iPhone and other iOS users hitting the iPhone AppStore may be pleasantly surprised to discover that Apple has added a new “Try Before you Buy” header. The titling of this new section suggests that the Cupertino company is emulating Android’s application return policy which allows users to try an application and return it for a full refund within 24-hours, a trial period that will soon double to 48-hours. Looks can be deceiving, though, as this collection is not a covert announcement of a new return policy but merely a container for iPhone and iDevice applications that offer a free or “lite” version. The AppStore is filled with apps that offer limited functionality in the free version, and it seems that Apple is working harder to make those apps more visible.
Presumably, Apple is launching this new section to compete with Android’s popular 24-hour return policy by reminding iOS users that many applications offer free or low cost versions that let you try an application before you buy it at full price. Most of these free applications were developed to compensate for Apple’s lack of a return policy and are submitted by developers to the AppStore in conjunction with a paid version. By highlighting these free versions, Apple looks to be trying to undermine both Android’s generous return policy and its perceived competitive advantage in the growing mobile application market.
Apple’s attempt to wage war is not too surprising, as competition among these two mobile platforms is fierce. Though Apple is the reigning King with the iPhone 4 as the single most popular smartphone in the US, an app catalog of over 200,000 active applications, and over five billion downloads, Android is coming on strong with 70,000 current applications, 100,000 projected applications by year’s end, and an estimated download tally that tops one billion.
With billions at stake, will this new AppStore “Try Before You Buy” initiative by Apple help slow down Android’s growth? We certainly can’t wait to find out!