 2) how long that period is. Then novelty/impulse apps don't need to offer a demo, and more complex or expensive apps can offer longer demo times if they like. Only the least appealing and lowest quality apps would lose from a model like this, and users would obviously be winners too.

Monkeyball sucked. MooCow Band sucked. $20 dollars lost there.
I took the iShoot lite version to entice me to purchase it for 2.99. Best game, ever!
It took Orb Lite for me to purchase Orb for $10. (Awesome app.)
Doing a lite version is a wonderful idea. And nothing beats the .99 app.

I did find a demo app. Checkout At Bat in the app store. it says it will expire on Feb 23 2009. They don't seem to be calling it a "demo" but I think it falls under that category.