Respect your money -- inspect app bundles before buying

In a time of economic downturn, people are not only looking for ways to save their hard-earned dollars but how to best spend them as well. Not to mention keep their levels of productivity high enough to withstand the pitfalls of a recession so that it’s easier to climb out of it – or stay afloat during it. Along with daily deal sites like Groupon, “app bundles” are becoming increasingly popular for both users and third party developers alike.

App bundles generally consist of a number of apps that can be bought as a packaged deal. They are usually theme-based, where the purchaser gets software that can be used to enhance a specific area of their computing life. Freelance bundles, productivity bundles and even web app bundles are commonplace on the Internet these days. But just like daily deal sites, this category is becoming very saturated – very quickly.

App Bundle Fatigue

One of the biggest problem with over-saturation of anything is how fatigue can set in, which hurts the category on multiple levels. First, the app developers view a bundled approach as a less than ideal business move and users begin to have so many options to choose from that they either overspend or avoid spending altogether. While the savings on the bundles is often the greatest draw, it’s also the apps that are part of the bundle that appeal to customers, which is also part of the problem. We’re starting to see the same apps appear in different bundles, and if a user has already bought a bundle containing the one or two apps they really wanted, they’re not likely to buy a bundle containing those apps again – even if there are other apps in there that they’d like. The value of the bundle is diminished by this, and if you’re not saving as much money then you’re less likely to pony up the cash for an app bundle.

Those who are selling app bundles are starting to combat this fatigue by offering unique ways of promoting their bundles. MacHeist was one of the first to do this, essentially creating a quest to get the apps at an increased savings. This unique approach has served them well as pioneers in the category, but it takes a lot of work to put these “heists” together and the time between bundle offerings is greater as a result.

StackSocial has taken a different approach. As one of the newer players in the game, they’re developing a community around their bundles, offering reviews of apps they’ve offered on their blog and partnering up with well-known and trusted sites like Cult of Mac in order to gain traction in the space.

“We had a number of Apple bloggers and publishers telling us they were struggling to find ways to maximize revenues yet keep their site’s user experience high,” explains Josh Payne, co-founder of StackSocial. “We believe we’ve solved that challenge by building a unique, social shopping experience that is purely focused on the needs of Mac enthusiasts which enables sites, such as Cult of Mac, the ability to offer a very select group of products and services that their audience is already interested in and appreciates.”

Other bundle offerings, which seemingly apply most often to those using Apple devices, are plentiful and that makes it hard for users to hone in on which bundles to buy.

How to Shop for App Bundles

The savings offered on these bundles are compelling – and tempting – but before you open up your wallet and spend your money on any of them, make sure you’re well-informed and prepared. Here are some suggestions on how to avoid buyer’s remorse when buying app bundles:

Look at what you need, not what you want. Apps like Keyboard Maestro and TextExpander can be huge time-savers, but if you’re not willing and able to put in the time to make them work for you then they shouldn’t be a primary factor in your purchasing decision. Not everyone will need to speed up their workflow to the levels that those apps can allow, but an app like 1Password is something that all users could use because of its overall utility. You already have a text editor on your computer, so do you really need another like WriteRoom? Maybe you do, but make sure you look at your “needs” versus your “wants” and you’ll find that the app bundles don’t become app blunders.

Explore smaller bundles. Some app bundles aren’t really bundles at all – htey’re merely apps on sale. Isolate your needs and then look for apps that meet them. If one or two of them happen to be in a bundle on their own, buying that smaller bundle would be wiser than buying a larger bundle that include apps among those that you’ll never even open. Less is more, and having less on your machine so that you can find things easier, learn new apps that you’ll actually use without having clutter in your way and being more productive as a result is always better than saving more money.

Find out what your mentors are using and stick with those apps. If you’re aspiring to achieve levels of productivity and workflow that those you admire and mentor you, find out what apps they use and where they looked to find them. For example. I’m a big fan of Patrick Rhone’s work and “what he believes in”, so I’m always on the lookout for apps that he has in his arsenal. If I find one of them in a bundle or at a savings, I grab it (after reviewing my first suggestion above, of course). It’s almost as if I’ve let him put the app through its paces before I give it a shot, because he’s usually written about his use cases on his website or his podcast. Take a good look at what those people are using and it’ll help you save time and money when hunting down app bundles for your own usage.

A Final Word on App Bundles

Shopping for apps is essentially the same as shopping for anything else: you go where the best options for your particular set of circumstances is. When you buy groceries, you have a set of criteria in place such as price, quality, location of the store and customer service, among others. When you buy clothing, a similar set of standards that you have set applies as well. You should adopt a set of standards when you go shopping for apps, even if it is new to you. Do it from the onset and you’ll be setting yourself for a pleasant shopping experience time and time again.

Pick the right apps, the right vendor and the right timing and you’ll find that every minute you spend shopping is both a penny saved and a penny earned.

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