I have always followed a philosophical paradigm when it comes to App stores. App buying is a complex science, one that can drive the average app consumer to madness. But go in with the right tools, and you’ll come out richer (and maybe even score a freebie!). The following is my bible to buying apps. Use it wisely and make me proud.
1. Wait until the weekend (and be aware of holidays). If you only read one thing here, pay attention to this: unless you need that app right now, you’re best waiting until the weekend, because sales often happen on weekends. On Thursday and Friday nights, it is common to experience a drop in app prices across the board. Holidays are also great times to get apps on the cheap. Whether it’s in celebration of an American holiday, Seasonal holiday or the release of a new iPhone, you can reap the rewards of developers fighting for your money in order to climb the app store ladder for fame and fortune.
2. Subscribe to an App watching service. Checking an App’s price every 10 minutes might be ok for those of us with too much time on our hands (like University students), but the better option is to make an account with an App watching service. My personal favourite is AppShopper.com. Sites like AppShopper allow you to set up a wish list, which will subsequently alert you via email and/or RSS the moment any price drop activity occurs on iTunes for those apps. This means as soon as that price changes, you can be on the app like a dude who… enjoys a cheap app.
3. Keep track of those prices. When looking at apps on the App Store, you only see the price the app is currently going for. What you don’t see is the all important price history of an app. App watching services like AppShopper maintain graphs of app price history. When looking to buy an app, it pays (literally) to check and make sure the price you are paying is as close to its cheapest as possible. If you look to buy an app and the price is at the highest it has ever been, it might pay to wait and see if it at least drops to the mid range of its price history before you pull the trigger.
4. Keep track of App anniversaries. I know this sounds a bit cheap, but it can really pay off. There are quite a few apps out there that simply never go on sale, then as soon as their 1st birthday comes around, boom – a sale. You may think it’s a bit ridiculous to wait up to a year to buy an app, but keep in mind that most devs make more than one application. On many occasions, when a dev hits an apperversary for one of their apps, they end up throwing a sale on all their apps. Keep track of these kinds of dates using an App watching service and you could hit the app jackpot.
5. Jump on new release celebration promos. Many apps on release are priced cheaper for the first few days to drive interest and to entice people to dive in early for a bargain (as opposed to waiting for months for the app to finally go on sale). These release sales aren’t ever as good as later sales, but at least you get it now for cheaper than normal. The gamble can be worth it, especially if you really like the look of a new application and could use it now. It’s noteworthy to say that some apps release at a lower price and once they increase they never go back to that low price again.
6. Grab the freebies. It’s important to grab free apps when they become available. There are many promotions like the Free App A Day program organised outside of iTunes which gets a different dev each day to give away an app for free for 24 hours. Jump on these kinds of deals when you see a quality app go up for free. Even if the app doesn’t terribly interest you, it is often a good idea to pick these up, because you never know – they might turn out to be a keeper. Some apps see substantial updates over time, so getting a promising app when it’s free can be rewarding to your future self. You don’t even have to keep them installed, just delete them after you’ve claimed them. I’m still kicking myself for not downloading the practically featureless Parallels app when it was free 12 months ago. Now its functionality to stream a virtual OS to your iPad brings with it a price of $5 which will soon be $20 once their “introductory” promotion is over!
7. If you miss a sale, don’t give in and pay full price – be patient. It happens to everyone – a sale is on and you fail to grab the app you’re after because you don’t have your iPad with you or you failed to read your price drop notification in time. But don’t despair. Sales come and go, but the important thing to remember is that 99% of sales happen again. Probably not tomorrow, but in the next week or the next month the past may repeat itself. To minimise your chances of missing out, it’s important to look for pricing patterns. This can be over analysing the situation, but many devs will sell their apps in a fairly consistent and often predictable way. Some may drop their price to $0.99 once a month like clockwork, others may start at $6 and drop a dollar off each day until it goes free for about 30 minutes, before going back to the top again.
Fun fact: The standalone word “App” appears 43 times in the above article.