The Value of ‘Pro’ v. ‘Lite’

After writing about trials/demoes yesterday I got to thinking about in-app purchases to upgrade to full versions and the perceived value of calling software ‘Pro’ versus ‘Lite’. It occurred to me that there is an inherent value in the ‘Pro’ tag and there is an inherent devaluation that happens when you tag something ‘Lite’.

Look at it this way, Angry Birds has two versions of their game for sale, a ‘Lite’ version that is free and then a non-lite version that you must pay for. What Angry Birds is saying by titling the two versions this way is that the ‘lite’ version is of lesser value than the regular version – it is a lesser app with fewer levels. Now imagine that Angry Birds sold the Angry Birds title sans-lite for free, it would be the same game, just not titled ‘lite’. What was Angry Birds before now becomes Angry Birds Pro, this is the version that you must pay for.

So my question is this: would you rather pay for Angry Birds or Angry Birds Pro if they both costed the same and were the same exact app?

The real question it would seem is should your trial version be called a ‘lite’ version, or should you call your full-version a ‘Pro’ version?

From what I have been able to sort out, the differences look like this:

Lite Means Cheap

Whenever I see someone with a ‘lite’ version of an app on their device I immediately wonder why they just don’t pay for the full version. If they like it enough to keep it on their phone surely it is worth something. ‘Lite’ then in my eyes carries a negative connotation, it means that it is not as good as the non-lite version.

It makes me want to have the non-lite version of the app because I don’t want to be seen having the ‘lite’ version. This is good for a couple of reasons.

  1. People will feel a desire to upgrade and pay for the full version of the app, thus removing the ‘lite’ tag from their mind.
  2. It in no unclear terms tells the customer that they are not getting the full-version and as such should not expect the app to be as good as the full version.

This is why I think so many people have stuck with the ‘lite’ tag for trial versions of apps in the iOS app store – they do not want negative comments because people expected to get a full version of the app.

Pro Means Pro

If I see that an app is free to use, but also has a ‘Pro’ version I immediately want to know the difference between the two, because I always feel that I need the ‘Pro’ version of everything. If my buddy has app ‘X’ on his iPhone and I have app ‘X Pro’ on mine I will immediately feel vindicated in having paid for the app. That is giving people a ‘Pro’ tag when they buy instead of just removing the ‘lite’ tag seems to have a larger inherent value in the consumer mind.

There is though a consequence of structuring you software in this way: it does nothing to tell your consumer that the ‘non-pro’ version is really just a trial or ‘lite’ version in disguise. That is there is little reason for many consumers to think a paid upgrade is worth it to them, most people don’t feel the compelling urge to be a ‘pro’ when it comes to iOS apps. This could and probably would lead to rather negative ratings and comments from people expecting to get a full version only to find that they downloaded a trial. That said by designating the ‘Pro’ tag for your paid versions you are giving paying customers something more tangible than they get with the ‘lite’ model.

The Right Tag

There is no right tag, but I think that certain apps should be using certain tagging instrumentation. Games are probably best served sticking with the ‘Lite’ system as it is the best way to let people know that they are not getting the full version of the game. For apps that some people will be perfectly happy using just the free version, and could conceivably continue to use a free version indefinitely the ‘Pro’ tag seems to make more sense. These are apps like Twitterrific that in the free version works fine, but you can only use one account and you must see ads. Paying for the full version removes these issues. Thus a consumer could use the free version indefinitely if it suited their needs, and would only need to pay for the app if they wanted the extra ‘pro’ level features.

I say ‘Pro’ makes more sense only if you develop an app that has two versions, one free and one paid and the free version is made to be a scaled down version that can stand on its own (meaning you don’t run out of “levels” as you would in a game). You are in effect giving away a full version of your app for free, and selling a version with more features as a ‘Pro’ level which is in line with what the consumer mind expects.

Either route you go I doubt you will get rid of the rude comments that plague the App Store.

Originally posted for members on: October 29, 2010
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