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Chinese service lets you preview apps without downloading

China's biggest search engine will soon offer customers the chance to try apps before they buy, thanks to its Baidu Light App platform.

Have you ever thought about downloading an app, but wished you could try before you buy? Well you'll be able to very soon, if you live in China.

That's because Chinese search engine Baidu will soon let people preview apps on their phones without downloading them, using its Light App platform, the BBC reports. There's no need to install the app, just give it a whirl completely gratis.

The aim? To give lesser known apps more exposure.

"The traditional app store model has a fundamental flaw because it only benefits a few popular apps, while a huge number of small developers are finding it hard to survive," Baidu chief executive Robin Li told the China Daily newspaper.

According to Li, just a few hundred apps account for 70 per cent of all downloads. Those few hundred are just 0.1 per cent of all apps available. That means there are a lot going unnoticed. That could well be because they're muscled out by the big boys, but at the same time, there's a lot of chaff on most app stores.

People making these apps would still make money through the normal ways -- i.e. in-app adverts, or through paid downloads. The report doesn't say, but I guess the trial period of each app through Baidu Light App would be pretty limited.

It's a cool idea. Some apps and games already offer free 'lite' versions that you can take for a test run before deciding whether to spend. But far from all offer this option.

It's also similar to Firefox OS's adaptive search. Enter a search term on Mozilla's mobile OS, and it'll scour not only the Firefox Marketplace, but also find you Web apps that might be of use. And of course you don't need to download Web apps.

Would you like to see Google and Apple try something similar? Have you ever been stung by a naff app? Is it a problem for app makers, the stores being dominated by a few big names? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.