Holiday apps (Halloween in particular) and lessons learned

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by canadacow, Oct 15, 2008.

  1. canadacow macrumors member

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    #1
    Writing a holiday app (Carve3D) was a rather interesting endeavour. I learned a good bit about Open GL ES and other multimedia aspects of the iPhone. But that isn't why I'm writing this forum post. I feel I have some interesting observations regarding the dynamics of the App Store as well.

    1) Apparently a lot of people saw Halloween as strictly a way to make a fast buck. Only it hasn't really happened and at this point, I don't really expect it to happen. When Carve3D was free I distributed about 25,000 units in a span of a weekend. When charging 0.99 for it, it was about 1% that amount. This being said, all but two apps out of forty-two that come up under a search for "Halloween" in iTunes are free. Apparently the price point for holiday apps, and in particular, Halloween apps, is "free".

    2) Free apps create for a completely different audience than do apps that charge even $0.99 USD. Admittedly there were some stability issues in early releases of Carve3D and Apple's very slow turnaround time with updates did little to fix this issue. No surprise, the vast majority of iPhone users have little appreciation for how much lead time there is in getting updates pushed through the store.

    3) I never intended for Carve3D to be targeted at a sub-teenage market, but the simultaneous release of Crazy Pumpkin by default seemed to give me that audience. Crazy Pumpkin is an insanely simplistic application. Compared to Carve3D, which involves mapping a 2D touch point to a 3D texture coordinate, it's worlds apart in code complexity and learning curve demanded by the user.

    4) Surprisingly, Apple does have some good judgement when it comes to "Staff Picks". Apple choose fellow forum member Josh Anon's app Pumpkins as a pick. I'm not disappointed that my app was overlooked as I pointed out earlier I had stability issues that have just now been resolved, not to mention a learning curve. Crazy Pumpkin is just too simplistic and targeted at 3-year-olds or those with the equivalent IQ. Pumpkins is just right with regard to stability, features, price and fitting with the holiday.

    So, lesson learned? If you're writing a "holiday" app, one should probably make it free, crisp and ideally have a pre-existing audience, like ezone and Crazy Pumpkins.
     
  2. Daremo macrumors 68000

    Daremo

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    #2
    Way to insult possible future customers who may actually enjoy that app.
     
  3. canadacow thread starter macrumors member

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    #3
    Sorry, I just call it as I see it. Besides, I think ezone would probably agree with me. See here and here
     
  4. DigMe macrumors 6502

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    #4
    Kinda sounds like sour grapes to me. Let's face it - it's an app involving carving an animated pumpkin. It's not like you've got the idiots and 3-year olds all over here choosing one animated pumpkin app while the classy, mensa members are all over there choosing the other animated pumpkin app. It's pretty ridiculous comment.

    Riiiight. When you're an app developer and you're insulting the people who chose the other app over your app then that's not calling it as you see it. That's just straight-up sour grapes, jealousy, bitterness or something else along those lines. I have no interest in supporting any of your future apps after reading your negative comments towards others.
     
  5. canadacow thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 24, 2008
    #5
    No, what you have are both picking both. And it's reflected in the reviews, if you'd take the time to read them. I'm fairly certain the people who rated my app positively gave Crazy Pumpkin a low review, and vice versa. I mean really, have you bothered to even read the reviews between my app (Carve3D) and Crazy Pumpkin? Which, as I pointed out, are the only two free Halloween apps in the store.

    By creating a free app, many people impulsively walked into my app expected a quick fix. Crazy Pumpkin, because of it's simplistic nature gives people that chidren's rattle type fix. My app, on the other hand, isn't quite so quickly rewarding as it takes practice.

    I think you've very selectively read my post. On multiple occasions, including this original post, I gave kudos to a "competing" app. Pumpkins, by Josh Anon, is a good app and Apple was wise in choosing it as a Staff Favorite. They could have picked mine, or Crazy Pumpkin, or any other other nearly 50 Halloween apps.

    So why am I beating up on Crazy Pumpkin? Pumpkins and my app, Carve3D, show genuine effort to make a quality product that has more appeal than an infant's rattle (and lets be serious, that is what Crazy Pumpkin is). And Josh Anon's app and hopefully my app actually deliver on that ideal. Crazy Pumpkin does not. Crazy Pumpkin is an app I could write in half a lazy Saturday afternoon. Pumpkins and my own app, not so much. In short, if you read what I wrote again, it's not me insulting their user base, it's Ezone. As demonstrated by YouTube, their common denominator is low, and they know it.

    So really, that's more of what I'm taking issue with. It's crappy developers producing crappy apps for the App Store. Ezone is one bad offender (just look at their wonderful selection of "Crazy" apps in total.) Another great example is ZATZ Publishing, who has released 31 different versions of the same app, a day counter to a very specific event. Eventually people caught on to this certain individual's poor tactics but it doesn't stop the developer from releasing more of the same crap.

    I know you aren't serious. Why? Because unless you have 3-year-old kids or grandkids, you and I both know that even in the next 15 days to Halloween, you'll probably have Crazy Pumpkin open for a shorter amount of time than it took you to read this forum post.

    Really, who are we kidding here?
     
  6. tk421 macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    Lots of people have downloaded Crazy Pumpkin (it's the number 2 app at this moment). And it has pretty good reviews.

    Who cares if their YouTube videos are kids or their app is simplistic? There is room for all sorts of apps. Ezone just knows their target audience, and apparently it's pretty large.

    What does that have to do with anything? He (or she) didn't say he was going to use Crazy Pumpkin a lot. He said he would NOT download your apps. Why wouldn't he be able to follow through on that?
     
  7. geekmommy4 macrumors 6502

    geekmommy4

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    #7
    Oh my...such seriousness over pumpkin apps? Did you look at the stock market today? :rolleyes:
     
  8. Daremo macrumors 68000

    Daremo

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    #8
    it doesn't matter what the app is. I see it as poor business to publicly slam potential customers in a forum, if in fact they like a competitors product that YOU don't like. I don't own either one, but I can clearly see the sour grapes you're leaving here.
     
  9. canadacow thread starter macrumors member

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    #9
    Have you actually read my original post in it's entirety? Why all the focus on a single sentence?

    First and foremost, and I'll say it again to be absolutely clear, Ezone and I are competitors in name only as both of our apps are the only free Halloween apps for the present moment in time. I find it ironically childish that someone would swear not to buy any free apps.

    I'll make my point again and as clear as possible, because I stand by it: The apps themselves insult the intelligence of the people who shop in the App Store. This was the intention of my comment. I buttressed my point because I find it all too obvious that Ezone is honest and cognizant of their target audience via their marketing.

    Ezone as company however was one of the first companies to take advantage of the now closed loophole in the App Store where by one could release an app for free and then jump to paid and take that momentum with them. The reviews of all their other "crazy" apps bear this out. Even a large number of the high reviews on Crazy Pumpkin carry with it that it's good because it's "free". If they jump to paid like they did with their other apps, the reviews immediately drop to the toilet like their other releases.

    The crux of my complaint and "sour grapes" if anything is that one off, poor quality apps seem to drown out ones where time, original thought and effort have gone into them. Cheap tricks like switching from free to paid (now closed) or deliberately placing whitespace or other characters in a name to get attention seems to rule what wins and what doesn't, rather than actual quality. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way and this was the intent of my comment in the original post. Apple apparently sees through this with their "Staff Favorites" list and they chose a very good app.

    In closing, I will say my better half has read this post over my shoulder and does say I do sound like I'm whining to an extent. I can see where she's coming from. The catch is that I already have a successful, quality app in the store, and we need more of them. What we need less of are (and Apple apparently agrees with me on this point) are "pull my finger" apps, "I am Rich" apps, and the like that scar the creditability of the App Store.

    Can we all go home now and argue about the Presidential Debates instead?
     
  10. Daremo macrumors 68000

    Daremo

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    #10
    The problem with all of this, is it's all based on opinion. It doesn't matter what you or I think is good. People like what they like, being it simple or well thought out. It doesn't matter.

    My comment had nothing to do with what the app is or does. I was simply saying everything else you wrote in your original post lost credibility as soon as you insulted the people who may enjoy the app when you compared their IQs to a 3 year old because their opinion differs from you. That's it really. It's just bad business.
     
  11. eagecl macrumors newbie

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    Jul 12, 2008
    #11
    I like Carve3d

    As a buyer of both applications, I agree with the OP and appreciate him sharing his experiences. While people are jumping all over him for "whining", they are missing the value of the article which is the lessons learned from experiences in the app store.

    Initially I wanted to get Carve3d, but I'm not a huge fan of paying .99 for a seasonal application. When I wasn't able to get it during the free weekend, I downloaded the other application. Two screen flicks later, I deleted it. It really is a pretty dumb app. If it works for you, great, but Carve3d is much better. In fact the only thing they share in common is a halloween theme.

    I don't feel insulted by the OP even though I "bought" the competitor's app. I think it did so well b/c there were many people who got it b/c it was free and then put it on their iPod and either realized it was pretty lame or amused their 3 year olds with it (which is great)!

    While we're beating up on developers expressing a negative opinion of a competitor's product, let's not forget Apple does it all the time. Did anyone see the "state of the mac" when they talked about their success being partially due to the fact that Vista sucks? That wasn't "whining", that was accurate and amusing.

    Anyways, Thanks for a great app and for sharing your experiences. I for one found it interesting.
     
  12. canadacow thread starter macrumors member

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    Jul 24, 2008
    #12
    I'll concede on that point, but that was not the intention of my post at all. I can't help it if that's how you took it either.

    Anyway, it's also bad business to give stuff away completely for free, no strings attached, but as my original post said, that's apparently the price point for holiday apps, as a lesson learned.
     
  13. moopf macrumors member

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    #13
    Without getting into the wider argument here, I'd love to know your reasoning for this. We're talking about $0.99, an impulse buy if you like. I'm trying to understand the app store marketplace as there appears to be a huge discrepancy in what people are willing to pay and what they believe they should get for the price they are paying. I see $0.99 apps railed against because they don't do this or that, or they don't give longevity past an hour or so, or other such reasons (I'm excluding bugs here, as they are good reasons) and I really just don't get it. I see people demanding updates to $0.99 or free apps as if it's reasonable to expect more and more, even when those apps works perfectly well as they are. There's a level of expectation that I simply don't get.

    I presume you wouldn't spend admission price on a seasonal film that gave you a couple of hours worth of entertainment as well? Or a real pumpkin to carve? Or anything else, not entirely remotely related to Halloween that is $0.99 for something essentially throw-away in entertainment terms. These apps are entertainment, all the same, so why are the expectations so different?

    For some reason games, apps etc. that are entertainment on the app store aren't being treated as such. It appears that in buying them, many customers think that comes with an expectation that it will be constantly improved or must do more than provide a small shot of entertainment. At least that's how I'm seeing it.

    I'm not having a go, believe me, I'd just really like to understand more about why consumers on the app store think the way they do as I think, as developers, it would help us to realise who we're aiming at.
     
  14. canadacow thread starter macrumors member

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    #14
    I think at this point I've figured out that nearly everyone else has the same line of thinking as you in this regard. And to be honest, it is fair. They're basically disposable apps so it makes sense that they should be free.

    Thanks. This is all a learning experience for everyone. That's why I toyed with pricing and other aspects and then later posted my experiences here.

    Happy Halloween!
     
  15. canadacow thread starter macrumors member

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    #15
    This has grabbed my curiosity as well and I've been attempting to crack it. My other app, iSSH is worlds apart from Carve3D. It's higher priced in the App Store ($4.99 USD) and has very specific target audience (UNIX system administrators). In reality $4.99 isn't much to pay for software and really isn't too far removed from free. For me I have no problem having customers expect updates because I know that in many cases I actually be expanding my future customer base, which is good for business. For example, a customer requested BIG5 Chinese support. Once that makes it into my product, I expect my sales in China to see a huge jump, and then jump once again after Apple secures a legitimate contract for service there.

    With regard to people expecting updates to free apps. I think within reason it makes sense. Cleaning up stability or usability issues should be expected, but core functionality included in free apps should be considered the "end of the line." In my opinion. ;)
     
  16. shoelessone macrumors 6502

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    #16
    wow, why you guys are all kicking this guys ass I'm not sure. I honestly didn't see his post as being anything but helpful, informative, and honest. I'd say his application is a HELL of a lot more complex then the app that you just flick the different faces. Again, it seems like he posted good info, and I'm really shocked by all of the flack he's getting - wtf am I missing?
     
  17. moopf macrumors member

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    #17
    I don't mind requests for updates for my game and, in fact, included many in an update as they made sense. And certainly, consumers do often have good ideas for improvements. But there is a general expectation, even with entertainment apps that are selling for what basically amounts to peanuts, that they should be constantly improved or added to. This seems fundamentally at odds to games/entertainment apps on other platforms, for instance, where the only thing consumers reasonably expect are bug fixes and generally expect to pay and do pay much more money for them. It's that core difference in attitude, especially when we're talking about such small amounts of money, that I simply do not understand and I'm trying to get my head around :)
     
  18. eagecl macrumors newbie

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    #18
    It is an insteresting phenomenon. I am not sure I am accurate in saying that my reason for not buying the .99 app was due to it being a seasonal app. After all .99 IS an impulse buy. My iPod has very few paid apps on it. I only spend money on apps that I know I will like and provide longevity. this is to protect myself from nickel and dimeing myself into poverty. In the Carve3D app's scenario, I saw that it was free for a weekend and missed it (I tried to download it at 11:30pm Mon night). I thought it would be a cool tool for templating a pumpkin face before I carved an actual pumpkin (which it is). When it went back up to .99, I considered buying, but I had no way of trying it out first and so did not consider it priority enough to warrant a .99 gamble. now that I know the quality of the app, I would consider buying, but now I already have it. The most obvious solution would be a shareware, try-before-you-buy model. That would be good in this situation because I could then purchase the app after having my doubts removed by trying it out. The problem then is that you have a glut of shareware in the app store and it's not as elegant as the current model. Perhaps a better implementation would be for Apple to allow you to try it out using a built in emulator in iTunes. Now that would be cool.

    A word about more expensive apps, I have purchased Galcon which was $5 during a sale and I love the game. Well worth the money. But I did not buy it when it was 9.99 even though I know it would be a great game that I would enjoy over and over. I don't know why there is a psychological barrier to spending $9.99 on an app, but there is. $5.00 is the most I will pay for an application, even great ones (Lux Delux, I hope your listening).

    paid apps:
    Galcon $4.99 (picked up during a sale)
    Cro-Mag $2.99 (picked up during a sale) Never play
    Radius $.99 (picked up during a sale)
    Dizzy Bee $2.99(first app I bought) Never play
     
  19. eagecl macrumors newbie

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    #19
    I don't expect updates to inexpensive apps as long as they are not buggy and have glaring errors. I will however stop using an app if it is not useful. Probably alot of feedback you get related to updates is stemming from users wanting to use the app to its full potential, but needing additional functionality/bug fixes. I don't know how many "todo" applications I've downloaded that come close to getting it right, but missing by just a little. As a result, I am still using the notes app that comes with the iPod. A couple of those, I've emailed the developer with suggestions and I keep watching for updates. Until then, they stay off my iPod.
     
  20. moopf macrumors member

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    #20
    First of all, thank you for the answer and taking my post in the way it was meant :)

    Now here's the big problem I see with customer expectation. You want to trial a $0.99 app? This goes back to the expectations on an app that costs $0.99 - for that level of payment commitment, if you played a 24 hour trial and decided you'd got your fun out of it, you'd pay nothing. I guess it really depends how much entertainment you want for $0.99, and this is where the expectation doesn't meet the reality.

    For that kind of cost, I'd probably expect an hour, maybe two, entertainment tops. More than that and it's a bonus. Less than that and, well, it's only $0.99 so it's no great shakes. I don't have money to burn but if something looks interesting and it's $0.99, well I think I'd "gamble" on that in hopes of it meeting my requirement of a couple of hours fun. I mean, where else could you get a couple of hours fun for $0.99 these days. Or even an hour.

    Obviously this isn't the way that vast numbers of app store consumers feel and I'd love to get to the bottom of the reason why - what is it about the app store, or about the demographic using the app store, that means they expect so much more and think that $0.99 is a gamble.
     
  21. yalag macrumors 65816

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    #21
    I think it all comes down to relativity. What can you get for a buck in the real world? Nothing, that's right. Not even a coffee or a piece of candy. So if someone comes along and tries to sell you something (remotely useful) for a buck, you'd take it. Why? Because just what else could you do with a dollar anyways?

    Now the apps tore. Almost every kind of app can be had for free with 10 competitions to choose from. 0.99 becomes a huge investment. Really, the strategy should be to write apps that will have no competition. Period. Then you get to charge whatever price you feel is fair. Why is no one whining about 0.99 koi pond? Well because koi is koi, there is no other koi. As a poster in this thread as mentioned, iSSH is making him truckloads of money. Why? Well, there's probably 2 ssh clients and neither is free.
     
  22. moopf macrumors member

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    #22
    This only really works if the free ones are any good. In my experience of the app store, I have downloaded tons of free apps and ended up purchasing a paid for alternative for nearly all of them because they've been so poor. What's interesting in games, for instance, is that the vast majority of free apps are lite versions of full apps. This again, would lead me to think that the competition isn't as great as you may think. Maybe it's the sheer volume of apps that makes consumers weary of trying another one as well, making them reluctant to pay that $0.99 for something else. If that's the case then, for 99% of developers, this just isn't going to work.

    Originality is certainly something very important. But again, how much originality can you expect for $0.99 ;)

    PS> I've seen plenty of people whining about koi pond since it was released. Take a look at the reviews for it, for instance. Even at $0.99 people want more or aren't happy with it, and here's an app with no competition. I think this goes deeper than it just being because there are free versions of apps.
     
  23. Rojo macrumors 65816

    Rojo

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    #23
    This thread has derailed into a pricing debate, but I want to get back to what the OP was talking about.

    Well... I guess I have the intelligence of a 3-year old because I downloaded Crazy Pumpkin (and none of the other pumpkin apps) while knowing full well exactly what I was getting with it. ;)

    I actually think ANY pumpkin-carving app for the phone, no matter how advanced it is, is kind of silly. Carving a real pumpkin? That’s kind of cool, even for adults. Carving a virtual 3D pumpkin? Uh...what’s the point? So you can whip out your phone and show your friends the virtual pumpkin you created? Sorry, I can’t see anyone over 12 actually doing that... (apologies to anyone over 12 here who actually HAS done that).
    I can see some appeal for very young kids, sure -- and I think it’s great that these kind of apps exist for that kind of audience. I know there’s a lot of iPhone owners with little kids that like to have apps that can entertain them.

    However, with Crazy Pumpkin, my purpose for downloading it was NOT to have a “virtual pumpkin” that looked “real.” If I wanted that, I would just GET a real pumpkin! No, with Crazy Pumpkin I simply wanted a very simple, basic, Halloween-themed app that I could leave in my dock if I ever had a Halloween-themed party or just to have on Halloween night. It’s super-simplicity IS the appeal for me -- and for the OP not to understand that there’s an audience for that, even for adults, makes me wonder if he has a lot MORE to learn than just what he talks about here.

    I guarantee there are a LOT more adults who have downloaded Crazy Pumpkin over any of the more "realistic" pumpkin carving apps, and NOT just because it’s free or listed in the top apps. Sure, that helps -- but I guarantee you that if you gave most adults the option of choosing any of the Halloween-themed apps for themselves (and NOT for their kids), and all of them just happened to be free so price wasn’t a factor, that the majority of them would still choose Crazy Pumpkin. Why? Because ALL of them are kind of lame, to be honest. But at least Crazy Pumpkin has a certain simplistic appeal about it, and can be used just for “dressing” around the house. As much as the OP wants to make fun and ridicule it and say it’s for toddlers, I’m actually LESS embarrassed to have it on my phone than I would be if I had his 3D carving app. The thought of someone knowing I actually spent time to carve out a virtual pumpkin is just too shameful for words.

    There’s a HUGE market for “simple” and “cute” and “no-nonsense” merchandise that’s strictly aimed towards adults (with appeal to children just a happy by-product). The OP is hugely underestimating this market, and should probably do a little more research. And while I took no offense at his comments, I do think he’s a little bit ignorant of what sells and what appeals to people.

    As for lessons learned, perhaps the biggest thing the OP can get out of this experience is that maybe seasonal apps are NOT the smartest way to be utilizing his developing skills. Leave the holidays for companies like ezone to take advantage of, and spend your time developing more long-lasting apps that can have some real use for people. You have iSSH, which I’m sure is great for people who need that. Let’s see more of that type of thing from you. Take a look at the numerous threads on this forum about what apps people really want. I'm pretty sure no one is asking for a pumpkin-carving app.

    On an completely off-note: moopf -- I absolutely love your Hiqup app! :D
     
  24. canadacow thread starter macrumors member

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    #24
    I think eagecl is on to something when he says that he doesn't want to be nickel and dimed by the store. That's kind of the danger if there are no "lite" app equivalents available. Even then, I take issue with apps like Mocha VNC lite where they are rendered useless because of artificially imposed restrictions on functionality. Functionality is crippled in such a way that I get a negative impression of the app, even if the full version is great. Games have it a little easier in this department because a "lite" version can simply have a reduced number of levels or pieces, without actually impacting the experience.

    But now, just to hold it up as an example, there are five "pumpkin carving" apps, three for 0.99 USD and two that are free. I'm predicting that there are probably 3 more in the pipeline (that'll sell for 0.99 USD). And ultimately 50+ themed Halloween apps. That 0.99 starts adding up really quickly to find that one or two good seasonal apps that you like.

    I guess to put things another way. While your own app may be for sale for 0.99 USD, that's not the price the consumer is seeing. They're seeing the cumulative price of all the apps they'll have to buy at that price or more to actually find the one they like. If we're talking just pumpkin carving apps, it'll be 6 USD worst case scenario in their search. At that point, it's a lot for a throw away app.
     
  25. Rojo macrumors 65816

    Rojo

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    #25
    While I still think you need to learn a lot about what appeals to people, your thoughts here are actually very smart. There's a lot of people who bitch about pricing, and just as many people who bitch about the people who are bitching about pricing. But there's something to be said about people's reluctance to buy certain apps -- even if they are just 99 cents. Yes, it's not much money when you compare it to other things you may buy -- however, app costs DO have a culmulative effect. I've spent a TON of money on apps, and only 25% of it is actually useful to me. I'm a lot more cautious about what paid apps I download now -- not because I'm being cheap, or I think these apps are so expensive, but because they DO add up over time. And when most turn out to be useless, that ends up being a lot of money wasted...
     

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