iPhone App Directory

Thoughts on app upgrades

I guess I've always been of the understanding that mobile software works on the basis of 'buy once. upgrades free', and for the most part I think that developers have that in their heads too.

I'm interested to know how many music application developers would like to utilise Apple's in app purchase mechanism for next features and functionality? I'm not just talking about paying for plug ins, but also for additional capabilities for an app, say for example expanding the available tracks in a multi-track recorder.

Is this what's in store from developers, and if it is, are we users ok with that?

Views anyone?

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KrisMcKenna said...

i think it could work out well, especially if devs start lowering the price of the initial app purchase and let you buy the functionality you want. It could be a bigger hassle on the dev, but it could net more sales. Say Intua does this with Beatmaker. Someone balks at paying $20 for it, but $5 or $10 is doable. Later on they want to add the sampler, or whatever.

I also wonder if in-app purchase will make feature updates available sooner. I know Looptastic had loops show up in the in-app store without updates, so I'm hopeful.

If it's a major new feature I don't mind paying the dev for it. I think there might be some pricing growing pains initially but eventually devs will figure out what people are willing to pay for things. Or if they are willing to at all.

I like the idea better than "sequel" apps. This might also allow special upgrade pricing to a sequel app, vs full price again for only a small number of features more than what you had in the old app.

Richard Lawler said...

My experience with general productivity applications from the leading developers on Windows Mobile was that upgrades were only free within minor versions or for a limited time (e.g. 1 year). Major upgrades were typically at a reduced but significant price. We're talking about $20 to $40 apps -- which are the typical prices of productivity applications on the WinMo platform. Niche applications tended to get infrequent upgrades -- typically bug fixes or OS compatibility fixes. These were usually free (probably because there was no easy way to sell a low priced upgrade).

The iPhone market is a whole different landscape. To a large extent the free upgrades for life thing on the iPhone is a byproduct of the original structure of the App Store.

With in-app purchase it is now possible for developers to charge for upgrades and added functionality, and they will.

The need for profitability and sustainable development are going to start to become a more talked about issues as the App Store moves out of the land rush phase.

iPhone app development is really not profitable enough on average to support free upgrades for life in general. So users must expect to either pay for major upgrades and major new features or else they will get abandon-ware.

The Tweetie 2 upgrade fiasco was because the developer failed to use the in-app purchase mechanism to handle the upgrade and as a result he alienated many of his "loyal customers".

On the other hand customer loyalty is worth a lot too. Developers don't (or shouldn't) want to alienate any paying or potential customers. So you will still see lots of deals and consumers will continue to benefit from the arrangement.

Also with in-app purchase I would expect we will see a lot more "Try-and-buy" applications priced either free or for a dollar. Along with that we will see some reversing of the negative pricing pressure on the App Store. The consumer is being asked to take on less risk with a free trial version so it's reasonable for a developer to charge more for the app, especially with specialty apps like so many music apps. So on average app prices may go up or at least stay flat.

A lot of this stuff has yet emerged. There are a lot of unknowns about a market based on in-app sales. We are starting the see the first examples and certainly the music genre will be no stranger for this. Already "I Am T-Pain", GrooveMaker, ZoozBeat, Looptastic are using in-app purchase for content. Expect to see more as developers scramble for revenues to keep their many iPhone products afloat.

gregor said...

I'd be cool with paying for app upgrades that add new features- I'd expect bug fixes or fixes that keptnupnwithnthe o/s to be free or minimal charge.
Ideally when functionality is modular, I could pick which upgrades I wanted. But that might be too much of a pain for developers.