Launching as a paid app

Dan Counsell has a great post about paid vs. freemium pricing in the App Store, suggesting that paid apps are often still the best choice:

“Launching as a paid app is still one of the most straightforward and safest ways to enter the App Store. Regardless of what you may have heard or read, the paid app market is not dead. As long as you’re smart with your marketing and price carefully you can make a great return on your initial investment.”

I’m pretty sure we left some money on the table with our Sunlit launch by making it a free download. We had an audience of folks on looking forward to picking it up, plus curious people who had signed up for our announcement mailing list, and others who would find out about it in the first week of press. Many of these people upgraded to the full version inside the app, but I believe many more would have bought it for a few bucks even if the app ultimately wasn’t for them.

And that’s how the App Store works, right? People are always buying 99-cent apps they don’t need. It seems wrong, coming from a Mac background where you download the demo of an app and then pay a fair price after trying it, but so much of the iOS App Store works on cheap gimmicks and over-the-top marketing. People will buy on the promise of an app alone.

But we made Sunlit free anyway, for two reasons. First, because it requires an account, we didn’t want anyone to buy it and then decide not to sign up for an account, making the app they paid for worthless. It’s been great to see people sign up for just to use the app, but we’re realistic enough to know that not everyone will do that.

Second, and most importantly, we have big plans for the app. Plans that include reaching people who don’t pay for apps often. I want my kids to be using this so that when we go on trips, all our best photos can sync to everyone’s device. I want extended family to use this, so that grandparents can stay in touch with what their children and grandchildren are up to. I want it to start free so that anyone can try it, because you never know who’s going to take the app and use it for something new, for ideas we haven’t even thought of.

Sunlit 1.0 is about laying the groundwork. I don’t want to change the price again, and our eye is on the market 6 months from now, a year from now. I think free with in-app purchase is the right approach for that.

Manton Reece @manton