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More on Tweetie 2 – So What Are You ‘Entitled’ To When You Buy an iPhone App?

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Wow.  I honestly never expected my post on Tweetie 2 last night to stir up quite such a hornet ‘s nest.  It obviously struck a nerve, or several nerves, with a lot of folks “ and has been getting a volume of comments that we ‘ve never really had here. 

There are a lot of good points being made, opposing views (to mine) that have given me plenty of food for thought.  There have been a whole lot of very strong attacking comments, and many of them have attacked me for arguments I have never put forward.  For most of today I have intended to just mod the comments (all approved thus far), respond to some where there seemed a possibility of real conversation or exchange of thoughts, and carry on with other things.

But because it is tiresome being railed at for things I haven ‘t said or argued for, I wanted to do this further post to try to clarify a few points, respond to a few reactions I ‘ve seen to the post, and ask a few questions

Just to quickly recap, last night ‘s post was about the upcoming Tweetie 2 app. It is the follow-up to Tweetie, a hugely popular and very good iPhone Twitter app “ from Atebits.

More specifically, it was about my reaction to the news that Tweetie 2 is considered by its developer to be ‘a brand new app ‘, and that because of that, the app will be priced at $2.99, for all users including current users of Tweetie.  My reaction was (and is) that this is a bad move.  My take is that this is not truly a new app, and that there should be a way for current Tweetie users to get some sort of ‘upgrade price effect ‘.

Anyway, enough rehashing “ that post is linked above, in the first paragraph of this post.  Here are some of the things I ‘d like to clarify, as some people seem to be continually putting words in my mouth on this subject:

No Expectation of FREE App Upgrades:  I ‘ve never argued that there should be free upgrades ‘in perpetuity ‘ for Tweetie or any other app.  I have not even said I want or expect this Tweetie 2 app to be a free upgrade, for me or anyone else. 

I have just said that there should be a full price and a lower  ‘upgrade price ‘ for current users.  Or more accurately, because Apple does not make it possible to do things this way, there should be some equivalent of that worked out for current users.  Having seen the feedback on my post, some of it from developers, maybe this is not very viable.  If so, then it would be nice to hear from Atebits that they are at least exploring this, or have already done so.

It Is Not About $3.00, I ‘m not on minimum wage, and I don ‘t mind paying for refills:  I have never said that I feel $3, or $6, or $10 is too high a price for Tweetie (1 or 2).  I bought Tweetie for iPhone for $2.99, also paid for the Mac version of it, and have paid for quite a few other Twitter-related apps, probably totaling above the $20 mark.  I ‘ve also very happily paid $9.99 for iPhone apps like Things (as well as $49 for its desktop version).  So, this is not about any desire on my part to support a ‘drive to the bottom ‘ for iPhone app prices.  I ‘ve never complained about paying for quality apps, and never will.

I Know Tweetie Is a Very Good App: Tweetie was my favorite iPhone Twitter app for a long while.  I ‘ve always thought of it as one of the best apps I ‘ve used.  My issue has never been about the app ‘s quality.

Some quick responses:

Chartier

Gruber

Why does it matter at all what anyone paid for their iPhone or data plan, in relation to this subject?  And who cares what else someone could buy with their three dollars?  Yes, $3 is a very small sum of money for most of us “ but why should that mean that I expect almost nothing from an app developer.  Tweetie is not marketed to us as ‘just an app that costs less than a meal at Taco Bell ‘.  It ‘s pitched as one of the very best iPhone Twitter apps.  So when its developer decides that all the new features that make it continue to meet that description are not going into it, but into a new incarnation of it, that ‘s an issue in my book. 

Even though I occasionally offend people with my opinions, I rarely do it intentionally. But in this case, I think certain people, like the author of the blog linked above, along with all the people echoing similar sentiments on Twitter deserve a little verbal slapping around. This kind of immature sense of entitlement should not be coddled or put up with.

That ‘s from Jeff Lamarche ‘s post mentioned below.  My thought is that if you ‘re going to try to dish out a ‘verbal slapping around ‘ you may want to get your facts right on what you ‘re slapping someone for.  He calls me out for feeling entitled to free app upgrades in perpetuity.  Never said anything like that.  He also shouts about how upgrades to products like MS Office are not free.  True, and again, I ‘ve never argued that Tweetie 2 should be either “ there should just be some break for current users.

MeasuredResponse

This response from Dan Hallock seems a fair and measured one.  I think his third point is a good one, and is probably very good food for thought for me on this one.  I also very much agree on the imperfections of the App Store and hope, like he does, that Apple will address upgrade pricing at some point.

So my main question comes down to

What Should an iPhone App Purchaser Feel Entitled To? 

Comments

Many of the comments that have blasted me on this subject, and this post by Jeff LaMarche, have talked quite a lot about my misplaced sense of entitlement.  So now I am keen to find out what anyone thinks an app purchaser should feel entitled to.  I agree that free upgrades are absolutely not something to feel entitled to.  Same for even major upgrades, like Tweetie 2 clearly is.  But I also don ‘t expect a developer to veer off from improving App A for months, then present what looks to be simply a much improved version of it as App B and offer nothing to existing users. 

Several people have pointed out that Tweetie ‘s current App Store description now advises users about the upcoming Tweetie 2 and suggests they may want to hold off for it.  But this was added last night, when the new app is due to appear within a couple of weeks.  If the developer was working for months on a ‘brand new app ‘ and knew he was not planning to add any of its features or functionality to the existing app, why not give users that advisory message months ago?

One more expectation I have is that good developers listen to their users, at least some of the time “ and that they should have some interest in what their current customers think about future pricing.  That seems a sound idea for any business.  From everything I can gather via Twitter and elsewhere though, the folks at Atebits think of users who have any qualms about their pricing approach as ‘not worthwhile ‘.  Perhaps I ‘m wrong on that “ I ‘ve asked two people at Atebits and had no replies.

So what do you all think on the whole subject of ‘entitlement ‘.  What should a buyer of an iPhone app expect in these sort of areas?

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  • Damn Patrick! I am on your side in this one man. I think you had a valid point and you were to right to right about it. It's sad its taking up so much of your time to come out and make it clear about what you had said already in the first place.

    I hope you can put this behind and get back to what you love to do .. reviewing iPhone apps. 🙂

    • Thanks K. Tomorrow is another day, and I'm looking forward to getting a little distance from 'that' post.

  • Way to clear the air…I think that last nights debate got a little out of hand. Mostly due to people misconstrueing your points. As I said, I understood it was never about the money. $3 is a small fee, and one thY really doesn't warrant a second look.
    I feel that as an app buyer I am entitled to a dev's continued efforts of improvement. Whether small or large. And not necessarily for free. I am a very loyal buyer. Usually wearing the same brands of clothing and listening to the same music artists. I support the people who do things that I like. This also applies in the digital/technological world with my brand loyalty. By no means do I expect free for life once Ive made a purchase, but a little head nod showing that I'm appreciated as a customer who supports their endeavor is not too much to ask. And I believe it's that kind of mentality that builds a great following. In the app store this seems to be a more difficulty task for dev's to accomplish, and like it has been said, I hope to see some growing improvement by apple in the future to grant more ways for dev's to do this. I don't think there's any definitive right or wrong way to necessarily get this done…but hey dev's, if we've supported you once, we most likely will continue to. Just show us a little appreciation when you can.

    • Well said. I'm a lot like that – and like your closing lines there.

  • Andy Porter

    The short truth of it is that there are no rules.

    The long truth of it depends upon people on both sides (consumers and developers), as well as the type of software in question.

    Software offered by Microsoft, Adobe, and other large-scale developers creates files that (for the most part) can only be created, edited, and/or maintained by that software, so there is a certain amount of backwards compatibility with previous versions that must be maintained. These software packages usually cost a lot of money, and consumers now expect upgrade pricing for software packages of this type.

    Video games fall into a different category. Each individual title is sold as a self-contained software package that doesn't create or modify any files (except "bookmarks" to save one's progress). For many series (i.e., Tomb Raider, Madden NFL, Grand Theft Auto, etc.) no one version is compatible with another (backwards or forwards). These software packages usually fall within an established price range, averaging around $60 or so. Consumers don't expect to get any upgrade price for owning a previous version of a game (even if they want one).

    I think iPhone apps lean more towards video games, but also exhibit characteristics of other types of software. The App Store economy is fairly flexible and continually evolving, but consumers should expect to see more pricing strategies similar to video games than anything else. In the case of Tweetie and Tweetie 2 specifically, I think Loren Brichter is more than fair with his pricing strategy and the fact that he's submitting Tweetie 2 as a whole new app.

    • Hey Andy – thanks for the civil and reasonable comment. I don't think you called me any names anyway – tired now, could be wrong. 🙂

  • DaveD

    There's a line or two you haven't defined.

    "But I also don’t expect a developer to veer off from improving App A for months, then present what looks to be simply a much improved version of it as App B and offer nothing to existing users."

    If I'm reading your words correctly – this is the entire gist of your argument, right? I mean you posted a rather emotional – and therefore weakly worded – version last night. And now you basically say (1) it's not about money, (2) you don't feel entitled to anything, and (3) you have a grasp of the limitations of the App Store. So is it okay if I assume this is what you are upset about? Because if this is so, then you need to color in some things:

    (1) What's the line for improving App A?

    It's right now at version 1.3.2. Did you buy 1.0.0, or did you buy 1.3.1? How long have you owned it? It makes a difference.

    Using OS X as an example, Apple offers upgrades to Snow Leopard for the price of shipping for those who purchased a Mac with Leopard on it after June 12 (or thereabouts). There's two problems with trying this with an iPhone app – first, it's not part of the App Store way of pricing. But second, Apple announced Snow Leopard months ahead of releasing it – something that would be suicide to an App Store developer.

    In fact, they *have* been improving App A. And no, like Apple, they should *only* be responsible to put out updates to fix bugs once App B is released.

    (2) What makes App B "simply a much improved version"?

    I'm sorry, but this is way too vague. Are you saying that something that is "simply an improved version" is something you feel your entitled to? How about something that is "more than simply a much improved version"? And is your definition of "simply a much improved version" the same as mine, or the same as the developers who spent their time and money working on it?

    I think you are entitled to one thing, and one thing only: Your money's worth.

    That means you think you bought $3 worth of value and features. That means that any bug fixes should be available for free. Period.

    For non-iPhone apps there's another route the developers could have taken. They could have upped the price to $5. Usually when that happens they'll give you an upgrade for $2. You get the "much improved version" for 60% off, the developers get the full price price you through two purchases, you get the opportunity to not upgrade, and finally new customers pay $2 more for the $2 worth that makes it a "much improved version".

    Unfortunately, real life as an iPhone developer won't allow that. Instead, you get to have a hissy fit because you have to pay another $3 for that "much improved version" (but yet you *still* can choose not to buy it. And the developers just spent what was probably many man-months making a "much improved version" that won't retail for anything more than the original version.

    • First off, on your paragraph about 'now you basically say' – No, not now I basically say – two of the three things you mention (not being about the money and acknowledging the current App Store restrictions) are clearly mentioned in my original post. If some of you guys would read the post before jumping in here, that'd be lovely.

      I don't know what the exact boundary line is for major update vs. new app – but I feel like if an app still has exactly the same purpose, is still a Twitter app for iPhone, and has had precious few updates of any kind for many months apart from bug fixes, while major new features are being developed (and still for a Twitter app) then it is probably on the upgrade rather than new app side of the line, for me.

      As for your question 2, I'll try to answer this as simply as possible – for what feels like the 700th time. I have not – ever – said I feel 'entitled' to a free upgrade, or entitled to be handed Tweetie 2. I have simply said there should some sort of break, any sort of break, offered to existing Tweetie users.

      Still too vague?

    • First off, on your paragraph about 'now you basically say' – No, not now I basically say – two of the three things you mention (not being about the money and acknowledging the current App Store restrictions) are clearly mentioned in my original post. The third thing, this whole bit about 'entitlement' I've addressed below. If some of you guys would read the post before jumping in here, that'd be lovely.

      I don't know what the exact boundary line is for major update vs. new app – but I feel like if an app still has exactly the same purpose, is still a Twitter app for iPhone, and has had precious few updates of any kind for many months apart from bug fixes, while major new features are being developed (and still for a Twitter app) then it is probably on the upgrade rather than new app side of the line, for me.

      As for your question 2, I'll try to answer this as simply as possible – for what feels like the 700th time. I have not – ever – said I feel 'entitled' to a free upgrade, or entitled to be handed Tweetie 2. I have simply said there should some sort of break, any sort of break, offered to existing Tweetie users.

      Still too vague?

  • I just have to say something, I am not a Twitter user so I really have no interest in this app. I am however a fan & active reader of JAiB. The absurd, childish, & personal insults directed @ Patrick just because you didn't agree with his point of view is what makes you an IDIOT. It amazes me how people just because they don't like your opinion it should resort to personal insults. People should respect each others opinions & agree to disagree. Leave it @ that. Half the people leaving absurd comments I have never seen you comment on this blog ever before. It makes me wonder…..Patrick thank you for JAiB!!!!!

    • Douglas

      Whilst no-one should post abuse, I would say that the author of this site started it by stating that the developer was spitting in the face of Tweetie users. That is abuse as well. Or are you advocate one rule for some and a different rule for others?

  • For many of the iPhone Apps, the regular free updates really surprised me when they first started coming online. I often thought how can they afford to constantly maintain these apps, especially as the prices went from Windows Mobile prices (10-20) down to 99 cents! But just like in desktop software, significantly new features warrant new releases as opposed to maintenance releases. I think the price kind of reduces the possibilities for any kind of upgrade pricing or promotion even if it was possible with iTunes Connect tools.

    It does seem that atebits has a weakness in Marketing/PR and could make more of an effort to improve their customer relationships. Maybe something like a limited time small discount on one of their desktop apps, where the higher margins can afford it, for existing Tweetie users.

  • The lack of reading comprehension amazes me. I totally agree with you, Patrick, 100%. I refuse to use Tweetie any more. I would consider purchasing 2.0, but it still doesn't have features that SimplyTweet, Twitterific, and other Twitter clients have. This seems like an upgrade to the current Tweetie. I also wouldn't mind paying an "upgraded" price. I understand it takes a lot of work to make these programs – but don't call an upgrade and whole new version in order to justify a new price point. Even if it's a totally rewritten program, to the consumer, it still seems like an upgrade, not an entirely new program. Show some gratitude to the people who helped make Tweetie a success. We all touted Tweetie amongst our friends, blogs, twitter, etc. The devs of Snapture – take a hint from them.

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  • Way to clear the air man. I'm with ya on this one, $3 to pay again for Tweetie is a joke. The app seriously is over rated when compared to ther iPhone Twitter apps out there.