The effects of making a WP7 app free, and the numbers to go with it

Every now and then we feature apps whose prices are going down for a small promotional period.  Obviously, in general people seem to like free stuff. But how much?

Well, I have an app called FFFFound in the Windows Phone Marketplace, which has been mentioned here on WPCentral a few times.  It's has quite a niche target market, and because of that doesn't have many users.  So before going into numbers, you need to realize that this is an app that not too many people actually want or need.  BUT for the few who are looking for something like this, they love it.  Because the users who have reviewed it have made it quite clear that they love the design, I wanted to get it into more hands.

So I decided to make it free for a week from around the 26'th January. I say around because the Marketplace is quite fickle, and changes tend to spread to different markets (geographically speaking) at different speeds. On that day WPCentral did a post informing all of you, plus I had been in contact with AppDeals. AppDeals is an app that can be thought of like the Groupon of mobile. Each few days they get a new app deal listed, and it has both push notification and a Live Tile to let you know.

Apart from WPCentral and AppDeals, I cannot find any other large sites that picked up on the deal. What that means is that the numbers below are from just three [main] sources: WPCentral, AppDeals, and people finding it through the usual marketplace.

Pretty Graphs

For all the data in this post (besides the AppDeals numbers which they kindly provided me with), and all the screenshot, I used a service called Localytics. After trying out pretty much every free analytic service I settled on this one. I use it in all of my apps, because it's very painless to setup, support is great, the data is real-time, and the UI is second to none (in my opinion of course). If you are a developer, I highly recommend putting some form of analytics in your apps. It really helps you to see whats going on, and is an invaluable tool for tracking crashes.


Due to what I mentioned above about this being a rather niche app, it did not have too many regular users. So as you can see from the top graph, before the promotion I was getting a couple hundred users per day. The graph at the top shows how many users the app got per day, and how many sessions. So if a single user used it each day we would see him/her showing up in the graph for each day. But to work out the total of new users, obviously once a user has shown up once, they must never be counted again. So here is the graph of New vs. Returning Users which shows unique new (have never opened it before) users, and the ones that are returning.

The red is new users, the blue is returning users. You can see the the day with the most new users was the first day of the promotion with 1681.

So how many downloads did I get from AppDeals?

Jan 26th: 1,059Jan 27th: 658Jan 28th: 310Jan 29th: 203Jan 30rd: 93Jan 31st: 57Feb 1st: 86Feb 2nd: 89Feb 3rd: 25TOTAL: 2580

And how many did I get from WPCentral and the Marketplace? To work out these numbers I took the total number of new users for the day and subtracted the AppDeals number from above.

Jan 26th: 622Jan 27th: 793Jan 28th: 241Jan 29th: 513Jan 30rd: 359Jan 31st: 278Feb 1st: 198Feb 2nd: 206Feb 3rd: 360TOTAL: 3570

By adding those together, we can get the total count for each day, and see how many new unique users downloaded FFFFound over the free week:

Jan 26th: 1681Jan 27th: 1451Jan 28th: 551Jan 29th: 716Jan 30rd: 452Jan 31st: 335Feb 1st: 284Feb 2nd: 295Feb 3rd: 385TOTAL: 6150

It is unfortunate that we cannot see how many came from WPCentral alone, but from looking at previous peaks (when FFFFound was featured here), I'm tempted to say that actual marketplace discovery was not overwhelming, and probably less or equal to WPCentral. I would guess that after the 29th January, the hits from WPCentral slowed down and the marketplace discovery slowly crept up. By the last few days, all the hits were probably coming from the marketplace. This is due to the app getting LOTS of positive reviews and shooting up in the ranks.

According to AppFlow, at one stage during FFFFound's promotion, it was the number 2 paid photo app in the marketplace, and 44'th overall. Because of the way that AppFlow works, now that I have switched FFFFound back to paid, it is impossible to see how it fared in the "free" section.

As of right now it is in 4'th place in the Photo section.

Another great side-effect of the promotion is all the neat reviews! You can get a great overview of your apps from Windows Phone Dashboard.

Looking at those stats, we can see that in total (over all regions) it has 412 reviews. That is pretty impressive considering that it was around a quarter of that before the promotion. And not all of those reviews were during the promotion. In fact, in the last 7 days it has received 70 reviews. The date 7 days ago was the 6th February, which was 3 days after the promotion ended.

Say What?

There is a moral to this very detailed, very long post. The moral is that making your app free for a short period may seem like a stupid idea, but there are a lot of positive sides to it. And some of those things - like reviews and ranking - are persisting after the promotion, which means that there is a good chance that you will see an increase in sales after making it free. Also, there is the small percentile of people that can not purchase apps due to not having a credit card or otherwise. This helps them out too.

So please, consider running promotions. Your user's will love you for it.


Over the week the app was run 29'049 times by 6'981 unique people. In the app there is a setting thats called "Subtle Load" and although I have absolutely no data on what percentage of people have that activated (probably a small number because it is not the default), the number "pages" that were loaded with subtle loading is: 62'787. The average person uses it for 2.1 minutes per session. So that means that people used it for 1016 hours over that week in total.

WC Staff