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Why Get is Apple’s new Free

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 6.01.57 AMSee the button marked Get on Candy Crush Soda Saga, currently the Top Free App on iTunes?

It used to say Free.

Apple relabeled it this week — after some arm twisting by the European Commission — to reflect the hard reality of the App Store.

The fact is, nobody does anything for free there. Apps are either vehicles for advertising/marketing or they’re built on one of three business models:

  • Freemium: Free download with in-app purchases
  • Paid: Paid download with no in-app purchases
  • Paidmium: Paid download with in-app purchases


In this arena, freemium rules. It represents 83% of the content and 92% of the revenue, according to a survey last March by Ask Annie and IDC.

Apple’s arm had to be twisted pretty hard. In retail, free is the magic price point. Who wouldn’t click on Free? Get sounds like something you come down with. Like the flu.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 7.18.54 AMGoogle removed the word “free” from its freemium apps last July in response to a European Commission “request.” Apple agreed to do the same, but didn’t get around to it until this week.

Meanwhile, Apple hasn’t exactly scrubbed its site of the magic word. Candy Crush Soda Saga, for example, is still listed as the Top Free App, just ahead of Things and Dumb Ways to Die 2: The Games.

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.