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I have a somewhat different perspective on this. Apps cost people something much more valuable than the small amounts of money in question: attention. Most people find learning new software to be a chore. So every app they download has a cost in attention, in learning how to use it, however simple that might be, and some of them have a cost in money as well. If the app is free, they know they can abandon it instantly if it doesn't give them value right away, and lose almost nothing. If it costs money, they will feel obliged to get more value out of it, but that means committing to spend even more attention. When you buy a cup of coffee, you're getting attention back because someone else is taking on the slightly fiddly business of making coffee, and once you have it, there is nothing to learn, you can just enjoy it.

Viewing software transactions as paying attention, rather than money, for value, makes a lot of these markets make more sense. Because if you offer something that will reduce the net amount of attention they have to pay, they'll often gladly give you money for it.

This is a great point. There is a useful free app that I use which has a 5 star rating. I looked at one of the 1 star reviews to see what they said out of curiosity. It said something along the lines of "I had to customize the settings and the user interface isn't standard."

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