Everyone loves a free app right? Well, it seems like that’s exactly what people love, as “free to play” apps now outstrip “premium” apps in revenue, at least according to a report by Flurry.

The report details how the proportion of free apps on the iTunes Store has risen from 39% in January to 65% last month. Interestingly, the report also shows that on average, 90% of users of a free app don’t spend a single penny on it. Those figures are probably distorted somewhat, as they include people who are just trying out the app because it’s free, many of whom will simply delete the app after realise it’s not what the wanted.

It seems pretty obvious in hindsight that free to play apps would overtake premium apps eventually, but the real question may yet be unanswered. Is the boom in free to play apps a sustainable model, or will premium apps make a return at some time in the future. Having experienced several supposedly free apps turn out to be nothing more than virtual coin-op machines, I now tend to steer clear of free to play apps unless I can determine in advance that they’re not totally reliant on in-app purchases. I would certainly pay £2.99 for an app outright before being sucked into a trickle of £0.59 payments that eventually add up to much more than this.

In addition, the negative press that in-app purchases continue to receive, often based around children who rack up insane bills on their parents phones, will reinforce the irony that free apps can often be much more expensive than premium apps in the long-run. Once the market matures are enough people realise this, will we see the tide turn once more? Until premium revenue outstrips free to play once more, will developers let go of the free to play model that’s now bringing in so much money?


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