It May Seem Obvious, but App Updates Are Awesome!

Pocket Informant Update

Pocket Informant Update

Last week I noticed that the excellent Pocket Informant had been updated, and when checking out the update I knew I needed to capture that screen – I mean, just LOOK at the image above to see some of what was updated! This is version 3.0, which introduced major interface changes as well as integration with other apps and so on. It is an app I bought early on in the App Store days, and one that AT MOST would have cost $15 (I think I got it on an early sale for $6.99, but can’t recall).

This is an app that I bought several years ago for one nominal price, and have been enjoying ever since, with more and more functionality and integration delivered FREE on a regular basis.

The fact that the majority of you reading this are thinking “… and, your point IS? … ” just illustrates how far we have come in recent years.

I mean, just to compare with Pocket Informant, think back to a program like Lotus Organizer. I use that because it is a very similar program in many ways. Back in ~1999 when Organizer was one of the top calendar and schedule programs, it cost ~$80. I noted 1999, because that is when they first introduced the ability to synchronize contacts with mobile phones. This came with the integration of a program called FoneSync, which you could buy separately for ~$45 to work with your existing Lotus Organizer install … and yes, all it did was play go-between from your Organizer contacts to your supported cell phone plugged into your PC.

However, if you wanted to get the latest and greatest version 5.0 of Organizer with FoneSync integrated, you could buy it for $80. If you were an existing user of Organizer 4.x, you could get $20 off … so yes, the upgrade would cost you $60.

This is just how things were done – major updates ALWAYS cost money. For many programs they still do – I love Mark of the Unicorn’s ‘Digital Performer’ music production software, and have been using it for nearly 30 years now, since the early days of MIDI. Yet with every version I need to pay $199 to keep my program up to date. That has gone through 6 versions of the original Performer and now 8 versions of Digital Performer … or nearly $3000 of upgrades on top of the original $400 I paid for the program.

For the last couple of weeks I have been reviewing a pre-release version of another major app update, this time on an iPad music making app. My review will be up after the update is released, but suffice to say it is the sort of update that merits a new review. And the cost to users? Nothing.

And for me, that is one of the amazing things about the Apple/Android ‘app economy’ – how developers have found a way to create useful apps in a short time that they can charge a reasonable fee to buy, and then can continue releasing significant updates that will at once reward user loyalty and draw in new users with the added functionality.

So when you check out your new updates on your iOS or Android devices, be sure to take a look at all of the added stuff the developers are packing in – and then head to their page on the app stores and take a minute to rate and perhaps even review the app. These reviews make a huge difference in the visibility of apps and can impact sales, and they allow them to continue doing the great things that caused you to download the app in the first place!

Categories: Editorials

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7 replies

  1. I agree, the best game I have is Plants vs Zombies and cost me, what, $3? Over a couple of yeas it has added loads of mini games and different “modes”, keeping the replay value fresh and is fantastic value. If this was a PSP or Gameboy game it would be $20-$20 and would it be updated?

    • Exactly – I re-read my PvZ iPhone review and there was SO much missing compared to the PC version on release … now it is amazing how much stuff they have packed in there!

      For the DS/PSP example, look at the Korg DS-10 synth app. They released it in 2009, then in 2010 released the DS-10 Plus which doubled the oscillators … for another $35! Which pales compared to what the iOS synth Magellan has done over the last several months since release!

  2. Pocket Informant was an excellent choice for comparison. I’ve been using PI since January of 2006 and have loaded it up on every mobile device that was supported, everything from Windows Mobile 5 to iOS 6. Alex and his team were very responsive and produced a superb product that was one of the most feature-rich mobile apps I’ve ever used. Another star of Windows Mobile for me was FlexMail, which was another great app for handing email, and WebIS was very good about offering discounted upgrade pricing. In 2011, when WM reached its end of life, Alex Kac graciously released WM Pocket Informant 9 versions for FREE.

  3. I think this is an excellent point that too few people pay attention to (and built on a model that I think is unsustainable, but that’s another post, right?): Smartphone and tablet apps are *incredibly* inexpensive (and often free!), and you get lifetime free updates, too! And for some apps–Evernote, say–that means an amazing amount of support and functionality.

    Of course, there’s a down side to this: Some apps just don’t make the cut. For example, a couple of my favorite games are Glyder and Glyph–both of them are no longer supported, and they have both also been removed from the iTunes app store entirely. If I didn’t save them locally, they would be *gone*. This is a harsh economic fact–just because *I* love a game doesn’t mean enough other people do to keep it “alive”–but still a bummer if you happen to have odd taste. Which I, apparently, do.

    But still: An excellent point, Michael.

  4. Of course, some developers (games especially) get around the mandatory free updates by incrementing the version number and submitting it to stores as a brand new app.

  5. I’ve always found it odd that complex, professional smartphone/tablet apps often have lifetime free updates, despite being no less useful and complicated than a traditional desktop app.

    I wouldn’t mind paying for major version updates if they bring significant new features.