Instapaper is a well regarded tool that lets you save web pages in their entirety for retrieving and reading later. Until recently there were two versions of an iOS app from the service’s developer, Marco Arment, a $4.99 paid version and a free version with lesser capabilities and is designed specifically for the iPhone (no iPad display adjustments).
Marco has pulled the free version out of the iTunes Store twice now. Once last fall for three days. The second time was March 12 for what was expected to be a 30-day period but is not being extended indefinitely. Marco explains why in a post on his blog.
Marco makes an excellent case for his reason to drop the free version indefinitely. These reasons include:
1. No one complained about the free version disappearing
2. Maintaining a second (free) version incurs development costs
3. Users of the free version creates additional server-side costs
4. The advertisements in the free version do not provide significant revenue compared to simply selling an app for $4.99
5. The free version drew underiable clients who gave the app unjustified poor reviews
I suspect Marco’s experience could be replicated by other developers if their app has some of Instapaper’s characteristics including but not limited to:
– A well-established product/service prior to providing an iOS app
– A well-regarded product by ordinary users and the power users (writers, bloggers) who may influence other users
– The product provides a service or entertainment value that is well understood prior to purchase
If an app does not meet these three characteristics and more, I suspect that app needs a free version to get people to try it.