Time Out 2: pricing

Hi all,

I have a very important question that I've been pondering for some time, and that I'd appreciate your input on. How to price Time Out 2.

Version 1, as you may know, is free, with a suggested donation. All features can be used without restriction for no cost, but if you find it useful, I appreciate a donation. I like the idea of Time Out being free, so lots of people can get the health benefits of taking regular breaks. But I also like to eat and pay bills, so I need an income. Free, even with a donation, doesn't really cut it, unfortunately.

So I've always planned to charge for version 2, especially considering the huge amount of work I've put into it, and the significantly improved feature set. But I'm not sure exactly how to do so.

There are a number of options I'm considering. I'd appreciate your thoughts on these.


The simplest option is to stick with the current model: a free app, with no restrictions, and an optional donation.

Pros: widest use.

Cons: relatively few paid customers; unsustainable.


The obvious alternative is to simply have a price tag on the app. Version 2 will be available both directly from the Dejal website and in the Mac App Store, so I could do like I do for other apps, with a free trial on the Dejal site as a time-limited demo, with a payment required after 14 days of use (which may be non-contiguous). And on the App Store, just have a fixed price.

Pros: simple; easy to understand; customers are all paid (except during the direct edition trial period).

Cons: no trial on the Mac App Store; less publicity from people recommending it as a free app.

Freemium with "Unlock Everything"

Another option is "freemium" — a free edition on the Mac App Store, with some feature restrictions, with a single In-App Purchase (IAP) perhaps called "Unlock Everything" to make all of the features available. This is similar to a trial period for the direct Dejal site edition, so it could use the same mechanism.

Pros: free trial for both editions; simple-to-understand price.

Cons: it could be tricky to set the limits so enough people pay.

Freemium with multiple IAP

A variation on the freemium approach is to have multiple In-App Purchase options. So instead of paying once to unlock all the features, customers could pay to unlock individual features, e.g. new break themes, action types, and perhaps even to add a new break. The app could come with one or two breaks, and you pay $0.99 or something for each additional break.

Pros: free trial for both; pay for usage; potentially more $$$.

Cons: more confusing pricing; some might not like the "nickel & diming".


Taking the above further, another option is often referred to as "gamification": using rewards or social features to make using the app more fun, and to spend money on features. There are various ways this could be done, but one idea for Time Out is to have an in-app currency for breaks taken and skipped. So taking a break earns some credit, and skipping or postponing a break spends some of that credit. If someone wants to skip more than they take breaks, they could pay real money to buy break credits. There could also be achievements to earn for taking breaks (e.g. taking all breaks in a day or a week), etc.

Pros: could be fun; real incentive to take breaks; potentially more $$$.

Cons: more complex to implement and understand; again with the "nickel & diming".

Some hybrid

A variation of the above options could be to use one approach for the direct Dejal edition, and another for the Mac App Store edition. For example, the direct edition could use the traditional 14-day trial approach, while the MAS edition uses a paid or freemium model.

Pros: more choices for people.

Cons: more complex to understand.


There are probably other approaches that could work, too. If you can think of any, please let me know.

I'd really appreciate your opinions on these options. I need Time Out to be sufficiently profitable to justify and sustain further enhancements. But I also want it to be used as widely as possible. It's already a fairly popular app, in large part due to being free, so I want to do what I can to improve that.

Of course, once a pricing model is decided, the next obvious question is what the actual price(s) should be. I welcome feedback on that, too, if you like.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below, or privately.

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

Interesting models David. I would not pay to be able to skip breaks, although earning credits for taking breaks might be a good motivation to actually take those breaks.

For platforms other than OS X, a similar app is available (Workrave, no-cost, open source). For OS X there is no such thing. In order to help people prevent strain injuries, a basic free version would be a good gesture. Start with a 14 days trial, then revert to the free version and offer an IAP to unlock the pro features. I would easily pay $4.99-$6.99 once you gained my sympathy :)

David Sinclair's picture

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

Thanks for the feedback. I'm really not sure about the idea of paying to skip breaks (though my idea was that you'd start with a certain number of break credits, so would only have to pay if you skip a lot). But it doesn't sit too comfortably, so I probably won't do that, at least for now.

Starting with a 14 day trial then continuing to work as a feature-limited free version is definitely one of the things I'm currently thinking about.

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

TimeOut is unique and the fact there is nothing else quite like it sets it apart. There are timer apps that exist that can play your choice of sound and could be somewhat similar -- but most of those I am familiar with are iOS oriented and under $5.00

On the Mac platform, successful software that I can think of -- iStatMenus, Swift Publisher, 2Do, Paprika, Notebooks. These tend to be in $9.99 to $19.99 range but they can charge those prices only because they are very good among their peers or satisfy the needs of a niche audience. They also frequently are introduced with a lower set point, then after an introductory period the cost discount goes away.

Updates are also introduced very often with a discount for the first 30-60 days after which the price goes to "normal" -- often the price in the MAS will be the same as what the price is independently on the author's website -- effectively letting people migrate to MAS if they would prefer (there are many advantages such as family sharing among computers)...

Most software seems to come with 14 day trials. Myself, I find I often get distracted and get locked out and sometimes I will never come back. I think a 30 day trial is better. Whatever day trial, if you elected to do that method, make new versions re-set the trial days so folks can take a new look.

I think trying to open the software up totally as free with voluntary donations is trying to sacrifice oneself on the sword -- too many folks put off, too many folks simply take advantage. There has to be a point where customers need to support their software or otherwise do without. Looking at these successful softwares that already have worked out their pricing formulas, and there are others I am sure, is a good way to follow in the footsteps of those who have already wrestled with this issue and also my 2 cents.

If the MAS version cannot allow a time trial -- then perhaps some reasonable limitation that would allow the casual user access but those who want more control and features to need to pony up a license fee.
Perhaps something in line with allow one timer to work for under four cycles a day, and then the need to upgrade to have more than one timer or more than four cycles -- something like that -- that would permit seeing the ability of the software without giving the software totally away.

Myself -- I would rarely buy MAS software that I cannot first demo -- too much crap out there that we have no way to judge on merits unfortunately, as it is hard to find software to begin with on the MAS and then reliable gauges of what works are also like trying to read the minds of card players these days.

David Sinclair's picture

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

Yeah, Mac software tends to be priced higher than iOS apps, though the Mac App Store has reduced that gap quite a bit. Years ago, I could have charged $24 or more for Time Out 2, but nowadays many people balk at more than a few dollars.

I use a 14 day trial for my other apps. It isn't 14 consecutive days, though, but usage days — a day only counts if the app is running on that day. So if you try it for a couple of days, quit it, and come back to it a month later, the trial picks up from where it left off. I think that's more fair.

I agree that free with voluntary donations (as I have now for version 1) isn't a great strategy. It does get donations from true fans of the app, but the majority of people just use it without paying anything, which isn't sustainable for me.

Yes, the MAS doesn't support trials, and has rules against demos, but many apps have had good success with the freemium model as a form of trial. So people can download and try for free, then pay an In-App Purchase to unlock the full features. The trick is setting the limits at a level that shows the features without giving away too much. Limits like what you suggest could be a good level.

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

What about a combination "Unlock Everything" and "Freemium with multiple IAP" approach, so if some some only wants a single feature they could do so, or easily and cost effectively unlock everything.
maybe something like...

Freemium, one break, one base theme , no actions

IAP 1.99 multiple breaks (break feature "released")

IAP 1.99 Multiple additional themes
(same as you have now, even allowing people to create their own themes via html and css)

IAP 1.99 Actions

IAP .99 additional premium themes (i.e. prebuilt themes with "drop-in" txt and images)
or you could do "theme packages" for i.e. 3 or 4 themes for 1.99

IAP 4.99 unlock everything ( even if they do this they could still purchase additional themes/theme packages)

I think IAP feature choice is important, but for sure it's a fine line between nickel and dime and ease.

OK after having written ( and re-read) all that above I think the best choice is actually
Freemium with an Unlock Everything
but with IAP of additional themes (this will give you a possible on-going revenue stream for existing users)

I left all the above to show my thought process ! :-)
hope it helps

David Sinclair's picture

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

Yes, if I did the multiple IAP approach, where each IAP was to unlock a feature, I'd definitely want to have an "Unlock Everything" combo option too.

Another variation of multiple IAP is to pay for each instance — pay to add each break, etc. That seems too fiddly, though.

Thanks for working through your thinking on this... I am tending to lean towards a single "Unlock Everything" option, too. If only because dealing with multiple IAP options on the direct edition would be overly complex; it'd need some sort of shopping basket thing to accumulate them then redirect to the web store, or have some in-app purchasing engine (as Apple's IAP is only available in the MAS).

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

In my opinion, free, paid and freemium are the most viable solutions. If donations (free) doesn't cover enough for development and maintainability, then freemium seems the most appropriate solution since you can still make the app useful in a free form for some basic tasks and make it known as widely as possible while generating some revenues through unlocking features. Unlock everything is better... I tend to stay away from apps that have too many IAPs.

Best regards,

David Sinclair's picture

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

Thanks; that's certainly where I'm currently leaning. Talking through the options has been very helpful to clarify the thinking.

Savannah Johnston's picture

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

It's a tricky issue, isn't it? All I can say at this point is that the gamification idea definitely *doesn't* sound like a good option for this app. I can't even articulate how much I would hate not being able to skip as many breaks as I wanted without paying money. Of course, you could always use gamification on features other than that, but I still don't think people would appreciate it too much. At least, I know *I* wouldn't. I personally like Time Out to be a more or less "set it and forget it" app. Anything that facilitates that makes me enjoy the app more; anything that impedes that irritates me. Gamifying it would pretty much annihilate it, therefore it would irritate me to the point of probably not wanting to use the app anymore. I'm not sure if others feel the same way.

David Sinclair's picture

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

I think that's probably a common opinion.

I do think that gamification can work well if done properly, but it's definitely tricky to get the balance right. I don't think I'll attempt it.

Re: Time Out 2: pricing

I like the idea of making it simple. The "unlock everything" feature as IAP sounds good for me. About 5 $ sounds a reasonable price…

David Sinclair's picture

Re: Time Out 2: pricing