Where’s My Free iPhone Stuff?

I’m anxiously awaiting the release of Tweetie 2 by Atebits. I purchased Tweetie for my iPhone back in January and the desktop app in April. I think they are both amazing applications and I use them almost exclusively to interact with Twitter (particularly given the Twitter web interface’s scripting vulnerabilities). They are both simple and wonderful apps which deserve the design awards which they have been given. I was surprised to see some criticism of Atebit’s plan for charging for the new versions; mostly brought to my attention by following Gruber. One paragraph from this rather long post just floored me:

The whole ‘it’s a completely new app’ argument seems like utter bullshit to me. It is still a Twitter app for **** sake. A slew of new features and functionality does not, to me, make it a different app. I don’t see anything that says this is not just a very much beefed-up, improved version of an existing app – it has the exact same ultimate purpose of making it easy and effective to use Twitter on the iPhone.

Try re-reading that sentence replacing Twitter with your favorite desktop application’s name and iPhone with computer. It starts to hold a lot less water. He goes on to argue that there should be a upgrade price for existing users, which I agree would be great. However, I’m not sure that upgrade pricing is possible in the crazy world of Apple’s App store (certainly not straight-forward, at any rate, for either the developer or the consumer). Atebits feels that this represents enough work on their part to warrant full price for anyone who wishes to use the product. Though no examples come to mind, I doubt this is unprecedented in the world of computer applications and thinking that an iPhone is so different ignores the full-featured platform this device is (which is becoming true of all mobile devices, really).

Time will tell if charging full price for (what appears to be) a significant upgrade is the right choice. Further, we’d be kidding ourselves if we ignored the relative costs here. At a full price of $2.99, a reduced upgrade price couldn’t really save much. You’ve only got a few price points between $3 and free, none of which represent much of a different economic hurdle (though, it could be argued there is a large chasm between free and $0.01).

It appears to me that the author of this post really values Tweetie at nothing and, if that is the case, that is exactly what he should pay for it. Tweetie 1.x will continue to work just fine for the foreseeable future.

For my part — as you have already no doubt guessed — I’ll be happy to pay $2.99 for the upgrade. I’m amazed every time I view the list of apps on my phone which have new versions for downloading to see that none of them charge upgrade prices. I’m astounded that this is the case and it seems unsustainable for me, at least for indie developers. The app store has a lot of growing pains yet to be worked out and this will ripple into the larger, future market of mobile applications sales.

In the meantime, let’s be happy to reward months of hard work with the same amount we tip the waitstaff at a burger joint. Remember Mr. Pink’s diatribe about not wanting to spend a buck or two on that in Reservoir Dogs? He might have a point on principle, but he looked like a cheap jerk, too.