iPhone Devs: Lite/Free mobile apps really pay off

The creator of iCombat wrote an analysis of his experience making and giving away a free “lite” version of his app alongside his paid, full version. The result? It makes economic sense to create a lite version early on and update it often to goose the users into downloading – and paying attention to – your app.

His global conversion rate was 9% which meant that a considerable cohort of lite users bought the full version. He discovered a number of best practices for iPhone devs and allowed us to post them here. His most important takeaway? He should have made a lite app much earlier in the game. The conversion rate once the lite app was made available was quite impressive and meant a lot of lost revenue.

1. Should have released lite version from the beginning – There was no point to waiting and sacrificing the initial new release buzz. Since it is harder to get featured once your app is launched, say for app updates, it is important to strike early and hard with your app release.

2. Lite does NOT cannibalize sales – If your app is a gimmick then it might not make sense but in all other cases it only helps to increase sales (see our previous post on this topic)

3. Get the bugs out for your lite release – users churn lite apps and are fine giving you 1 star if they don’t like the experience. This is especially bad because the App store prompts users to rate an app when they try to delete it

4. Lite sales trail off too but paid sales remain higher – if you don’t have the x-factor that is needed to spread the word your lite downloads will fall as they have for iCombat, but in our case paid sales have continued to sell at a minimum rate several times higher than the pre-lite period

5. Frequent releases do juice downloads – Pocket God and other frequently updated apps have benefited from a weekly sales bump as they show up in the new releases section of the app store (users also like this episode style model)