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Camera+, The Third-Party Camera App With 14 Million Users, Goes Free

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Tap tap tap, the company behind the popular third-party camera app Camera+, is making its flagship application free today. The app, which has grown over the years to reach 14 million users and $18 million in sales, has capitalized on Apple iPhone users’ demand for an expanded set of photography-related features that take advantage of the high-quality cameras found on their device. But until now, Camera+ has only been available to users as a paid download.

That changes today as tap tap tap is introducing a free version of the app that includes most of the functions offered by the paid app, which will continue to be available for those who want immediate access to the complete Camera+ feature set. This includes things like the stabilizer, tools for setting exposure and focus, digital zoom, timer, front flash, a clarity feature, lightbox, scene modes, effects and other editing and sharing features.

Meanwhile, the free version will make a select number of the advanced features available via in-app purchase, including manual shooting, advanced editing, and lossless TIFF quality, for example.

Alongside the launch of the free app, paid app users will receive a number of smaller improvements via an update, including the ability to take a macro pic via the app’s Today Widget.

Both apps will also soon support the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus from the day they’re available.

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Many app makers believe that offering a free version of their app will hamper sales of their paid version, which is why they’ll often roll out stripped-down, “lite” versions of the app as a way to encourage users to upgrade to the full experience.

In fact, explains tap tap tap founder John Casasanta, that was the company’s original plan when they first started experimenting with a free version of Camera+ around three years ago. But the project was never a top priority, and little progress was made.

Then last year, tap tap tap ran a big promotion with Apple which made the app – the full version – available for free on the App Store. And what the company discovered was surprising.

“With the Apple promotion, we definitely were concerned that giving away the full version for free could potentially hurt sales,” explains Casasanta. “We still decided that it would’ve been worth the risk to try it out and when we did, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it actually helped sales as we got a significant spike during the promotion and afterward.”

That experience then prompted the company to refocus on developing the free version of Camera+, which is available today.

The change to the Camera+ business model comes at a time when paid apps are on the decline, and more developers are monetizing their apps using advertising or in-app purchases. This trend was spotted back in 2013, in fact, when Flurry noted that developers had been experimenting with various price points over the past few months, but most finally made the shift to free apps supported by in-app purchases.

A subsequent 2014 report by Millennial Media [disclosure: also owned by TechCrunch parent AOL/Verizon] noted that paid app downloads fell to 34% from 45% last year, while in-app purchases grew from 33 percent to 40 percent.

In other words, the paid app market has been undergoing a shift for some time, and this is one of the early movers’ attempts to adapt to the more popular business models that consumers have since embraced.

The free version of Camera+ is live here on iTunes, while the paid, feature-complete version is here ($2.99 iPhone).