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In a modern economy, FREE always comes at a price.

I’ve got a co-worker who insists on never paying for any app on his Android phone. After careful review I declare him an idiot. Period!

It’s not just that hard work and effort needs recognition, especially when it personally benefits you. But that, as I’ve painfully discovered, if you’re getting something of value for nothing there’s a catch.

People simply do not give stuff away. Many need a place to beta-test their apps/programs/plugins/whatever and figure the best way is to let people use it for free with the understanding that it’s a work in progress. So in other words, you’re using something that’s incomplete/buggy. I’m fine with this and think it’s a great way for people to mutually benefit.

However, once a program is complete and ready for completely functional use the value has to be redeemed in some way. So if you don’t pay for it up front, you end of paying for it along the way.

Ad supported apps/tools/programs are annoying, but usually harmless. I hate banner ads, but they do provide limited funds for the developer and help recover expenses.

But its through the so-called Freemium crap that I’m now going to dedicate my existence to removing the mythical cloak of FREE. I’ve recently started playing an action-RPG on my Android powered Nexus 7 called ‘Soulcraft’. It engaged my interest so I invested a paltry $4.99 to gain Gold Member status granting me a couple of convenient bonuses and extra gear.

The first week of play went swimmingly, it really is a simple and very well designed hack ‘n slash dungeon crawler. Then I reached a point where to continue on without countless hours of needless “grinding” I needed to fork over even more money.

  • You need gold to get premium gear and certain bonus options. And gold is as rare in this game as unicorns. The only practical way to accumulate gold is by spending real money. Without the premium gear, I’m stuck in place–repeatingly playing sand-box levels to get little tangible benefit, just the small possibility of magical armor/weaponry.
  • This app (and many others) draws people in and gets them addicted. Just like all successful “dealers”, once addicted you have to pay to play. This so-called free-to-play game is no more.

This type of in-app purchasing (IAP) is, of course, not just limited to the free apps. Some of the $.99/$1.99 apps also end up requiring real money in-game to complete without endless grinding. And if you happen to go “all out” and spend REAL money on the élite equipment/gear the game(s) ends up so swimmingly easy that you once again feel cheated, this time by spending big money on a game that’s over way too quickly. It’s all relative, I’ve still never spent more than $15 total on any one game/app–but in a world filled with $.99 options $15 seems like a life-altering commitment;)

However, many of games/apps I’ve purchased for between $.99 and $9.99 have no such crippling limiters. If you buy in-game upgrades the games becomes easier (too easy?) but you can still win without more money. And the productivity apps I’ve paid for are usually(?) superior and more convenient to use than the ones I got for “Free”. After-all, you get what you pay for.

The same goes for old-school PC shareware, WordPress themes/plugins, software trial versions, etc… If you want the best features, no advertising nuisances, the best developer support (including personal responses to specific needs/issues), and fully functional/non-buggy programs/apps you NEED to pay for them.

You never get something for nothing.

So again, I return to my co-worker and his brand new phone. Why spend money on a sophisticated piece of technology only to limit its functionality by installing feature limited, beta testing, incomplete, ad-supported crap on it.

Sure, go ahead install the Freemium apps that make you either want to throw your device out of frustration or end up burning your money with no end in sight.

They’ve done studies indicating that the VAST majority (like 70%+) of app profits comes out of FREE apps and their in-app purchases (IAP). So there…Free, My Ass!

Me, I’m (almost) only installing paid-for (premium) apps/games on my device. I want to recognize the work of programmers and developers on the front end. I pay upwards of $50 for PC games, I think $5 for an Android game is reasonable. And if I buy it, I feel I can reasonably and expectedly complain about it later. If it’s “free” what right do I have to complain?

That and I don’t have wads of $100s lying around to make my free apps actually work as designed;)

Feb 2014