Serious problem with Trial Software – and the Apple mistake

I recently tried out OmniFocus, Omni Group’s ‘Getting Things Done’ application. I actually liked it, a lot, yet decided not to buy it due to it’s combined price of $79.95 for the desktop version plus $19.99 price for the iPhone companion application. In the end, it was a good product, but seemed pricey considering the wealth of other applications that solve the problem very similarly, for free, or cheaper. Now, I’m not against paying for software, however, I have to be a little picky, as I love software the way a Kentucky farmer loves a sheep. If I’m not careful, I’ll spend over $500 a month just on applications promising to make my life better. So, unless something really solves a problem for me, I try not to buy it.

Now, the error with this software is that I spent a good 2-3 days working with it, testing it, adding information, just to get familiar with it. (and I do mean 2-3 days. Lots of time. Lots of entering data, lots of establishing workflow and projects and actions.) Then I used it for a week or two off-and-on, seeing if it really fit into my lifestyle. In the end, I decided it didn’t accomplish enough to warrant $100, and let it expire while I was on vacation last week.

Here’s where the problem comes in, I tried to open it today, knowing that the trial was expired, but hoping to get my information out of it, and no dice. You either have to enter a license or close the application. No chance to “retrieve” the information you put in during the trial. This is a fatal flaw.

If you ask someone to really test out your product, and do everything it takes to attempt to work it into your workflow, then suddenly to cut off the ties and not give a chance to at least view the information entered… that’s a problem. I’m fine with the expired trial not allowing me to edit the information in anyway, but I’ve invested a lot of time to see if it actually worked. With a product like this you can’t really test it if you’re only kind of using it. You have to commit for a few days and really gauge workflow. If it helps, then you buy, if it doesn’t, then you don’t. But to lock me out of my data just because 30 days have gone by, is a fatal flaw.

Now, this is also where the iPhone application problems come in. There’s no way to test an iPhone application. No way to see if a game is fun or not, no way to see if it absolutely sucks or not. Twitterific for the iPhone is a perfect example. If I had paid for that, going on what I assumed would be a decent product based on all the hype, I’d have been pissed. Using Twitterific for the iPhone is the equivilant of riding a skateboard with three wheels. It’s slow, painful, unresponsive, and buggy. If I had paid, I’d be pissed. Luckily, it was free, and I’m gonna forgive it while never using it again. But there needs to be a way to test drive these $10-20 applications before purchasing to make sure they do what they say they’ll do. At the moment, the only way I can see that happening is putting an additional, functionally limited app into the iTunes store and reminding people that the full version is for sale with features unlocked. Clunky indeed.

I’m anxious to see how this plays out in the long run, as only being two days into the store, I can see flaws that hopefully can be rectified. Otherwise, they’re deal breakers that could cost the developers a lot of money, especially as more and more crappy software makes its way onto the store which will diminish the faith of the buying public to buy on spec alone.