I recently noticed that Marco Arment no longer hosts his blog on Tumblr. So I can’t reblog his latest post easily, where Marco said:
Last fall, I conducted an experiment: I quietly removed Instapaper Free from the App Store1 for three days, leaving only the full, $4.99 Instapaper app. Not only did sales increase incrementally, but nobody seemed to notice.
Instapaper is already well known and written about by journalists, so he doesn’t need a free version to get people to know about the app. There are people in newspapers and magazines telling readers about the app already. I think he discounts the role the free app had in getting those people to try the app in the first place.
I don’t think we’ll ever do an ad-supported app, for various reasons. If you see Greatest Movie Ever Sold, you’ll see why advertising is designed to be manipulative, and not something I want in my products. Also, iAds is doing poorly and doesn’t make much money for developers.
As for the price, I think that above a certain threshold, maybe around $10, people start to expect more support and updates for an app from the company. It seems when something is free or close to free, it’s not worth it in the customer’s mind to send an email to a company about a bug or feature request, but when it costs a lot, the customer has a certain ownership stake in it now, at least in their heads.
There’s a lot of psychology involved in free stuff, and how people behave irrationally when offered free stuff. When it’s free, you get far more people downloading your app, but you also get a disproportionate number of users who don’t value their time very highly and are prone to complaining and making negative comments on the Internet. I don’t attach much importance to those kind of comments. I guess I’ve built up a thick skin to negative feedback, especially rants and emotionally charged complaints. If you don’t have constructive criticism, I will just ignore you.