Over the past few weeks, it’s become a common theme on Twitter, in iTunes reviews and generally on the web, that annoyed iOS users are getting worked up over having to pay for an “update” to the app they love. With Clear, the massively popular (and fantastic) to-do list app, the devs worked hard on a universal version of the app to work on iPad and iPhone, as well as making it optimized for iOS 7. For weeks, or months before Clear+’s launch, they’d sweated and worked and put as many hours in as possible in to creating a fantastic, new app. When it came, users who’d previously purchased Clear for iPhone felt they deserved the new app for free, as an update. Clear, an app that has no advertising, no in-app purchases, no source of revenue except to sell the app. Sadly – I think – the developers caved a little and reintroduced the iPhone-only version of Clear again, for a lower price. Clear+ – the redesigned, universal app – costs just $4.99 (£2.99). Clear for iPhone costs just $1.99 (£1.49).
What upset me about the whining wasn’t necessarily the emotion of feeling disappointed that Clear+ wasn’t a universal update. As a consumer, of course I’d have loved to get it for free. Who wouldn’t? But we have to face facts – It was a brand new app, that took a lot of man hours to create. How are those man hours paid for, except through you paying a few dollars for an awesome piece of software? What upset me was the sense of entitlement. “It should be a free update!”
I never wrote about it at the time, but, the same has happened again with Tweetbot this week, and it’s gotten too frustrating to hide. Tweetbot 3 is a brand new, redesigned from the ground up, new app. All through the development process, the developers made sure we knew it wasn’t going to be a simple re-skinning. It’s a new app, re-engineered to make as much use of iOS 7 as possible. Yes, it would look different, but that was nowhere near as important as using all the tools offered to developers with the latest version of iOS.
I’ve heard and read complaints like “Why should I pay $3 for an app I’ve already paid for!?” The answers are simple to that question:
1. You haven’t already paid for it.
It’s a brand new app. Everything about it is new. Sure it has some of the same features that Tweetbot users know and love, but in every way possible, it’s not the same as the previous version of Tweetbot. What you paid for was Tweetbot 2. This is Tweetbot 3. Can you imagine if people complained about paying for Infinity Blade II or III because they’d paid for the first Infinity Blade? Just because it’s a game, and its sequels, doesn’t mean that this is any different. Both sequels to Infinity Blade feature the same key principles: Character and Gestures. In exactly the same way, Tweetbot 3 is a sequel. Not an update.
2. You don’t have to.
Because it’s a sequel, and not an update, answering the question of why you “have to” pay $3 for it is a daft one. You don’t have to pay for it. You don’t have to download it. You’ve downloaded – and presumably love – Tweetbot 2. No one’s forcing you to get the new one. If paying for it irks you that much, don’t.
3. Make it yourself.
Here’s where it comes in to some kind of (perhaps idealist/extremist) reality. If you think you could take your $3 and create an app like this for yourself, go for it. As it stands, I think it’s current price is a bargain.
4. Download the official Twitter app.
It’s free. And it does Twitter.
What gets me really is that there are so many other markets where you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at being asked for money in this situation. Microsoft releases a new version of Office: They charge you for it. New version of Windows: Same deal. A sequel or reboot of your favorite movie: Not free. An updated piece of hardware: Not free. The fact is that so many developers actually make new designs available for free, but these are predominantly ones that have to. If Facebook releases a new version of its app, of course its free. The whole service is free, because they make money from knowing everything about you and targeting ads and sponsored content at you. The same can be said of Instagram and others. BBM will be the same, since it needs people using its services to stay alive. But, for the smaller developer team who’s only source of income is by creating and selling new apps, it’s not an option. And, quite frankly, for you to want months of their time, (where they’ve put other projects and family time on hold), and a brand new program, optimized for a brand new operating system for free? That’s quite frankly both rude and insane.
I invest in apps, I pay for them. Because I believe it’s them that makes iOS so unique. Apps available on the App Store are pretty astonishing. But they don’t get there on their own. They take people, real time, and real money to create. And when they create something beautiful, productive and worthwhile, they need our support. Not our whining and moaning. If they stop making money, we have no apps and iOS sucks.