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Maybe Apple and Google need to give in and let us have free time-limited trials? Nobody wants to go back to the 90s software "You have 22 of 30 days remaining" popups every time you start an app, but is what we have now any better?

On iOS you can already do it. Apple has added a way to sell in-app purchases that cost 0. Your application can use such a purchase to unlock features, and then re-lock them when your trial period expires. The purchase manifest guarantees the timestamps and that it was made only once. The user would then have to buy a "real" in-app purchase to unlock the features.

Problem is the long tail user retention story is incredibly bleak on mobile. It's considered an achievement to get them to last a week, never mind a month.

That sounds like the "free trial" system working. Someone looking for an app for X purpose installs 10 of them and deletes all but one - giving very low average metrics.

It's more like the "one" they keep is also free, and marginally less useful or slightly more irritating to use.

Mobile app stores are a cesspool of terrible ideas and naive people who think if only they give away their time developing free software some company will notice and bless them with a job. The few gems to be found are a stark contrast.

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