How Do You Decide If An App Or Service Is Worth Your Money?

We’ve all used free apps and services, and almost all prefer them. Regardless of whether you use a Mac or Windows PC, an iPhone, Android or a Windows Phone, the vast majority of us have used the free version of an app or service either to just give it a try, or because the features in the free version met our requirements. More people are likely to try something free because there is no buyer’s remorse, but some of the best apps and services are paid. These paid apps and services aren’t all geared towards productivity; people will even spend money on entertainment-oriented apps like Angry Birds. The question is, how do you decide an app or service is worth your money? This post explores some of the questions that float subconsciously in a person’s mind before you say, “Shut up and take my money.”

Frequency of Use

Lets say, hypothetically, there was an app that could tell you when the oil in your car needed changing and it was worth $5. Similarly, imagine there was another app, for the same price, that told you when it was time to change the seat cover. Albeit that last idea being slightly impossible and crazy, the question to ask is, which of those two apps (if they existed) would you spend money on? Oil changes are something that must be done as frequently as once a month or once in two weeks. Changing car seat covers is neither as frequent, nor as important. $5 for an app that will tell you when your car oil needs changing seems like a good idea at this point, because you might be prone to forgetting it, or you might have a family member who is just learning the ropes to a car, and could use the app.

Now, imagine a web service that charges you $25 monthly to update you on the health of your car. Is the service worth it? You’re looking at an annual bill of $300. Compared to the one time $5 spent on the app, this amount is huge. It doesn’t change how frequently you will service your car, but also on the features you get (not just an update on the car oil), and perhaps road safety. Even when the frequency of use is in question, people might be more likely to buy an app since it is a one time purchase, whereas a service is an additional bill every month. It will depend on how frequently you use the app/service in your daily life.

With a seemingly useful service/app as this, it might not be as hard to make a decision, but what about apps that let you add custom lock screens or screensavers? You might buy them but not use as frequently unless your cat has learnt to type in your password and can easily unlock your system.

As far as the car app/service example is concerned, you will be using it often, and that will justify paying for it, but how much will you pay for it? That brings us to the second thought that might possibly be going through a person’s head when they weight their money against an app/service.

Do I really Need That?

A lot of buyer’s remorse stems from buying things you don’t need, and this remorse isn’t limited to the 15th pair of jeans you just bought – it can, and does, happen with services and apps. Keeping up with our previous example, we’re weighing the worth of road safety and if it makes sense to spend $5 or $300 on it. Essentially, if you didn’t have the money, you wouldn’t even be asking yourself that question, as you would have set up self checks and reminders to ensure that you’re car is running well. You’ve probably been doing it for the past many years before the service came around or someone made an app for it, so why do you need this service or app? Convenience can be one reason behind it, as you’re looking for an easier way to do it or you’ve actually found a service that you didn’t know you needed until you saw it. The real question to address is, do you have an actual need for what you’re spending money on?

If you realize that the 2GB of free space offered by most file sharing services isn’t meeting your needs, and you can do with more space, you might upgrade to a version that offers perhaps 50GB of space. What if you end up using only 10GB of it? Would you still say you were addressing a real need when you upgraded, or that you could have avoided the expense by choosing to store files a bit conservatively? This really will depend on how you use the service. It won’t just be a matter of how much space you get with your upgraded version; it might also be about the support and features you get with it, and how much easier it is to get to your files on multiple devices. You will be trying to differentiate between real need and a desire for convenience. For many, convenience is a great reason to justify an app or service purchase. Needless to say, an actual need for an app or service is the best rationale behind a purchase.

Is There A Better/Cheaper/Free Solution To This?

Many rational buyers will first weight their options, whereas impulsive buyers will likely buy now and think later. The people buying apps and services are likely to be rational thinkers for the simple reason, that they will have come across many similar services and have seen several other options. Take for example Dropbox and Box, both file sharing services. While Dropbox offers a 50GB plan, Box only offers a free 5GB plan for individual users. Dropbox doesn’t just have a web presence, but a desktop and mobile one, too. Its desktop and mobile apps are excellent, to say the least. Box has apps for mobile devices, but if you’re using it from a desktop, you will be using the web interface. The decision here becomes more complex; do you upgrade for $10 a month and get 50GB extra space, or use a free service that gives you 5GB? If 5GB isn’t going to cut it for you, you will likely upgrade. Additional factors that will sway your decision might be security and the service/app’s interface. Noteworthy in this example is, when it comes to precious data, people will likely pay extra than compromise the security or availability of it. It is roughly similar to trying to put a price on road safety in our initial example.

I don’t care, I just want it to work!

There will be times when you’re so pushed up against a wall for a solution to a problem, and you might already have tried several free solutions to no avail. At this point, a promising app/service will seem like a great investment. Here, you’re valuing time and energy spent looking for a simpler solution and the urgency to get things done against paying for something that is guaranteed to work. It’s similar to going to your favorite food store, because you know they have that flavor of chips you just spent thirty minutes looking for at 10 discount stores. You know they will have it. While situations like this will likely convince a user to pay, if the service or app fails to meet its promise, it can be detrimental for the company itself. People will complain, there might be the occasional backlash and reputations can get tarnished.

Regretted Paying For Services In The Past

Does a bad service or a poorly executed app that you paid for in the past effect your future purchase decisions? Maybe, Maybe not. That’s what free versions and demos are for; addressing past remorse or bad experiences that people might have had with other services or apps. A good word of mouth or a credible recommendation can influence you to spend again on an app or service if you feel it is worth your money. Users may be less inclined to pay for newly launched services, and this has nothing to do with money and value. New services might not make it, they may get discontinued, and the entire process of backing up your data or looking for and getting used to an alternative solution is plain annoying for general users.


The above five points do not take into account what platform a person is using. If you add platforms into the mix, you will see that, so far as apps are concerned, Mac, iPhone or iPad users are generally okay with paying for apps. Windows, Windows Phone and Android users get more free stuff. While the apps available for these platforms will work as well as those for Apple’s devices, the Mac and iOS apps are going to have a better interface and flow in most cases. Web services, on the other hand, are same for Windows and Mac users, but the Mac-crowd might be more inclined to spend on a good service since they already spend on good apps. On the other hand, they will also have high expectations for the value of their money. This doesn’t necessarily imply that Apple users are impulse buyers, they’re just as rational as Windows users, but have a stronger sense of ownership for their devices, and might find themselves compelled to pay for a cool looking screensaver app for their Mac where Windows users would not. What goes through your mind when you buy an app or pay for a service? Do you think what platform you use effects your decision at all? Does it bother you that have to purchase popular apps like Angry Birds, What’s App Messenger and Sygic GPS Navigation on iOS, but are available free on Android, and why do you think developers choose to sell them like this? Let us know in comments below.

Note: The ideas expressed above are solely based on the author’s personal opinion, and may not be attributed to/for any research studies or statistical analysis. Subsequently, they may not necessarily be AddictiveTips’ point of view, either.

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About Kelli Smith

Kelli Smith
Kelli runs customer support and creates content for Skillcrush, a digital skills training and education platform with friendly instructors, an active student community, and laser focus on helping you achieve your career goals with technology. She has an MBA and successfully ran an international company and her own freelancing business before pursuing her passion for tech by taking advanced web development classes. Kelli loves listening to tech podcasts at 2x speed, looking for cute Corgi photos online and teaching and performing country line dancing—as a true Texan living in Finland would do. Say hi on Twitter.

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