Are App Fridays Helping or Hurting the Industry?

382307_587247757969291_926062209_nThe entire enterprise of App Fridays or "giving away" seems to minimize all the hard work, research, time, money, and integrity that it takes to develop a quality app. The concept of setting apps free, or reducing the price, on Friday's has been around for quite a while, it now appears to have taken on a life of its own. Last count there were dozens of sites and thousands of developers who partake in this weekly ritual. Who is benefiting? The consumer is the big winner - I hear many in our EdAppTalk community remark they are holding off until Friday to make their app purchases. The other contingency to benefit from Free Fridays are the various sites offering these free or reduced apps. Inevitably, theses SALES drives traffic to their sites. But, is there any benefit for the actual developer? Let's explore this question.
The developer's number of app downloads may rise in the iTunes Store, and they may rise exponentially - only to drastically drop the very next day. All that adrenaline rush for what? The apps placement may also have risen, but rarely has your status in the iTunes Store moved up enough to matter, and it will ultimately plummet after Free Friday. Distimo offered some insight in an article back in January 2013 about temporary price drops in apps, called The Impact Of Price Changes. They are referring to lowering the price of an app and keeping it low for a time. The article posed questions and had all kinds of charts to back up the data: Does a price drop always increase download volumes? What is the effect on revenue? Does the higher download volume compensate for the lower selling price? On the other hand, what happens to download numbers and revenue after a price increase? This site was very informative but did not answer any questions about one-day reductions in prices.
Teachers With Apps previously wrote about the dilemma of how much work is involved in producing an app and the public's preconceived notion that apps are too expensive. We compared the price tag of an app .99 - $1.99, which most people expect apps to cost, to the purchase of a cup of coffee. The average consumer hasn't the foggiest idea of the scope and spectrum or what is involved in the production of developing a quality educational app. Here, Nick Neblosky outlines the elaborate procedure of making an app:
  • conceptualization,
  • storyboarding,
  • writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting,
  • artwork creation (100-150 separate pieces of art),
  • animation and special effect thought process,
  • art direction,
  • then there’s the coding, a lot of coding. Thousands and thousands of lines of code; many of which is developed specifically for our needs.
  • Then there’s testing, testing, and more testing.
  • Then we have a week of beta testing where we send out our apps so that real people other than us can look at them.
We recently had a very busy LinkedIn discussion enumerating this very concept.
This list is also missing a key point: marketing! An app could be the best, it could be sweller than swell, it could be downright brilliant - but without proper marketing and total engagement with the social media, an app can literally go unnoticed. Oh my! Am I wrong? Is that it, are App Fridays a form of promotion? Is it a way to get your name out there and get noticed? We ponder this question often, should Teachers With Apps get involved in the App Friday thing? Or should we continue to do what we do best - find the best apps out there (by field testing them with real live children/students) and letting children show us the MAGIC of an app. The verdict in is - it’s a WIN-WIN! Consumers Celebrate! Developers Promote!

List of Free App Friday Sites:

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3 Responses

  1. I’m a successful self-published children’s author in the UK (I have books in bricks and mortar stores over here) and in the autumn turned my rhyming picture book, Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep, into an educational interactive iPad app. I regularly take it into schools where I present it after reading the print book – and the children and teachers love it. (It retains the shared experience that a print picture book offers, but includes inbuilt activities to allow word and object recognition through touch activated word bubbles – and ends with a drag and drop matching game to consolidate on the words and images seen.)

    In an effort to make it discoverable, I did briefly set it free after launch and was amazed and excited to see 1,500 downloads. However, once the free period ended and it went off the ‘What’s hot’ lists in the App Store there was no way for browsers to find it. Yes there was a week or so of paid downloads, but nothing to write home about, and and although I had been excited about the Kids’ Category in the App Store (for which my app qualifies) I only later realized that this is curated and only a small number of eligible apps appear there. So any parents navigating there will not find it! This meant that my only option was to set aside a budget to garner reviews from some of the fantastic educational app review sites and then spend time marketing it regularly. Discounting the app periodically and alerting the app review sites certainly helps boost sales – the app has received 4.5 & 5 star reviews so this helps with downloads during promo periods. But priced at a modest £1.49 / $1.99 (and then reduced to 99c/99p) it will take me literally years to make back my money after accounting for my time, developer costs and the cost of paying for the expedited reviews, which I found was necessary due to the long wait times with all app review sites.

    If I’m honest am dismayed at how ‘free’ seems to dominate the market – but I’m not sure that it’s a culture that is easy to change now. What I would love to see is ‘Free app Friday’ replaced by ‘App Price-drop Friday’ (though better named!). So that instead of thousands of free apps being downloaded we’d see thousands of 99cents apps downloaded. For less than the cost of a coffee or greeting card, this would give hope to those of us who have spent so many hours creating our apps that we may actually get a return on them one day! The referring app review sites would also make more money!

    In the meantime I’m just plugging away in the background sharing the app, taking it into schools and blogging as a children’s author. The download numbers aren’t huge but they are consistent and becoming steady – and a school downloaded 26 copies recently. Most importantly the feedback I get to the app is outstanding. I’ve recently been interviewed by Publishers’ Weekly so I’m hoping it may get a plug there too 🙂

    I’ve blogged about how I created the app here in case of interest – – for parents this gives an idea of the amount of work involved!

    Thank you for raising this topic and I’m just sorry I missed the earlier discussion LinkedIn

    I am a member of The Book App Alliance by the way – certainly an organization to take a look at if you’re a developers who is passionate about creating quality apps. We are really keen to try help raise awareness that free isn’t the only option!

  2. Stacie

    I am one of those people who waits for FAF’s, but I typically only do that for apps from developers who are new/just starting, who I’m not familiar with or whose apps I’ve never tried before. I appreciate the time & effort that goes into making apps and I completely understand that developers need to make money too. However, as a single parent of 3, with a limited income, I need to ensure that I’m spending money wisely.

    After I’ve installed a free/price reduced app, I find out more about the developer. Do they acknowledge concerns/complaints by updating their apps to fix bugs, do they respond to emails, are they active on their own FB/Twitter pages, etc. If I feel that the developer is committed to their own product (& have tried/been impressed with the app), I don’t think twice about purchasing additional apps from them, regardless of price. In fact, one that comes to mind is from a developer who happens to be TWA certified, although I didn’t know that at the time. About a year ago, I won a giveaway for one of their apps and one of my sons (with severe Autism) LOVED it. I loved that he loved it, I loved that it was educational, and even though I’m Canadian, I loved that it complied with the US Common Core State Standards. As a result, I purchased two more of their apps that week at regular (not reduced) price. I have purchased more since then and I recommend them to everyone!

    I have also tried apps that I’ve not been impressed with &/or they don’t work properly and I would have been extremely annoyed had I paid for them and been out the money. If the app simply just didn’t work for “us”, I may still recommend the app to others if I think it might work for them. If I got a bad vibe from the developer or noticed that glitches weren’t being fixed or even acknowledged, I obviously don’t recommend them or their apps to anyone.

    So I personally think FAF’s are beneficial to both the developer & the consumer. In my opinion, giving an app away doesn’t undervalue their product at all, it does the complete opposite providing they’re a dedicated developer with a quality app.

    I agree with Bob, great article. I look forward to reading other opinions on this topic.


    I just wanted to add, with respect to free/light/lite versions of apps…when we got my sons iPad, I tried a few of those and was so unimpressed, they were all uninstalled. They were so limited, couldn’t get a really good feel for the app or what it was capable of &/or I found the ads too annoying to use the app. As soon as I see the words free/light now, I skip right on by. I don’t use them at all.

  3. As an educational app developer I feel free app Friday undervalues the hard work of building the app. If the end users see you can give away your app they will ultimately undervalue the app. If they like the app, they may just tell their colleagues to “wait until it shows back up on free app Friday”.

    As a developer, a great way to avoid giving away your app for promotional purposes is to create a free version of the app. We did this with out app ‘Write About This’. Our free version highlights all of the key features but limits the use. This allows end users to download and try the product for free.

    The only downside to this approach is managing two sets of code. However, in my opinion it is worth it.

    Great article, thanks for bringing up this discussion!