Apple currently allows free trials in two forms: if you sell subscriptions, you can give customers a free month to try the app; and, you can give your app away free, and offer a free In-App Purchase (IAP) to unlock all features for a fixed period of time.
So why does Apple allow these forms, but not offer a more formal version of free trials?
Think for a moment about how a ‘formal’ free trial system would work. What would you see in the App Store? Probably something along the lines of a button with the text “$50 with Free Trial”. Now take your average iOS customer, who has never heard of free trials as they exist outside the App Stores. I suspect many will already be confused by this.
Drew goes on to explain that confusion, with specific questions like:
- If I click the button, will I be charged $50 now?
- What happens when my trial is up: will I be charged automatically then?
Not sure that confusion can’t be addressed by better wording. And if Apple did go down that road, I think they would try to make sure all those questions were answered before the user was put in that decision position.
I also think, and this is a nitpick on the post’s title, it’s impossible for anyone outside Apple to truly know Apple’s logic on this without either a clear statement from Apple or being inside the room.
To be clear, I do like this post. The two points above are my instant reaction, don’t want them to be left unsaid. Don’t let those points derail you, though. Drew’s post is worth reading.
So why are the existing options any better? Let’s take the free IAP system. Firstly, there is no fear about downloading an app — it is free to download. There is a nice big “Get” button to indicate that. Second, once you have the app, you are told there is a free trial, and you are given a clear choice to opt-in. Because it is an IAP, and not a subscription, you know there can be no charge at the end of the trial. There is a second IAP to purchase the app; it is equally clear that you don’t pay until you activate that IAP, and that you can do that any time. Everything is driven by the customer, and all opt-in. No uncertainty.
To me, that’s the core. Apple’s chose a clear, straightforward solution. Not one that will satisfy everyone, but one that won’t confuse users.
This is an interesting take on the free trial issue, and a good balance to Daniel Jalkut’s excellent Ersatz Free Trials post from a few weeks ago.