Digital iPhone cheapskates

So, I’m tracking the success of Tweetie 2.0, which was released yesterday (it is currently the number one highest grossing app on iPhone today in USA). I’ve been using it a week and it already has become my favorite Twitter app on the iPhone. I own (and paid for myself) all the major ones. Twittelator, Echofon, TweetDeck, SimplyTweet (which is my second favorite), etc etc. You could build a career on just reviewing iPhone Twitter apps. On appolicious, a great iPhone app review site, there are 4,374 Twitter apps listed for iPhone when you search for Twitter.

But what I love is that there’s already a bunch of 1 star reviews in iTunes store for Tweetie 2.0. The first review I saw was by Vector Sigma, who writes “I object to having to pay for the upgrade. I already bought the app and now I have to pay for it again to get this version. If you don’t have it already then yeah, get it, if you do have it already then GIVE THIS ONE STAR and show your disapproval for milking their customers.”

But it isn’t just people I don’t know on the iTunes reviews who are saying nasty things. Lots of my friends have been too, like Erik Boles, who I follow on Twitter and said “Why in THE HELL would you think of charging for an upgraded app after charging for v.1 is OK???”

Now, let me get this straight.

First, a latte at Starbucks usually costs me more than $3. A latte lasts a few minutes, then is gone. Lots of people drink them, because I always have to wait in line for them.

But a Twitter app, that was completely rewritten, like Tweetie was, and that you’ll probably use every day many times (I’ve already put more than 40 hours into my Tweetie app) isn’t worth $3?

I guess they must really bitch because Microsoft charges $300 for Windows 7 or Apple charged $30 for its latest update (I think Tweetie 2.0 might have had more features, actually).

Me?

I love paying for apps.

Why?

Because when I do that I encourage developers to build more cool apps for me.

Don’t believe this? Well, look at this note from an app developer (did Twitteriffic) who is demoralized because he hasn’t been able to make much money on the iPhone.

I do think that Ged (the developer who wrote that post) has some points about how hard it is to build a “hit” app, but I learned about Tweetie from the community. I follow 4,000 influencers to see what they think is hot, and I don’t really care too much about what Apple thinks is hot. Tons of beta testers told me both on and off the record that Tweetie was the best iPhone/Twitter app out there. When I got a chance to see it last week TechCrunch’s MG Siegler had it on his phone and showed me around. It wowed me immediately and I begged for an early release. I got one and haven’t looked back, although there’s a couple of features of SimplyTweet that I like better (clicking on an “@twitter link” should take you to the tweets, not information about the twitterer, but that’s a minor problem and one that doesn’t bug me that much).

Anyway, the main point here is that it’s not the app store that’s screwed up: it’s our expectation that developers should work for free.

Sorry, when an app update is cheaper than a freaking latte at Starbucks you don’t have a leg to stand on and you simply look like the cheapskates that you are.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

66 thoughts on “Digital iPhone cheapskates

  1. Paying ones way is part of life, I don't get it that people want free all the time. There's free out there, but it's elsewhere. The economic system we adopt is geared around choice.

    I'm thoroughly enjoying the new Tweetie 2.0 for the iPhone. I'm finding it much more responsive and it's now my iPhone Twitter App of choice. The new feature list is impressive, to me it's almost a new App.

    If I might digress slightly.

    I purchased Tweetie for my Mac. I paid something like $20 for it, and it's a far less complete product. For example, I often “favourite” a Tweet on my iPhone and read it on a more friendly screen. However having read the Tweet, I'd like to “unfavourite” it. Tweetie on the desktop doesn't do that.

    I like paying for Applications because it gives the author a return on their work, it shows my appreciation for what they have created and gives them incentive to develop further. Fantastic.

    I however expect that if I pay for something, that it's most basic features are operational. There have been several upgrades to Tweetie for the Desktop, but still no ability to unfavourite.

    Why not?

  2. As a software developer, all I can say is Thank You! Even minor point releases cost a lot of time and money and $3 certainly doesn’t afford one a life time subscription to an app.

  3. I think it’s crazy that people expect free updates. The people who create them generally work 10x harder on a day to day basis then those who complain, they have no idea what it’s like trying to finally get a hit app, let alone make money off it like one should once reaching this.

  4. Tweetie 2 for the iPhone is my favourite app ever for the iPhone. I'd pay $10 or more for it. But have to agree I found it a bit odd at first to have to download & pay for an upgrade.Obviously it's great when you can get things for free, but when something's free but if something's good, you'll pay for it and Tweetie 2 is great!

  5. Well said, John. It's interesting that the developer has Mac version which he charges $19.95 for a non-ad-supported version.

    That really highlights the different market expectation that has been created on the iPhone.

    Is the Mac app 6 times better than the iPhone? Hardly. In fact, the iPhone version may be just as useful or even more useful.

  6. “You should be grateful that they let you publish your app on Apple's superior platform”

    Hehehh. Except, Thomas, I'm not a developer. I'm just a customer and I expect to pay for products.

    I don't go into my supermarket and say “I bought this same milk last week, so it should be free this week”

    I don't go to the movies and say “I don't have to pay because this is a sequel and I paid to see the first one”

    I don't go to buy Toy Story 2 and say “I shouldn't have to pay because I own Toy Story 1″

    I don't expect JK Rowling to give me the 6 Harry Potter sequels for free because I bought the first one.

    I don't go to my local printer and say “I paid for the first print run of my business cards so I don't have to pay again.”

    I don't tell my web developer that any changes I request in the future will be done for free.

    iPhone App developers have as much right as anyone else to expect that they should get paid for their work.

    As a customer, I am happy to pay and support them and their application.

    This benefits me too because if they want me to pay for upgrades then they've got to make sure those upgrades are worth it. So instead of being mired in the dross of a thousand get-rich-quick wannabes, this lets the genuine developers rise to the top and be seen, and their applications get much better.

    (Which also reminds me, Apple's “Top 25″ system is totally screwed up. It seems to be based on downloads. Too often a “Top 25″ app has only one or two or three stars. There's no list for the top *rated* apps.)

    And again, as a customer I am happy to pay for any justifiable upgrades.

  7. As a mobile developer, thank you for writing this post so I didn't have to. Now I can just point my friends here.

    The disconnect between consumers expectations and the reality of the ongoing costs to build and update apps is partially due to the “iPhone App Gold Rush” propaganda – which has led many to believe that apps are “easy” to build & they're all getting hundreds of thousands of downloads.

    It likely cost $25k to $75K minimum to build Tweetie 2.0, plus they have ongoing costs. It is an absolute steal for $2.99.

    If it weren't for the “false economy” on The App Store, Tweetie would be at least $29.99 and it would still be a good value.

  8. Erik, I run a personal computing device which has no problems at all with “rogue, un-vetted software”. It's called a Mac, and I think it demonstrates that having a true free market for software doesn't necessarily lead to “a security nightmare”.

  9. Erik, if it doesn't offer value to you, the answer is simple: don't upgrade.

    Personally, I would have paid twice as much for it, even though I bought version 1. I think it's simply a brilliant piece of design, full of things which surprise and delight me.

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