One of the App Store’s (dwindling) flaws: there are no trials for apps. Developers have no way to create time-locked apps for 14-day or 30-day trials, for example. The result? Most games have “lite,” or “free,” versions, which are limited in functionality and are designed to advertise the real app.
This week, however, Apple has opened up a new showcase section titled “Free on the App Store.” This little section has three categories: New & Noteworthy and Our Favorites, both of which feature regular free apps…and then a third category, Try Before You Buy. The Try Before You Buy section includes familiar apps like Angry Birds Lite, Zen Bound Lite, and so on. What’s interesting is why Apple has decided to showcase lite apps in this manner, especially when lite apps are familiar to most of us.
“Jailbreaking”—modifying your phone’s software—was recently sanctioned as legal in the US. While jailbreaking has many purposes, one of the most popular ones is to enable app piracy. Pirates sometimes claim that they pirate to “try” apps, because there are no trials on the App Store. While Apple is probably fuming over the US decision, they’re still doing their best to disuade users from jailbreaking. Perhaps this recent showcase is meant to demonstrate that, actually, you can try before you buy. Legally.
The only problem is that lite versions are still an imperfect solution—for developers, they break up the all-important sales statistics that determine chart positions; for customers, there’s the hassle of starting over with that new, paid version after playing a few free levels. It’s heartening that Apple is featuring lite versions, but I’d like to see a more comprehensive solution eventually.
Regardless of exactly why Apple is running this “Free on the App Store” feature, however, it’s worth checking out, especially if you’re new to the App Store. The “Our Favorites” section contains a lot of classics, like Facebook, Yelp, textPlus, and Pandora. And besides, who doesn’t like free?