In App Purchase discussion.

I want to talk further on people opinions on In-App-Purchase, as I’d really like to make a decision, but I’m no closer to it than months ago.

I want to provide a means for people to test/use the application. In the past I experimented with shipping a FREE version, and a paid version. This worked well for us (back in 2011-2014), but it’s not allowed on the App Store anymore (from my experiences with Apple in the summer of 2019).

We’ve also tried to create FREE apps, where additional functionality is unlocked. This was incredibly hard to do, because you’re supposed to create a worthy FREE application, then charge the user to unlock more functionality, sounds simple, but in practice we never got the balance right and failed to earn out on our investments.

I’m looking at utilizing Apple’s 14-Day FREE trial, then offering the user various options to purchase after the trial. Except that I cannot find any information on how to do this without a Auto-Renewing subscription. 3rd Party sites from 2018, say it’s possible to do it, but I can’t find the documentation on Apple’s site.

The next step is to figure out what the pricing options are.

  1. A one time FEE for the rest of the product’s life.
  2. Regular fees to use the product, but are not automatically renewed.
  3. Auto renewing subscriptions.

Option 3 has some sweeteners attached for developers.
a) The subsequent years, Apple’s 30% becomes 15%.
b) A developer can offer incentives to get people to sign up, free trials, time limited discounts.

Traditionally, upgrades (or I guess you could subsequent years) are almost always cheaper for the customer, as a way of encouraging them to continue using your product, rather than assess the competition. I can see no way to offer this to the customer, nor can I see a way to pass on that 15% free reduction to the customer.

So what I was thinking to do is as follows.

  1. A 14-Day Trial (if I can find the documentation).
  2. Offer multiple (non-renewing options).
    a) 1 month at $3.99
    b) 1 year at $29.99
    c) 2 Years at $39.99
  3. After the customer has used the product for more than 1 year (or 2 if they choose that), offer them a different set of options.
    a) 1 Year for $19.99.
    b) 2 Years for $29.99

These prices are for illustration purposes only. Through this model, I’m forever paying Apple 30%, but I’m hoping that my customers would appreciate it more.

So what do you all think of these options, which would/do you choose and why?

Edit: I don’t know if Apple would allow me to offer cheaper items for subsequent purchases. The wife says I should stop trying to swim against the current.

I don’t think my answer will help you, but I don’t like (and don’t buy) subscription apps.
so I would stay with a paid app store version and a free demo on my web site.
or a free app on the app store with in-app purchase

Perhaps the first thing to do is do ask your existing customers what they think. I’d also like to see the reasoning of existing subscription users why they use a subscription. It does work - we just need to figure out why it works. Set App, 1Password and the like work.

I did a crippled version of my app in the app store and a full version outside of the app store. Of course, I can’t advertise the full version but so far the updates from cripple to full work fine. And the Apple testers are lazy and have to use my data so that they never reach the end of the crippled version.

It really depends on the app. Every one is different. For example, my app supports a game and as such there is a high population of short term users. They are users who will rent a server for a month or two, get bored, and move on. So for me, a subscription wouldn’t make sense. A one time purchase allows me to earn more off those users. Yes, money is left on the table for the more serious users, but that’s ok. It also helps that my feature set allows both a very functional free version and a more functional paid version. I’m able to give out a LOT of features for free. But the paid features have significant value.

(Though note, I’m not selling on any marketplace.)

Up front purchases are hard for the customer. As a user, if I can’t try the app first, the price has to be much lower because I have to be willing to throw it away. But if the app doesn’t have enough functionality to warrant a free and paid version, that becomes a tough situation. As you’ve seen.

I don’t really have advice, which is why I’ve shared what has worked for my app. Every app is different and there’s not one app that fits every need. If you expect your app to be used frequently and long term, then a subscription model is probably the best bet. Users hate it. I hate it. But it’s where the market is going, because let’s be real… development doesn’t stop. Subscriptions help keep developers alive.

There are basically three ways of offering a free trial on the App Store (not sure all of them are accepted by Apple).

  1. Save the date of the first time the app was opened. After XX days, show a paywall
  2. Get the user to go through an in-app purchase process when opening the app, although the item he is “paying” for is free. After XX days show a different in-app product which this time isn’t free
  3. Use an auto-renewable subscription with an introductory offer of XX days/weeks/months

It actually depends on the App Store reviewer. Sometimes it is accepted, sometimes it isn’t. In one of my apps I have 3 different in-app purchases (3 different prices) that all unlock the same feature:

  1. Purchase within 24 hours of opening the app for the first time: $2
  2. Purchase after that 24h discount offer: $3
  3. Never purchased and been using the app for a week: $1

The easiest way of setting this up and getting your app approved is releasing the app for the first time with just one in-app purchase.
As soon as it gets approved and released on the App Store, create new in-app purchases with different prices, get them approved by Apple on their own, with no app update.
Finally, release an update that will display the appropriate in-app purchase product.

Subscriptions… I only use them if they are for a service I want (new content, cloud services, …). I tend to avoid subscriptions if the service is “you then can use the app’s functionality within that timeframe”. So for new-apps, media-consuming-apps I’m ok to subscribe. The same for 1Password: Have my data in their cloud-environment, accessible from all Platforms (mac, iOS, Windows, Android, Web). Assuming an “image editing app”: subscription? no way, I probably won’t even look at the app in more detail.
Thom is right, too… It’s where the market is going. That’ll work if the users are following this trend. I’m currently not.

In-app purchases… looks good on the first glace to have a “limited/free app”, and unlock “pro features”. However, In-app purchases aren’t shared with family members in Family Sharing. Depending on the app-type (and prize of that in-app purchase), this might be an issue. I don’t know if it would be an option to have 2 purchase options: “1. free ‘try pro feature set’”, “2. xx$ pro feature set” purchase. Pro feature would require one of them, but 1. would be verified based on the purchase date. After “trial time” (1. purchased, time is up), only 2. would be shown as an option.
Having said that: I don’t remember having bought any in app purchase until today (to “unlock features”).
Not if there is an option to “buy the full app”, and “try the app (even if outside MAS)”. Kind of what Beatrix is doing.

Paid updates… too bad Apple doesn’t understand that need… For some apps, I’m happy to buy a “new app” every couple of years. Since I understand that the way it worked 2-3 years ago will have needed a lot of changes to keep the app up-to-date, which the developer needs to be payed for (e.g. Carbon Copy Cloner).

Accounts… I both hate and like if a vendor has it’s own accounts. It’s certainly an interesting concept to be able to store “previous purchases” in the vendor-account. Let’s just assume that model “limited app; can be unlocked with pro-feature purchases”. A vendor-account would know what I’ve purchased (in previous versions), and could offer me better options in future versions. That would be the closest to the “discount on next major update” as we know it from “outside MAS”.
Could such a thing be done within the MAS? The tricky thing would be to get some kind of “recurring purchase” (after a couple of years; instead of a “paid upgrade” / new app). But even if considering a “new app” for a “major update” - how could the new one know about previous purchases? maybe with “app groups”? Hmm… Or even an “offline” solution: one can export/backup his purchases in an app-internal format, and import that again in future “new major app versions”.

Note: I don’t need answers here… that last part has just been “loud thinking”. I’ve just wanted to let you know my opinion in the first three paragraphs. And a hint to accounts outside of Apple’s environment, which in some cases also is involved when it comes to purchases.

Is the App Store Review Guidelines (Section 3.1.1) what you’re looking for?

So you would have 2 (non consumable) in-app purchases:

  • Pro Features Trial (1 Month), $0
  • Pro Features, $xx
    Basically what I’ve been thinking about a possible solution in my previous post.
    But again… It seems that won’t work with Family Sharing…

From my experience family sharing is an issue that can be bypassed, with some code :slight_smile:

All my apps have a hidden access to a form that asks for a passcode. When a customer complains about an in-app purchase not being shared with the family I use a canned response explaining that this is Apple’s policy.
I also instruct them on how to access the hidden form and provide a time limited passcode that can be used twice (generally their email address).

Customer is happy and it takes me 30 seconds to generate the code and reply.

I only receive 2-3 emails each month out of thousands of downloads per month, so it is really a very minor issue.

Yeah, I don’t mind paying for a service, like 1Password. I figure I’m not paying for the app, I’m paying for the hosting and syncing. But I hate paying for my Adobe suite every month.

I find it rather ironic to a point… Most people seem to be against purchasing an app via a subscription.
While this topic is being discussed on a Forum for an app the is purchaed via a subscription :slight_smile:

no - if you stop paying xojo you can still use it … with adobe it stops running !

Not exactly…
Xojo’s subscription brings free updates while the subscription is active. The software isn’t crippled when the subscription ends.

Some apps stop running (Adobe, Netflix) others are crippled (dating apps, travel apps)

This is the only one I can find that’s documented at Apple.

[quote=473750:@Jeremie Leroy]It actually depends on the App Store reviewer. Sometimes The easiest way of setting this up and getting your app approved is releasing the app for the first time with just one in-app purchase.
As soon as it gets approved and released on the App Store, create new in-app purchases with different prices, get them approved by Apple on their own, with no app update.
Finally, release an update that will display the appropriate in-app purchase product.[/quote]
Oh… Thanks for this info, it’s odd that you have to kinda hide it’s presence.

But it’s omitted from the other documentation regarding IAP, leaving only the auto-renewable free trial information there, kinda like they don’t want you to find it.

Which IMHO is a better medium that what’s available for the App Store, but I have to do what I have to do to get my app in the App Store.

I don’t like it, the people I’ve spoken with don’t like it. No-one but Apple likes it.

I’ve been using the free 14 day trial IAP for a while - can’t say its been an effective sales method or not because the data that Apple provides in iTunesConnect on IAP’s seems to be high level and I can’t see the granularity of which IAP’s have been purchased.

Basically on loading the app the user is offered the free trial - and then has to sign into App store to download the appropriate receipt. I then use the purchase date on that receipt to determine when the trial is over.

On subscriptions:

Do subscriptions word better for business utilities?