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.

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