What's a 'freemium' app? What does 'Freemium' mean when we're talking about mobile apps?
Hint: It DOESN'T mean FREE! That's what.
Free + Premium = Freemium
According to Wikipedia: "a business model by which a product or service is provided free of charge, but a premium is charged for advanced features, functionality, or virtual goods."
In mom-speak: it's an UPGRADE system. You download the free app, game, service or book without all the bells and whistles. But you must pay for additional levels, information or services either 'In-App' or by downloading the 'Full' software after the free download.
Often, you can test the free app and determine if it's worth the upgrade to the premium version. For example, you can read the first book in the series, play the first couple levels or learn more about what the full app can do. But expect ads and incomplete games; sometimes even a time-out period of use (see #3 below).
I've found several apps worth upgrading from free to Premium (and a couple that weren't).
Is it worth the upgrade dollars? WORTH THE UPGRADE DOLLARS
Moron Test: Bad name, GREAT app. It borders on actual educational value and the fun factor is equal to the addiction factor. But it only comes with a couple free levels. The premium price of $0.99 is totally worth hours of 'quiet' time my kids spend using it!
ScribblePress: FABULOUS app, my kids are in love with creating their own stories and using the funky illustrations is the best part. It comes with over 50 illustrations and 50 story starters in the freemium level. Plus they recently came out with a ton of new 'Upgrades' including new story starters, stickers and backgrounds to keep kids imaginations spinning. The upgrades are $1.99-2.99 for each pack. LOVE the artwork!
Thumb Keyboard: This is my favorite keyboard enhancer, makes your android typing SING! They do something I've never seen before. You can 'test' the keyboard enhancer for 15 minutes before you buy it! At $2.59 it's totally worth the 15 minute peek!
StoryBots by the JibJab Guys: If you haven't seen these new interactive books (where you child's face IS the star!) YOU SHOULD. The app is free to download, and the first couple books in the series as well, then you pay for each new book around $5.99-7.99 a piece. iPad only
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FORGET THE UPGRADE, STICK TO THE FREE VERSION
Mom Games: For me this means wordgames: Scrabble-like apps, crosswords and Boggle-like, I don't need the premium versions because I rarely stick with the same game for very long. And I don't mind ads on games like Angry Birds either so I never buy the full app on those.
Photography Apps: With so many free and amazing apps like Instagram and PhotoGrid the small increases you get with a $0.99 app aren't appealing to me.
Some people find the 'Freemium' model a pain when they don't know up-front whether the app is a full or partial app.
Blogger Jill Berry of Musings From Me says this:
"I'd rather the app was a paid app to begin with. I don't like when I download a free app only to find I have to upgrade to get the good features. For instance, my daughter is a swimmer. I experimented with a free app to log her race times. It was only OK. Then I found a USA Swimming official app for free. I thought I could use it to log in her times. Except I still needed the full paid app to actually log in her times!"
Frustrations aside, the freemium model is clearly where most app developers are headed. Draw you in, insert hook and entice you to pay for upgrades!
What do you like or dislike about freemium apps?
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Disclosure: Carissa has received partial and full app upgrades with a press discount or for free to test. Her opinions are her own.