Should applications have free demos?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| December 6, 2012

When it comes to applications, I know that I’m not as bad as our very own Taylor Martin. He buys a lot of apps, and then he hoards them on his phone like they might never come back if he lets them go. I’m not like that. When it comes to general purpose applications, I can usually talk some common sense into my head before I pull the trigger, and I’ve dodged a few bullets over the years thanks to that little voice in my head. Of course, there are a few app categories that the little voice just knows better than to argue with me over, and I do find myself buying applications that I use for a little while, and then ultimately discard completely.

Twitter apps. Writing apps (so many writing apps). And, probably worst of all, games. I am worse when it comes to games on my mobile devices. But, I’m “the gamer,” so I guess that makes sense. Still, I spend probably too much money on games that are specifically built to only keep me entertained for short periods of time. Games that, still, don’t quite add up to the console levels that some might believe they do.

It helps that many of them are under $10, though.

Unfortunately, I can’t hoard applications like Taylor, simply because the majority of space on my phone is taken up by music. That’s why an application really has to wow me in just a few hours, maybe a day, or it could be deleted from my device and effectively forgotten about. (Unless it pops back up in the news, thanks to new features or something. Then it could be downloaded again.) Basically, an app that I buy has a short time to prove its worth to me, or I just toss it away.

Which, in hindsight, just doesn’t make any sense.

I buy an app to use it, or try it I guess, and then if it doesn’t work for me, I delete it. So, basically, I wasted that money. Right? I mean, that’s really the only way to look at it. I’m not keeping the app, and I can’t re-sell it to someone else. So, I spend two bucks on a new Twitter app, then delete it the next day? Two bucks down the drain.

This is why I think, wholeheartedly, that developers should come up with more free demos for their paid applications. 7-day, 14-day, or even just a four-day trial period where the potential buyer has the means to try out all the features, and use the application in its full form, before they either have to pay, or the app’s functionality simply stops working.

This is one thing that I really enjoy about Windows Phone. The majority of applications that I’ve tried to use over the years have included a free demo, and that’s a huge benefit for Microsoft’s mobile platform. It paints a clearer picture, to me, rather than getting a “free” version of the app that is loaded with advertisements, missing functionality, or anything like that. I’d much rather get a free trial of the full, unadulterated application to make my future purchase decision on.

Don’t get me wrong, the free versions of apps are great, especially for people who just don’t want to buy applications. (Yes, I know people like this.) But, that free demo just makes more sense to me for trying to sell an app to a potential customer. It’s the app they’ll be buying. It shows off the features, instead of banking on the fact the potential customer will “miss” the features they know they’ll “unlock” in the paid version. I’d rather use those features to know if they work or not, rather than just dream about having them in a paid version of an app I downloaded for free. (Because there’s a free version of the app. Not for any other reason, mind you.)

Free demos of apps have probably gone the way of the Dodo for the most part, but since they’re still a thing in Windows Phone, I have some hope that maybe, someday, they’ll find a way to other platforms as well. Then again, considering I’m part of the problem, in that I’m buying apps and the developers are making money from it whether or not I actually use it, that’s probably just a pipedream.

So tell me, Dear Reader, are you someone who would like to see free demos of “full apps” in your digital storefront? Or do you prefer the divide between “full, paid app” and “limited, free version?” Let me know what you think!