Shareware and the iPhone App Store

Macworld | Editors’ Notes | What’s shareware’s role on the iPhone?: Peter Cohen at Macworld asks the same question I’ve been asking myself since I saw the iPhone March 6 event on QuickTime.

What Apple didn’t detail, and what’s missing from the documentation provided with the SDK, according to the developers I’ve spoken with, is any mention of how to distribute trialware or shareware software for the iPhone.

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Another possibility according to a couple of developers I spoke with is that they will need to release two versions of their applications—one that’s feature-limited, as a free demo, and another full version for paying customers. That might ultimately too cumbersome for some customers to bear, though, as it’d require them to download the same program twice.

I’m no developer, but another scenario I was thinking doesn’t exactly involve two versions (one crippled, one full-featured) of the same application.

1. You first download a semi-functional, trial version of the software; you visit the application page in the App Store and you find two buttons: demo and buy.

2. You choose demo and try the application.

3. You don’t like it? You delete it.

4. You like it? You return to the application page in the App Store. You tap the buy button, and instead of re-downloading the whole software you just download a small piece of code that unlocks the application.

I thought about this by observing the process I went through when I updated my wife’s iPod touch with the 5 new Apple applications. The applications were already in the software update. After paying for them in the iTunes Store, the following download was very quick — only 9 KB of code or so. Shareware on the iPhone could somehow follow a similar pattern.

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