Earlier this week developer Atebits previewed the upcoming second edition of Tweetie, the popular iPhone Twitter client. Despite the app including a number of significant new features the public response wasn’t entirely favourable. The reason? Tweetie 2 won’t be a free upgrade for existing users – they will have to pay again for an entirely new app.
Given that Tweetie costs just $3 (with Tweetie 2 coming in at the same pricepoint), the idea of users becoming angry at the thought of having to pay twice may seem strange but iPhone owners have grown used to getting free updates to apps they’ve bought. Particularly vocal in his criticism of the move was Patrick Jordan of Just Another iPhone Blog.
Jordan was lucky enough to get an interview with Atebits’ Loren Brichter, who explained his reasoning for the charge and called on Apple to introduce a way for iPhone developers to charge for upgrades without making existing users pay the full price.
As well as including new features such as video support and a threaded conversations view, Tweetie 2 is a complete rewrite of the original app. Brichter explains:
“I spent months rewriting everything from the networking code to the UI. The only thing it shares with the original is the name.
The business behind it was also a factor. If Tweetie 1 had been a dud, I would have had little reason to create Tweetie 2. Similarly, if Tweetie 2 is a dud, there’s little incentive to create Tweetie 3. (And I never would release a paid update to an app unless I was absolutely, totally confident that it was worth it).”
Brichter believes that some kind of upgrade pricing model in the App Store is inevitable in the future.
“Paid upgrades have to be an integral part of the App Store in the future – it’s the only way it stays a viable system for app developers who want to create something better than “ringtone apps”.
If it were possible, I’d even have loved to configure the pricing in a graduated manner, so users who picked up Tweetie 1 recently would be able to get Tweetie 2 for free. Sadly, these tools are not (yet) at our disposal.”
Brichter assures users of the original version of Tweetie that it will continue to be supported with any essential updates and that it will not stop working. He says he would rather make money “The old fashioned way” by making good quality products and selling them at a fair price than “Take money from VCs and completely lose creative control over (the) company and product”.
The interview contains lots more fascinating insights into the way developers decide on a price for their products and it’s well worth reading the whole thing.