1 Level Free! Are "Lite" iPhone Games an App Store Deal or a Dud?

One of the highest profile iPhone games to state, EA's Spore, retails on the iTunes App Store for $9.99. Now, however, you can also get a "free" version, Spore Origins Lite Edition (iTunes link). The catch? It's teaser consisting of 1 level. Since Apple doesn't (yet?) have a model for demoing apps ("try" instead of "buy"), it's likely the only thing developers can do to give potential buyers a real preview. They hope, after one or a short number of levels, you'll be hooked enough to pony up the bucks for the full blown version.

How's this working? Well, Spore Origins Lite is not in the iTunes App Store Top 10... Pac Man Lite, which uses the same model, sits at number 5 in the free listings as of this posting, but it's full blown counterpart in nowhere to be found among the top 100 paid Apps.

What does this tell us? That people would rather pay nothing for a Lite edition than something for a full game? Or is it simply that the whole App ranking mechanism still broken?

Have you downloaded any free "Lite" Apps? And if so, how many have convinced you to move on up to the full version?

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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

1 Level Free! Are "Lite" iPhone Games an App Store Deal or a Dud?


I like the idea because there is no other way to try before you buy like you can with other software.

Good idea in theory, but when it actually comes to playability, the "lite" versions aren't that great of a deal because they always seem to lack the certain amount of functionality needed to make an educated decision about purchasing the app/game. Hopefully this will change in the future.

I've bought quite a few full versions based on the free lite versions. Having this option helps weed out apps that look great but are either duds or just impossible. It would be great if all apps had either lite versions or a try before you buy option. Then I wouldn't have to fork out loads of money for not so good apps (like Star Wars which was pretty pricey for what it did).

I have tried lite versions of a game, and then enjoyed it and bought the full version. What I don't like is a lite version that is $.99, then the full version costs more.
If there was a "try" option, no doubt it would try to get hacked pretty quickly, so I doubt Apple would want to do that.

I bought several apps I tried on lite mode (for example Sudoku type games, Mahjong type games, solitaire, etd...). I also tried Labyrinth, and not buy yet... It is nice, but I am still waiting. :-)
Also I am afraid, when I am going to buy expansive program or game with no ability to try it (programs in producitivity, etc...), Sometimes I bought some app and it does not fit (for example Car Care, iDiary, Battle At Sea...),
I hope in the future we would see another apps, not only the games in light mode to try them before shopping.

What is the point of limiting apps to only one country? Sometimes it may be necessary, but why can't I download Spore Origins Lite because I'm in the UK, why should we be forced to use the £5.99 full version when everyone in america gets a lite edition for free? It's quite annoying how many americans don't acknowledge countries outside of america. [/rant]
I prefer the lite editions of apps as I can not yet get a credit card, so I can't get a full version of an app, but I personally would not like to see trial versions replace lite versions as then you would get a time limit - whethere you use it or not - for a certain period, which I find to be worse than a less featured app. If developers rovided trials and lite editions then that would be ok, but I doubt that would happen.

In the Czech Republic is it the same. I see a lot of apps from EA and more.. on the US shop and in our not....
I do not understand US Apple politics, why they give to our country only some apps and not all.... can someone explain it to me? :-(

Apple needs to work out a 25hour trial or something along those lines. Too many "lite" games use advertising - and I'm on a fairly l imittd data plan.

Frog, you can always put the iPhone into airplane mode before you play an ad supported game to avoid any data costs. Another benefit of doing this is that it also disables the ads too.

@ Will and Kenika, I live in South Africa, I can't even buy music from iTunes let alone games our any of the cool / usefull apps. I feel your pain ... I have five iPods including my iPhone 3G and I've been and Apple supporter for three years now and this is the type of service that they provide us with, what's up with that. My only other option now is to deactivate my current account and re register under my buddies address in LA, USA. I realy want to keep all my systems legal and above board but Apple is leaving me no other option ....

while I have used a few "lite" versions of apps to evaluate them prior to purchase, overall, I find them quote annoying. While the apps themselves may be useful, in this sense, they fill the free section of the app store with unnecessary clutter. What fraction of the app stores touted "25% free" applications are just advertising in disguise?

I'm not especially price-sensitive when I'm buying Apps. If the App looks interesting, I'll buy it -- a few dollars difference between a trial version and a full version doesn't make much difference to me. What's been more troubling is there seems to be little relationship between App price and quality, whether the App carries an introductory price or not. The market is still very much shaking itself out.