Sebastian Holst has provided some great insight into the best method of selling Windows Phone 7 apps in order to get the best return and the solution is neither free apps nor paid apps – it’s both. As he notes, paid apps with trials do not appear in the free category of the Marketplace. So he tested the theory that the ideal thing to do is to have a free app and within the free app you intentionally withhold some features but provide a link to the paid app and lay out the advantages to the paid version. You also have a paid app with a trial mode that’s upgradeable. The end result is more sales.

He tested this with his own apps. His app Yoga-pedia is a free app that shows yoga poses with instructions but it is missing two features and the welcome page provides an FAQ on why upgrading is a good idea. The paid app, A Pose For That, was full featured and still contained a trial version. The result:

In the one week where both the free and the trial versions lived side-by-side, the free version generated 86% of the upgrades.

More important is the bottom line: I saw an 85% increase in the total number of upgrades when I had the combination of both a free and trial version of my app available.

That’s pretty impressive and the combination of a free app that links to the paid app as well as a separate paid app with a trial is probably the smart way to go. That is, until Microsoft learns that we don’t want each app in the Marketplace twice and the ‘free’ category needs to fit the ‘trial’ regime a lot better. Putting that aside, I think it’s great insight for devs to consider.


  1. Interesting data. Guess everyone shops for apps differently. Free is always good, but it’s not my primary criteria. A good looking, well made app usually trumphs the 0.99 cost. I admit that I do occasionally scan specifically for “free” games, but these are basically fun time killers that don’t really matter one way or the other.

    I have noticed that free apps usually see several comments within a day or two of launch, while trial/paid apps can sometimes go weeks without a comment. While that observation sort of supports the above research, it tells me that most users will not take the time to try an app if it had 0 comments. Comment less apps quickly get lost in the Marketplace quagmire. As such, I usually go out of my way to comment on “zero comment apps”, good or bad.

  2. @Jim I will try a paid app if it doesn’t have any comments, but has a free trial. If it doesn’t have a free trial, I will almost definitely not buy it. Not that I don’t want to support the app, but I am too apprehensive to pay just to trial an app I may not like or use. Time- or feature-limited apps are fine. I just want to know what quality of an app I’m getting before I pay for it.

  3. Another way MS teaches the WM7 suckers that the user should pay for apps. I’ll stick with Android and save my money on other luxury items like food, shelter, and clothing.

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