Should I Make My iPhone App Free?

This is a question I get quite a bit from App Entrepreneurs and App owners. I have to admit it’s a good question since it seems like everyone is making their iPhone apps free these days. Here’s my take on it…

Instead of giving you the usual answer of “it depends”, I want to give a solid, actionable answer that you can implement instead of doing more research, or clicking around the Internet for more information.

I will give my answer based on my own anecdotal and empirical data and it can be broken down into two groups:

1. App Entrepreneur – Should you make your iPhone App Free? Yes with few exceptions.
2. Business Owner who uses app for lead generation, brand awareness – Should you make your iPhone App Free? Absolutely 100% yes.

Let’s get some definitions out of the way. My experience in this whole Mobile app thing is having owned a Mobile Games business in 2006, developing 37 different applications for my App Business in 2008 and 23 for clients since 2010, and all of my day-jobs since 2005.

What I define as an App Entrepreneur is someone who owns a business that is SOLELY dedicated to publishing Mobile Apps and selling them in the App Stores for the different devices. This person ONLY produces and markets apps and nothing else. Obviously, the Business Owner is someone who owns a business that has a primary focus other than developing and marketing Mobile Apps. An example would be an Auto Mechanic. The Business Owner in this case could have an iPhone App developed to help bring in more customers and/or build a brand with the app.

So what’s with my answer?

Let’s start with the App Entrepreneur. Start with the idea that you will give away your app for free and provide in-app purchases or monetize through ads. Examples where this works really well are games and social apps. An example of a game that does a lot of this stuff right is Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Instances where you would charge would be if you have an app that is laser focused on a niche and is insanely useful to professionals in that niche. Typically, this means that your app would be for a business rather than the general consumer. An example could be an iPad app that you can hook up to a car for diagnostic purposes.

In terms of the Business Owner, your app should always be free. You have to keep in mind what a lead is worth to your business. Sure, you could try to cash in and monetize with the methods above somehow, but you could be holding back how many leads or clients you could gain from having your target customer be able to download your app.

I hope this gives you a clear cut answer as to the route you should take with pricing your iPhone app.

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