An idea for how apps should be purchased

Just spit-balling here, but it’s an idea nonetheless.

Yes, I acknowledge that there is a vast amount of people who own a smartphone because the phone store sales rep persuaded them to get one instead of a ‘dumbphone’ so don’t really use the ‘smart’ feature of the phones much, but, there is also a large proportion of people who use their phones to their fullest extent.

My idea started off with the frustrations of switching mobile platforms. Admittedly I change my phone significantly more frequently than most people, but the majority do still change their phone, say, when their 24 month contract has ended. They won’t necessarily stay with the same platform. Yet they’ve invested potentially hundreds of dollars into apps. And now they have to buy them all again on a different platform.

Before you point out what you think is a flaw, yes, if you buy a PS3 game you shouldn’t then get the Xbox 360 version for free. But I think mobile apps are different. For starters, they’re at a much lower price point.

Here’s the idea:

  • All apps are free. As in, on the app store/ marketplace/Play store etc, all the apps are listed as free to download. In fact, while I’m thinking about it, let’s also throw in a Windows Phone style incorporated trial version into the apps if the developer so pleases so that you can try basic functionality before unlocking the entire app.
  • The user pays for access to the app by using an account – this is the only flaw, a universal account would be needed (or you’d have an account with every single developer – not so manageable if you have a lot of apps)
  • To appease the platform providers (Apple, Google etc.), the yearly subscription is bought via an in-app purchase, so the platform provider still gets their 30% or so.

As I said, just an idea, but it’s an interesting one. Many companies are trying to push for ‘universal’ accounts, such as Facebook commenting on many websites, Google account commenting on some websites, using your Apple ID to purchase Macs, iPhones, iBooks, movies, TV, music etc. so perhaps this idea could be even more realistic once the battle of universal accounts has been won. I may have confused myself with the account explanation and therefore you as well, so let me clarify: You would pay for the in-app purchase subscription using your Apple ID or Google wallet etc., the current payment system on the platform in question. But to authenticate that you already have a subscription, you would need to prove that somehow on the second platform, thus needing a cross-platform account of some sort. Unless Apple and Google played nice of course… but that’s never going to happen.

Personally, I think I’d be happier with this system of payment. If you like an app, you get to reward the developer on a yearly basis rather than a one-off (of course the subscription price wouldn’t be as high as the current prices to buy apps are so as to be more appealing). Personally, I don’t see any flaws with this purchase model, but do you? If so, please feel free to offer “your two cents” in the comments below.