TweetBot Gets Flak for Issuing a New App Instead of Updating the Old One

TweetBot developer, Tapbots, has decided to create new versions of its app, and charge separately for them, even if you purchased the old app. The older version still works, but it's not on the App Store anymore so you can't easily restore it. The new version has more features and costs more. Tapbots is taking an approach more closely aligned to how hardware or even automobiles are sold.

It can be hard for independent app developers to earn enough money from their apps. On the one hand, Apple makes access to its millions of iPhone owners available for minimal overhead. On the other hand, once a consumer buys an app, that is often the end of the line when it comes to revenue for the app developer. Unless they offer In-App purchases, which are a nuisance (I turn them off via Restrictions) or use a subscription model, like Netflix or Apple Music, there is little financial incentive for a developer to commit time and resources to add new features. This is the problem Tapbots is dealing with. Some developers will accept this and add capabilities, hoping that happy customers will tell others and they will make money from the new users. Other developers just abandon their apps and don't enhance them. 

Tweetbot

People recognize that software is made of bits, and despite the salaries and overhead for developers, nothing physical is being shipped so why shouldn't it be free? There have always been exceptions. Microsoft Office charged for new versions as did Adobe. In fact, I pay hundreds of dollars every year to license Adobe's Creative Cloud and I don't really own it. If I stop paying, it stops working. The problem is, App Store users have been trained to expect updates to be free. When users purchased Tweetbot 3, they probably didn't know that the update would be a brand new app (despite the "3" suffix) because Tapbots only sold one Tweetbot app. It's reasonable to assume Tapbots just renumbered it with each update. Tapbots removed the old app (which also alienated customers with older versions of iOS as the new app requires iOS 9.) According to Tapbot developer Mark Jardine's twitter feed, though, the removal may be temporary.

Tweetbot developer

As an app developer, I sympathize with Tapbots. It is offering the new app at 50 percent off, which you can think of as upgrade pricing. But it made several moves that exacerbated the situation. Jardine and co. could have kept the old version around, perhaps calling it Tweetbot 2015, building off the car model. The company could have issued some kind of code for owners of the old app to unlock features in the new app. Tapbots could have called it Tweetbot Pro to distinguish the two apps. It could call the new one Tweetbot 2016 so users would have an expectation that it has a limited lifespan. Tapbots could have one app and charge a subscription to keep it state of the art. The bottom line is that paying customers of the new app seem to like it, but the users of the old app don't have much voice because the app was pulled and they can't post reviews. That's why Tweetbot is getting a lot of Twitter activity, ironically.

 

Top image credit: Bloomua / Shutterstock.com

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Todd Bernhard's picture

Author Details

Todd Bernhard

Todd Bernhard is a bestselling (6+ million downloads) award-winning (AARP, About.com, BestAppEver.com, Digital Hollywood, and Verizon) developer and founder of NoTie.NET, an app developer specializing in Talking Ringtone apps including AutoRingtone. And his profile photo is of the last known sighting of Mr. Bernhard wearing a tie, circa 2007!

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip or in his pocket, but over the years, Mr. Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62. In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.