Could App rentals be a panacea for developers?

Could App rentals be a panacea for developers?

Summary: Strings have been discovered in iTunes 10.5 beta 9 that suggest that Apple will soon allow developers to rent their apps. Wait, what?!


Cult of Mac posted an interesting piece today noting that Tech Erra discovered strings in the latest iTunes developer beta (10.5 beta 9 for you home gamers) that suggest Apple will soon allow developers to rent their apps.

The strings read:

Hidden Strings Inside Latest iTunes Beta Say You’ll Soon Be Able To Rent Your Apps

The strings suggest that Apple will allow users to rent apps for a limited time, which will then be automatically deleted at the end of the rental period.

Wow. That's a shocker.

This is the first I've heard of Apple renting apps, which could prove beneficial for consumers that have been critical of Apple's lack of a demo or trial period for apps. Lacking such an infrastructure developers have turned instead to offering featured-limited "lite" and "free" versions of their paid apps in hopes of converting users from free to paid.

I would have bet that Apple would have jumped into music subscriptions (nee rentals) before it rented apps, but hey, I've been wrong before. Apple seems to be ceding the music subscription market to companies like Spotify, et. al. but hopefully music subscriptions will follow suit.

If it pans out, App rentals could be a boon for developers who've complained about the App Store's lack of demo apps and it could actually be better for them in the end. For example, a developer selling a $10 app could "rent" that same app for $1 for 24 hours in hopes of converting the user to the full version. At least they'd be able to capture $1 for the rental -- as opposed to zero for a "lite" version -- and who knows? Maybe the user would rent it for 2, 3 or 4 days, gaining even more "found" revenue that would have been out of reach before.

The question this brings up is rent-to-own. In other words, if I rent a $10 app for $1, will I be able to apply that $1 rental fee to the full purchase price should I decide that I want to own the app. I'm sure that developers would demand this type of infrastructure as an incentive to covert more users to paid, but I'd leave it up to the devs to chime in.

Could this be another surprise for tomorrow's announcement? We'll know in about 24 hours.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Software Development

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  • RE: Could App rentals be a panacea for developers?

    I hate it. This isn't about renting apps as a kind of paid trial period. This is about guaranteeing the app maker an endless revenue stream. I'd rather pay more for an app once than to have to keep sending money to the developer as long as I use the app. I've been using Office XP for 10 years with no desire to upgrade, because the program does everything I need. Had I been renting this program suite from Microsoft I'd probably have paid for it many times over by now.
    • RE: Could App rentals be a panacea for developers?

      @dsf3g I think you are missing the whole point of Jason???s article. Sure you could rent the app for as long as you want to use it, but that seems rather silly to everyone, including yourself. However, suppose you want to try an app to see if it makes sense to purchase. If the rental fee is low enough with respect to the purchase price, you might be interested in renting for a day or two to test the full product. If you like, you buy it. If you don???t, you are out of pocket just a fraction of the amount it would have cost to purchase it. Makes perfect sense to me.
      • RE: Could App rentals be a panacea for developers?


        I understand the point of Jason's article. I just don't think this feature will be implemented the way he implies. If you want users to be able to "try out" you app, the time limited fully functional demo is a time tested, generally accepted model. If that was the goal, then Apple would have implemented that functionality instead.
      • Go ahead, it's only $1...

        @rabber - I disagree that this is an adequate substitute for trial licenses. This basically creates a revenue stream for inferior apps that would never have been purchased if free trials of superior apps were available to consumers.
    • RE: Could App rentals be a panacea for developers?

      @dsf3g ...

      Yeah, the devs aren't going to be using it for trial periods. They're going to be using it like World of Warcraft, in which one pays $60 for the game, and then is required to continue paying $15/mo for the [i]privilege[/i] of using said game. If you stop paying the extortion, you can no longer use the software you paid for.
  • RE: Could App rentals be a panacea for developers?

    "This is the first I???ve heard of Apple renting apps, which could prove beneficial for consumers that have been critical of Apple???s lack of a demo or trial period for apps."

    Interesting how they chose the term rental too, instead of demo or trial. As if they were expecting people to rent it more than once.

    Personally, I think it's not that beneficial to consumers. We get to pay repeatedly instead of once. Which means a higher cost of ownership.

    Unless they do that rent to own thing. But I've yet to see rent to own in anything digital, so I doubt it.
  • Brilliant!

    I for one am tired of purchasing apps for one-time use or once a year for a special project. Let me rent for 3-4 days at a fraction of the price so I can use it and lose it. It'll probably be upgraded next time I need it anyhow...
    • Brilliant x2 (or x3 or x4)

      And hopefully all the free versions will disappear. It is so confusing with some apps, and I've had instances where I thought I was buying the same app, only to have to fork out a few more dollars. Should clean up the app store immensely...
      • could backfire somewhat

        @mattmuir Your mention of "should clean up the app store immensely" made me realize that this could backfire somewhat for Apple: at the moment, they get to count both the free/lite version AND the full version as separate apps in their 300,000 (or whatever it is these days) total number of apps available. Eliminating the free/lite versions and allowing for the full version to just be rented would theoretically cut the app count in half. That wouldn't look good from a marketing perspective.
  • RE: Could App rentals be a panacea for developers?

    I don't like a rental concept at all. At the present if I pick up a free lite/or time limited app and don't like it I can toss it and forget it. If this rental idea gets widely excepted among devs I will end up fuming over the wasted rental fee, not so bad if its $.99 (though still irksome) but worse if its more. The number of $.99+ apps I now skip over will simply increase.<br>And while I'm simply a miserly scrooge when it comes to spending money (even money on tech gagets) some people actually need to watch where each $1 goes... hmm, maybe the rental thing isn't so bad for those needing to watch their $ and ?? especially if its a rent to own concept. But I'm a penny pincher and I still don't like it.
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