Friday, September 30, 2016 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Omni’s IAP Trials and Upgrade Discounts

Ken Case (via Twitter):

The underlying problem, as noted above, is that downloading the app has a fixed cost. We’ve always set that cost to be the standard price of our app, leaving us no way to charge less. But what if we take a fresh look at this problem, and make our downloads free? You know, like every iPhone app in the Top Grossing List has already done? It’s not that they don’t sell anything—or they wouldn’t be on that list. They just don’t sell the original download. (Which we’ve never done on our own store either.)

With the original download free, we can implement any pricing options we want to offer customers through In-App Purchases. We can offer our standard unlocks of Standard and Pro, of course. But we can also offer a free 2-week trial which unlocks all of the features of Pro and Standard, letting you freely choose between them. We can offer a discounted upgrade to the new Standard. And we can offer free upgrades to the new versions to any customers who recently purchased the old app.

Marc Palmer proposed something like this in 2014. It’s not entirely clear to me whether Apple’s guidelines allowed it then, or even whether they do now. Nat Brown points to rule 11.9, which said that apps could not contain expiring content or services. It was removed when the guidelines were rewritten in June 2016. Ken Case says that “Apps can offer trials of optional content,” but are app features “optional content” in the same way as game levels? Rule 3.2.1 (iii) says (emphasis added):

Disabling access to specific approved rental content (e.g. films, television programs, music, books) after the rental period has expired; all other items and services may not expire.

Omni is not offering subscriptions, which explicitly can have trials. Perhaps it’s OK for the tier-0 IAP to expire because it’s free.

Either way, it’s key that OmniGraffle will perpetually work as a free viewer-only app if you don’t purchase any IAPs. Otherwise, if it didn’t do anything useful, Apple would not allow it in the store. This is a great fit for Omni, because they want everyone to be able to open their file format, anyway. However, this approach does not scale to other types of apps where there is no natural subset that can be made free.

Assuming Apple allows this, it sounds like a rather convoluted way to get to a pretty good place, although it’s also an admission that Apple is unlikely to make demos or upgrades built-in features of the App Store. Instead, developers will write a bunch of notoriously difficult code to approximate those features, and Apple will have less ability to ensure that it all works properly and consistently for customers.

2 Comments

Their solution is interesting. Maybe I'm missing something obvious but it looks like this is also a way to use their application for free forever without too much hassle if you're not using the product everyday.

Let's say I need to work on a document, I just need to create an Apple ID account with no credit card and request a new free 2-week trial (I will probably need to delete the OmniXXXXX container in ~/Library but this will not delete my existing documents). Once I'm done working on the document, it's fine to just be able to read it. Next time I need to update the document or create a new one, I will create a new Apple ID account.

[…] new version of Acorn sounds great. I still think this expiring $0 IAP is a confusing hack that’s worse for all parties than actual App […]

Stay up-to-date by subscribing to the Comments RSS Feed for this post.

Leave a Comment