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Free is not really free?


#1

Recently I’ve tried to use Google Play to install some apps - as I use the phone for calls only, it was a whole new experience for me. I was surprised that most authors call their software “free” while in fact it is a free trial of a commercial software. Most trial periods are extremely short, like 3 or 6 days (why so urgent?). They also constantly trying to take money using so called “in app purchases”, making the free" software not free at all. It was a surprise for me when I set a filter to show paid apps only, I didn’t see “full” versions of those trials - the pure commercial software is not listed in the paid apps category.

Is it how they do business in mobile software world? Trying to trick customers to install their software by calling it “free”, and I as a customer have to dig through all this cr*p to find anything useful, researching each app and trying to find what’s the catch?


#2

The app market is tough, but Google Play is a special sh*t hole.

From a books point of view, there is rampant piracy, which Google has been slow to fix. Even worse, sometime ago Google decided to unilaterally (ie, without consulting the authors) reduce the price of books.

This meant not only authors lost money, but when other sellers like Amazon / Apple price matched, that meant you lost money everywhere. And then Google dropped the prices again…

For books at least, I was warned to stay as far as from Google as possible.


#3

Yes, the software world is one in which practices which would get you arrested in any other industry are business-as-usual, and mobile apps are the wild, wild west of that world. That’s not to say that there aren’t a number of vendors who act scrupulously and fairly, but some form of deceptive trade practice can be found in the vast majority of mobile apps.


#4

If a potential customer won’t purchase your software shortly after the first time they try it out they usually won’t purchase it at all. Unless your application is some special use case where its usefulness only becomes clear after a longer time period it doesn’t really make a difference if you offer a 7 day or 30 day trial.


#5

I guess it’s the result of super low prices. If you have to fight for scraps just to survive your moral compass gets a timeout.


#6

[quote=“jls, post:4, topic:3443”]
If a potential customer won’t purchase your software shortly after the first time they try it out they usually won’t purchase it at all. Unless your application is some special use case where its usefulness only becomes clear after a longer time period it doesn’t really make a difference if you offer a 7 day or 30 day trial.
[/quote]I don’t agree. For me, trial periods of 30 days or less are not enough - sometimes I may not even get a chance to run it… let alone test how it does something real. So it’s likely that those who have such extremely short trial periods will not see me in their customer list.

Same goes for trials of paid apps, which for some weird reason are listed as “free”, and I have to install it to find out that it’s not really free… Sometimes I “only” need to click Read More and somewhere in the long description they mention that it’s, actually, a free trial. Looks like there’s no moderation in those stores, or it’s how things are supposed to be.

[quote=“mpalmer, post:3, topic:3443”]
Yes, the software world is one in which practices which would get you arrested in any other industry are business-as-usual, and mobile apps are the wild, wild west of that world.
[/quote]I’ve never seen desktop software vendor who positioned their software as free, while it was a paid for commercial software with a free trial. In mobile world it seems to be ok, though…


#7

@Dmitry: It’s not common, but I’ve seen several desktop apps which don’t reasonably disclose the limitations of the “free” version, and instead rely on in-app nagging to trigger purchasing behaviour. You’re right, though, that it is very common in the mobile app world to do that kind of thing. As @jls said, “If you have to fight for scraps…”


#8

It sounds like you had a particularly unfortunate experience with your sample base. Which apps did you pick out of curiosity? Some spaces are more notorious than others (e.g. games tend to be ad-based or encourage in-app upgrades after some teaser levels of play or equivalent). Also, the more off the beaten path you go (i.e. away from recognized brands/developers), the more unpredictable it will be.

It’s hard to make general statements about mobile apps, Android-based or otherwise. There are multiple business models. Many are free because they compliment a larger property (e.g. Facebook isn’t going to charge for their app). Many others are ad-based (ads displayed in-app but otherwise no out-of-pocket cost to the user). Then you have apps that are free, with some limited amount of functionality (either in feature-set or time-based), where the user is encouraged to make in-app or outside-of-app upgrades. There are hybrids as well (e.g. ads + purchase options).

To answer to your question: Yes, sometimes. No different than any other software, really. The overall average rating, number of downloads, and (if desired) individual reviews available in Google Play alongside each app are right there if you want the crowdsourced opinion.


#9

I thought so too. I was trying to find GPS navigation software. I was using standalone GPS hardware but it had ceased to work, and I wanted to substitute it with a mobile phone navigation. All apps in this category are listed as “free” and almost all of them ask to make a payment on the first start :slight_smile: It’s also not immediately obvious how much and how often do I need to pay: pay for the software itself, pay for maps, pay to get access to traffic information etc. I’m not sure which of those are subscriptions and which are one-off payments. It was way easier when I purchased a GPS device years ago: it just worked without any questions.


#10

Oh, well that is built right into your phone. Google Navigator or, in newer versions of Android, Google Maps.

The direct link to the app:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.maps7


#11

Tried it, but it doesn’t have offline access to maps. I can download them manually of course, but that’s a lot of work: it allows saving 100x100 km squres for offline usage, and if I need multiple cities I have to spend hours downloading all this, and then updating them manually. It may work fine in the city, but away from cities, without Internet access, it’s useless.


#12

For offline use I have BeOnRoad with free open street maps!