I buy a lot of applications. I buy a lot of applications for my Mac. I buy a lot of applications for my iPhone. And now that I’m also using a Windows tablet once again—there are a few applications I need to be purchase for that as well.
I don’t have an issue with paying for an application. I understand that this is how most developers make their living. That creating these apps isn’t a hobby for them, it’s a business; although even if it were a hobby, the developers would still deserve to be paid. I do, however, resent feeling that I’m being taken advantage of, and increasingly that’s the feeling I’m getting.
I’m feeling nickled and dimed when it comes to Mac applications, and I’m feeling nickeled and dimed when it comes to some iPhone applications as well; I don’t like it at all.
I have written about this previously, but as more and more proof that my early fears were warranted comes out, it’s worth mentioning once again. iPhone apps will be getting a whole lot more expensive in the coming months. It is already happening.
There are, in fact, two different ways that we’re beginning to see it happening.
The first comes in the form of the “in application purchase”. This might better be named as—“release an application with limited functionality, and then make sure that in order to get the features people really want, they’ll have to pay $.99 more for one feature, and another $.99 for another feature, and then another and another…” Before the customer (you! me!) knows it, a two dollar application costs $5 or even $10.
A good example of this is the most recent update of the app Boxcar. Boxcar now offers the ability to have push notification for e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. Initially, the application costs $2.99. But for that $2.99 all you get is push notifications for one service. Each additional service costs $.99. So $2.99 is $3.99 or $4.99…
Now, one could argue that it’s actually an efficient way to position the application. Not everyone wants to be able to get push notifications for all of those services, so it’s better to release the application inexpensively with just one service included, and then charge for each additional service.
Maybe that’s the case, but this model makes me feel as if application is trying to cash in by charging you here and there, and I don’t like that. Give me an application offering a lite version that I can try, and then if I like the application enough I can turn around and pay a reasonable amount for the full-featured application. PERIOD! Don’t give me an application that does a little bit, and then I have to pay a little more, and then a little more, and a little more, and a little more in order to have an application that actually does what the application SHOULD DO OUT OF THE BOX!
I don’t like this model, and for that reason I’m not going to use Boxcar any longer. In fact, I’m not going to use any application that uses this model, because that is the only way to make the point that this model is bad, annoying, and if I might be so bold, disrespectful to the consumer.
The second comes in the form of the “upgrade”. Or more accurately, this is the “new version of the same old thing after a bit of an update, so we can get you to pay again” model. I wrote about this with regard to Simplify Media. They released version 2 of their application, and they required users who wanted to update to repurchase the application in order to get the updated features. Shortly thereafter they released an application that gave access to pictures in the same way the original application gives access to music, and they required end-users to purchase that as well.
I understand that there are times when an application is so reworked that it really is a new application. But when the update isn’t a complete reworking of the application itself, it doesn’t feel right to be charged again.
There are plenty of examples of other applications that don’t take that approach. For example, Twittelater Pro has been updated well over two dozen times. Its feature set is now nothing like it was when it was first released, and it truly has grown into a remarkably powerful Twitter client. And yet they have not required that an update be purchased, not once! Another example is my favorite RSS app, NewsStand. It wasn’t always my favorite RSS reader, in fact it only became my favorite after an extensive update. That upgrade… was FREE. And the list goes on.
I do understand that the business model for iPhone applications is still evolving, but I, for one, don’t like this particular direction.
Take these two new approaches together, and keeping your iPhone’s applications up-to-date just got a whole lot more expensive. I’m not liking at all.
As much as I take issue with some aspects of the iPhone update game, I have a bigger issue with some of the new developments in Mac applications. This is in large part, because many of these Mac applications cost a lot more. Here are the two latest examples—
A host of applications have used the release of Snow Leopard as an opportunity to force a paid upgrade. The biggest example is 1Password. When I went to launch the application tonight, I was told that I would only be able to access the application again if I upgraded to version 3 of the software. Version 3 of the software however, isn’t yet released. So you have to update your stable release of version 2 to a beta version of 3. And then when version 3 comes out of beta, you’ll need to repurchase the application if you want to continue using it. That’s ridiculous, and it makes me feel inclined to look for another application.
Another example: I purchased version 1 of Filemaker’s Bento database software when it was first released. It was pretty good; not great, but pretty good. Over the course of the next year it never saw an update. Then a little bit less than a year ago it received a significant upgrade adding features that should have been part of the application from its initial release. The price for those new to the application was $49. The price to those who had jumped on the first version, which was limited (to say the least), was just—$49. In other words, there was no upgrade price for the application. When I complained to their customer service representative, I was told that they use the model which never had an upgrade price in order to “ensure that the application would be as inexpensive as possible for everyone”. Gee, thanks a lot.
I resisted purchasing version 2 of Bento until mid August. At that point I decided that with the release of a paid iPhone application, it might be worth trying version 2 of the desktop application. I had no choice but to purchase the upgrade, because version 1 would not work with the iPhone application at all. Version 2 was a decent update and I suppose that it was worthwhile.
Today, the company released version 3 of the software, less than a year after version 2 was released. Anybody who purchased the application in the last 28 days is eligible for a free update. People such as myself, who had purchased the application 36 days ago are required to purchase an upgrade. This time however, they apparently rethought their previous pricing structure. Now they’re offering an upgrade for anyone who already owns version 2 of the software for just $20.
The end result is this—anyone who initially bought the application upon its first release, and had invested time in implementing the application, has now had to pay over $120 for the application in less than two years. As much as I like the application, and now that their approach is absolutely clear, I’m not going to purchase the upgrade. To do so would mean that over the next few years the application will cost me hundreds of dollars, and as much as I like it it’s not worth that much.
I understand that developers do this as a business. I understand the tremendous intellectual effort and time commitment to create good iPhone and Mac applications, and I believe that hard work and creativity deserve to be awarded. I take no issue with that. I do however take issue with some of the new approaches being taken toward pricing and updates.
If this trend continues, using your iPhone and your Mac is going to be far more expensive than you ever thought possible. And that’s a bit scary.