There’s a new villain in Apple’s highly acclaimed Mac App Store. Cheap. Cheap as in no way to trial or test or demo many new Mac apps.
The recent trend is toward inexpensive apps at the expense of a free trial period for an app. Mac users, me included, are increasingly frustrated by apps with a price tag, a dubious description, an anemic developer web site, and no way to try out the app first.
Caveat Emptor, Dude!
My Mac is loaded with apps; far beyond those of mere mortal men. I love new, interesting, and useful apps. One-trick pony apps are my Mac life. Apps that do more than expected are cherished.
For the most part, Mac apps today are better than ever.
So, why The Sky Is Falling sermon, Chicken Little?
Trends. And complaints. And disappointments.
The trends are obvious. Modeled on the successful iTunes App Store for iPhone (and iPad and iPod touch) apps, the Mac App Store offers one click shopping, low prices, and a growing list of Mac apps.
That’s the good side of the trend. Another side is that many of the newer, less expensive Mac apps are basically Buy, Then Try™. The price might be low, usually well under $9.99. But there’s no option to trial, no demonstration app, no way to try before you buy.
You buy, you’re stuck. Your only recourse to voice your opinion of an unworthy app is the Reviews section of the Mac App Store.
Every day we receive requests from Mac developers to review their apps. Our policy is simple. For the most part, we review apps we like, apps we would use ourselves, or apps we think other Mac users will like.
To overcome this dangerous trend of apps with a price tag and no trial version, here’s what we could do. If an app in the Mac App Store has a price tag and cannot be downloaded for trial from the app developer’s site (or, somewhere), we could keep it off our list of review apps.
That would mean that worthy apps, such as the handy and improving Opus Domini, an attractive Mac day planner app, would not get a review.
Mac app developers could create a time-limited free version. That may conflict with Apple’s App Store policy, in which case all that’s required is a free version with limited features which would coexist with the commercial version in the App Store. That model has shown some success in the iTunes App Store for iPhone users.
In the meantime, when Mac360 reviews an app from the Mac App Store that has a price tag but no trial download option, we’ll point that out as a problem, and list it as a negative among the positives.
Otherwise, the route that the developer of Opus Domini took is commendable but incomplete. Initially, Opus Domini was free. Then, after plenty of downloads and good reviews, the price went from free to $1.99. After more reviews, more downloads, it’s now $4.99, and better than ever. But, no trial download.
Our recommendation is clear. Mac app developers need to ensure that users have an option to try out an app before purchase.
There may be a few exceptions (iLife, though circumstances are different), but the policy is sound and avoids the current dangerous trend going on in the Mac App Store.
Even Microsoft and Adobe have trial versions. For the most part, their apps are expensive. Other quality Mac app developers have price tags and trial versions. That should not be the exception. It should be the rule. Even Mac apps with price tags under $9.99 are taking someone’s money for a sight unseen experience. That should change.