Apple's free app promotion falls flat

by Eric Benderoff

A key flaw with Apple's (APPL) "Try Before You Buy" feature makes it a worthless app promotion. Also in today's App Industry Roundup, we examine more iPod rumors, apps for Lollapalooza and a review of $500 earphones.

App promo needs work

If an iTunes app is free, that means there is no obligation for you to like it or keep it after downloading. If you pay, well, that's another story. Even at 99 cents, a dud is a dud and that's aggravating.

Well, iTunes is now telling users to "Try Before You Buy" in a new section of the App Store. But there's a problem that makes it an absolutely worthless feature: all the apps listed in the "try" section of the App Store are free. Furthermore, the majority appear to be so-called lite versions of games or productivity apps that were designed as trials in the first place.

Now, I'm no marketing genius, but shouldn't we be able to find a few captivating and under-appreciated paid apps that could use such a promotion? (Examples: ProCameraWordSnake and Flickitty.) Couldn't Apple design this feature so those paid apps 'expire' somehow after a period of time if the person who downloads the app doesn't buy the full version? It is a good idea to shine the spotlight on apps but as it is currently constructed, "Try Before You Buy" is misleading and pointless.

Another day, another rumor

We pointed out a host of fresh rumors in Thursday's report, and here's a new one for today: The next iPod touch will include a front-facing camera to use the FaceTime app, according to MacRumors.com. The post includes pictures from an iPhone parts supplier and "clearly shows a front-sided hole that would leave room for a front-facing FaceTime camera," the site writes. To initiate FaceTime calls on the device (and on the phone-less iPad), Apple will use emails instead of phone numbers, MacRumors previously reported.

Expect a new crop of iPods to be released after Labor Day.

Lollapalooza hits Chicago

If you're going to the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago this weekend, here a few handy apps for your iPhone.

First, the official Lolla app offers a list and schedule of when and where bands are playing. The app includes a map of the venue's stages, an integrated Facebook app to post pictures, and a channel from Slacker Radio that plays music from the acts. That channel is also available on the standard Slacker Radio app, by the way, and is a great listen. Also, the Facebook portion of the Lolla app includes a "friend finder" feature so you can check out where your pals are at the show and arrange for meetings using the iPhone's GPS to plant a "digital flag" of where you're hanging out.

Second, AOL's Lifestream service is offering a Lolla booth where you can use free Wi-Fi, charge your mobile phone and enter a contest to sit in with interviews of top acts from Lollapalooza. And if you're not going to Lolla, you can use Lifestream to watch streaming content from the show, including live concert footage.

Listen to this

Finally, if you love music, can't make Lolla and have really deep pockets, I heartily recommend the new high-end earphones from Shure. The Shure SE535 Sound Isolating Earphones cost a whopping $500, but the sound is so pure and crisp, music fans will rejoice. In the age of digital music, where we tend to use music more as background noise than an active listening experience, these headphones will make you stop what you're doing so you can just listen.

Here's a review of the Shure SE535 earphones. (And yes, there are much cheaper alternatives from numerous companies, but very few products offer such dynamic sound.)