Paid vs Free apps: Settling the score, once and for all

Stats, stats, stats and more stats. I’m going to hurl!

That’s all that’s out there whenever we want this question answered.

Hell, with all of these articles, posts and comments – you’d think that a winner would be declared.

But no. All they talk about is ifs, buts, maybes, some stats and a list of the different ‘models’ you can use.

For example, this is a bit of an outline of the types of articles I find:

1) There are this many free apps compared to blah blah paid apps.
2) Freemium is where the money is!  Just look at blah blah that is making the most money on the App Store from this model.
3) Just come check out all my stats, and interviews of a developer that made some money so I can give you even more information to think about!
4) The most popular app model is x model because this is what most developers are using.

*scratch*, unfortunately none of this answers our damn question. Which is…

Should I release my app as a free or paid app?

I’m going to give you an answer to this question right here, right now :).


Before we go any further, there’ something I need to say.

The question sucks and I’m not gonna answer it.

Ever heard the saying, “Ask a lousy question, and you’ll get a lousy answer”?

So!  My reply to you is – change the question.

“But Cliff… what on earth do I change it to?”

Let me ask you a question –

“Why are you asking this question?”

I’ll take an educated guess :).  It’s because you want to know which model will make you more money.

Paid, Free, Freemium or Ad-Supported?  Or any other model someone comes up with.

(Ed: Funnily enough, I have already come up with some other models here – How to see into the future, make the perfect iPhone game and get a ton of free marketing)

Cool.  Now we are getting closer.

Follow the path a little further and you will come to the conclusion that to make more money – you’ll need to get your app in front of as many people as possible.

Aha!  So, our new question is…

How can I get more eyeballs?

(Ed: A little jazzier than – ‘How can I get more people looking at my app’ ) 😛

Naturally, more eyeballs will translate into more users which is what we really want :).

Which is really only one of three ways your app business is going to grow.

Time for a story :).

Bob is an app developer and he’s about to release his brand spanking new awesome app called Bob’s Tool Kit.

Luckily the app  name was easy for him to come up with, but when it came to deciding what model to use – that’s a different story.

He researched for days on end, looking through claims, counter-claims, stats and a whole avalanche of information on what he should do.

Even after all that, he still couldn’t decide.

His brain was a swirling jumble, “Should my new app be free?  Or should it be free with ads?”.

“What about Paid? Or Freemium?…. Paidium!?!?”

(Ed: Paidium doesn’t exist, till now!  It’s where you sell the app as ‘paid’ and then have paid upgrade options to the premium version.)

(Ed: Ok ok, it’s stupid, but if it takes off, you heard it first here!)

Back to bob!

Yes, his head was about to explode!

Then he changed his question… to what we ourselves just came up with.

“How do I get more eyeballs?”

Not being the sharpest tool in the shed, the answer was obvious to him.

Do all of them!

I don’t care what your app is, the answer is to release as many models as possible.

It’s hard enough to get exposure on the app store for you to focus on only one segment of the market.

Get more eyeballs by reaching more users.

A word of warning 😉

There is more to getting more impressions than just this high level tactic.

There is a strategy that needs to be put in place to ensure that each model is doing it’s job, especially the free ones.

Which is something I will be discussing in the future >:).

But until then, I’ll answer some questions you might have.

“But Cliff, this doesn’t apply to my product business model”

Are you sure?  Think deeper and there is probably a strategy you could use.

“But my app sucks and I’m just trying to make a quick buck, if all these users get it for free, then there is going to be too many bad reviews and I won’t sell any!”

Aaargh!!  I hate crapware, get off the App Store!

But if you aren’t releasing crapware then have some more faith in your product.  😀

I mean – it was created to fulfil some kind of need… right?… and following that line of reasoning, getting your app in front of as many people as possible is critical.  Otherwise the users you are trying to reach will never know about your app.

Oh.  And once you release your app, please listen to your users :).

You’d be surprised but they generally know what they want and often have good ideas.


To your App Success!



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