New App Store Guidelines Allow For Free Trials on All Apps

New App Store guidelines are finally going to allow developers to offer free iOS app trials for all titles, not just those based on subscriptions.

Apple on Monday quietly posted an update to its App Store Review Guidelines in categories such as safety, performance, business, design, and legal. Among these updates is a new guideline that says that non-subscription apps may offer a free time-based trial period using a free in-app purchase option that temporarily unlocks app functionality. This will allow all apps in the App Store to offer free trials, rather than just subscription apps.

Specifically, the new section 3.1.1 notes:

Non-subscription apps may offer a free time-based trial period before presenting a full unlock option by setting up a Non-Consumable IAP item at Price Tier 0 that follows the naming convention: “14-day Trial.” Prior to the start of the trial, your app must clearly identify its duration, the content or services that will no longer be accessible when the trial ends, and any downstream charges the user would need to pay for full functionality.

Despite this change, Apple’s still making it clear that “demos, betas, and trial versions of your app don’t belong on the App Store.” Based on the section above, this means separate demo or trial releases are still not allowed, not regular apps that offer a trial.

Until now, free trials were limited to subscription-based apps such as Apple Music, which offer a limited-time free trial with the agreement that users will pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee once the free period is over. Nevertheless, regular premium apps have never had access to this luxury, something that has become one of the biggest complains among the iOS user community.

With one simple change to the rules, Apple may have revolutionized its own App Store. Now a developer can put in the time and resources to make a truly deep and full-featured app, and charge a fair price for that work. The user, meanwhile, can take that app for a full test drive before deciding whether to pay the higher price.

Apple’s policy change is a big deal. For years, Android users have been allowed to try apps and games on a limited basis without paying, and developers for iOS titles have wanted a similar tool. It will be interesting to see how long it will take before iOS developers begin taking advantage of the new policy.