Apple Editorial

Will Super Mario Run be free for Android?


I’ve been watching with mild disgust and very little surprise as the iOS community reveals itself to be largely made up of whingeing entitled little kids whose mummys and daddys clearly didn’t teach about how commerce works. It’s happened before, with the likes of Tweetbot, and now it’s Super Mario Run’s turn.

A lot of users are getting their knickers well and truly in a twist over Super Mario Run’s price. Apparently they weren’t aware it would cost them money to buy the game, despite the game being announced as a free demo with a price to pay for the whole game, and the actual price being revealed a full month before release. And despite the fact that it has an ‘Offers IAPs’ badge on the App Store ‘Get’ button, and that the single IAP is listed in the App Store description.

No, apparently it’s a bait and switch. A scam. A con. They expected the whole game to be free dammit! And so many don’t understand how it works once they’ve exhausted the free demo, with many tweets saying they’ve got to “pay per level” (nope, one price to unlock the whole thing). Or that it’s the “definition of pay to win” (nope, that would be freemium games like Clash Of Clans or Clash Royale, where you pay to get cards that not many others have, and pay to upgrade them beyond what others have).

There’s even a brilliant review on the App Store that says this game would be so much better if they’d released a free Lite version with a few levels, then had a paid version that had all the levels… despite the fact that this is essentially what’s on offer already: try a free demo, then unlock the rest via IAP if you want the full game.

And another review that says Nintendo has so much money they should have made the game free. Seriously.

In fact, the App Store is where Super Mario Run is getting roasted the worst, with one and two star reviews vastly outnumbering five and four star reviews. Sadly, most of them are about the fact that users gotta pay for an app. Because, y’know, developers don’t deserve money to buy food or pay rent.

And yet there are actually lots of other things wrong with the app that are much more deserving of objective criticism, things Nintendo really could stand to look at before their next release.

As much as I firmly agree with Nintendo’s decision to make this a pay-once-play-forever deal, a traditional game with one price and no freemium gems or timers, I do think they made some errors in many respects.

I believe they resisted entering the smartphone app market for so long because by entering it they feel like they’re admitting failure of some kind. So when they did finally enter these markets, they refused to be told how to adjust their existing model. They stuck to their stupid Friend Codes, their ugly outdated bubble-tastic interface, their premium price point and more.

So what could Nintendo have done better?

1) They could have made it much clearer how SMR pricing works.

They shouldn’t have to, but smartphone users are now used to ‘free’ freemium shite, and have a visceral reaction to being “made to” pay for something, especially if it’s more than 99 cents. They can afford one of the worlds most expensive consumer-focussed smartphones at hundreds and hundreds of dollars, but not a few bucks for stuff to run on that smartphone (music, apps, whatever). Hypocrites.

What could Nintendo have done to make it clearer? If they wanted to stick to an IAP to unlock they should have made the very first words in their App Store listing a description of the game as a free three-level demo with a paid unlock if you want the full game. Or they could have opened the game for users that haven’t yet bought the IAP with a screen that explained “Welcome to the Super Mario Run demo”.

It still wouldn’t have been enough to educate the idiots that see FREE and expect it to be, well, FREE. But it would have helped head off accusations of a bait and switch.

2) They could have released two versions.

One free and clearly labelled LITE, with just three levels. The other paid and clearly labelled FULL with the whole game. But frankly this is messy and requires more updating and introduces confusion and people still would have whined, that there weren’t enough levels in the free version or that they didn’t realise there was a free version and they want a refund, or something. People are idiots.

This would also have sidestepped the issue that comes with IAPs, where they aren’t available for family sharing. See, if you buy an app for your own phone, but your kids want it, or your partner wants it, and you have family sharing, they can have your copy of the app on their phone. But IAPs aren’t included in that. So you could all download the free version under family sharing, but everyone that wanted to have the full game would need to buy it. One IAP purchase does not extend to all family users.

This is obviously because of the likes of freemium games that sell gems. Those developers, and Apple, don’t want one freemium gem purchase going to four different family users, for example.

But this also affects apps trying to sell upgrades to the full version. It makes no sense that a regular paid app can be sold one time to all members of a family but an upgrade to a paid app can’t be. But them’s Apple’s rules, and they aren’t likely to bother fixing or clarifying or otherwise improving the inconsistency any time soon, because Apple historically doesn’t give a shit about user experience when it comes to stuff like this, unless enough people bring a class action or enough media outlets run them over the coals for it.

3) They could have made it freemium

No. No no no. Pocket Gamer already explained perfectly well why this would be an utterly shit idea. With very, very few exceptions (I can think of really only one in recent times, Clash Royale, and even that’s still ‘pay to win’ frankly), freemium games are pay to win time wasting skinner box shit. They’re there to make gameplay as boring as possible unless you pay, to hoodwink as much money out of you as possible, and with no real end or purpose. They’re just cash generators for the developers. If you can get by without paying anything good for you, but I’d rather pay money once for as much properly-balanced gaming fun as I want, whenever I want.

Apparently I’m in a minority, which is why the smartphone app gold rush is long over for the overwhelming majority of developers, unless you create a whale-hunting freemium skinner box.

4) They could have made it cheaper.

I’ve seen analysists banging on about how many copies were downloaded versus sold. I’m not really sure what black magic they base their claims on, and frankly I don’t trust analysts anyway (how many polls claimed Brexit wouldn’t happen or Trump wouldn’t win?) and would love to know how to get a job like that because I think most bloggers would do a better job in most cases.

Anyway, they say around 4-5% of the 40 million downloads have actually paid. Let’s say that’s true. That’s a lot of money but obviously leaves so much on the table. Would making the game a little cheaper have increased sales to the point that overall revenue would be vastly increased? Again, some analysts claim so. One even produced a fancy graph that suggests way more revenue if the app was cheaper, but it’s all guesswork.

Personally, I’ve not bought it. I think £7.99 ($9.99) is too much for what’s on offer – I don’t really enjoy Mario games at the best of times and while Mario Run does seem to have far more depth than most ‘endless runners’ like Temple Run, it doesn’t seem all that deeper than Rayman (which is free and blighted with gem purchases, but it barely impacted on my play experience when I tried it), and £8 is a lot for something I’ll play a few times idly on my way to work, versus something like Steamworld Heist which is around the same price and offers hours of deep, strategic gameplay.

Oh, except I can’t play Mario Run on my way to work because Nintendo think I might be a thief. See the next point…

5) They could remove the always-online requirement.

Nintendo basically expects everyone to steal their game (smartphone app piracy is at absolutely fucking disgusting levels to be fair) and so to punish all their legitimate users while making life merely awkward for the piracy community (who will doubtless find a way around it eventually), Nintendo in their infinite arrogance decided to make the game require an online connection at the end of every level.

They’ve admitted this is because of piracy (or as they rather sweetly and naïvely put it, user security), but they buried that under a load of smoke about online features for other modes needing to be tied into the main game because it was too tricky to try to separate them. Yeah yeah, whatever Shigs.

As a result, you can’t really play the game unless you have a very strong cell signal, or a wifi connection. I’ve tried on a bus travelling through London, with a 80% signal, and it wouldn’t even connect to play the game. Kept telling me I needed to connect to the internet to download level data – this after downloading and installing the game?!

So, Nintendo have released a casual one-thumb-playable mobile phone game, that can’t be used on most people’s commute, or in areas of remotely patchy internet. Goodbye tube, metro, tram, train, bus, and plane users. And anyone queueing in a large warehouse-like supermarket, as I also personally discovered.

6) They could improve the in-game opening experience

Nintendo has always had a clunky online experience. Clunky is being generous. Because they’re seen as a kiddie game company, they felt it necessary to build an online community that’s as kid-friendly as possible. In order to significantly and repeatedly interact with a friend over Nintendo’s online systems you both need to manually enter in a long string of letters and numbers that represent that person’s ‘Friend Code’.

So rather than trust Apple’s existing system for gaming communities (and is there any other company more neurotic about child safety using their devices than Apple? A company that, for a while at least, banned any representation of a gun in an app’s icon, even if your app was an approved game all about shooting people?!) Nintendo have brought Friend Codes to Mario Run.

They’ve also brought a really reeeaaally long list of countries to the game! I’ve literally never been forced to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroooll through such a long list trying to find my country before being allowed to play a game before, and I’m not sure why I had to anyway. Can’t they tell where I am? Why do they need to know anyway?

After getting through that boring shit, then they make you play the tutorial. They’ll make you play this tutorial every time you accidentally hit the button that asks for a tutorial, by the way. It’s unskippable once it starts short of quitting the app.

And after all that, then they start to download the first level. For real.

You’ve downloaded the app, installed it, fired it up, scrolled through a massive list of nations, tried to understand the whole Friend Code bullshit, skipped it, gone through the tedious demo (which could be boiled down to ‘tap to jump’).. and then they initiate a further download of the actual game. Did nobody at Apple sit Nintendo down and explain anything whatsoever about today’s app users to them? Ever?

“Okay but I heard it’s going to be free when it comes to Android?”

The game is due out on Android soon and some folks have it in their head that Nintendo will either reduce the price, or adjust how they charge. Maybe make it properly freemium.

Yeah… no. It’s extremely unlikely Nintendo are going to change a single thing about the app for Android.

They can’t reduce the price without also permanently reducing it on iOS, and if they do that they’ll have every single person that already bought it going nuts at them. They’d have to refund those people, or tell them to suck it up. Neither are going to happen. QED: the price won’t be reduced for Android.

Same goes for making it a more freemium game for Android. They can’t do that and not change it for iOS, and they won’t do that. It’s a proper paid app for a reason, so that they don’t have to cripple the gameplay with gems to increase the height you can jump, or premium coins to buy access to the next level. One price, full game.

So no, Super Mario Run for Android won’t be cheaper, free, or freemium. Suck it up, cheap-ass freeloading whining entitled Mario-loving smartphone owners.


The Brightness control in iOS 7’s Control Center sucks

I’ve written before about changes in iOS 7 that have left many users feeling a bit lost and confused. Over time I think that users will become used to the changes, and that Apple will likely fix most of those problems. For example, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they centre up the Home Screen page dots, as they were in iOS 6 and before. Real slick, that little slip.

But here’s something that’s been really annoying me lately: the Brightness slider in Control Center, the panel of collected controls that slides up from the bottom of the screen with a swipe. It’s mostly all quite useful stuff but I have one big problem with it: the background screen/app you were looking at fades a little when the Control Center is brought up, making accurate Brightness adjustments nothing but guesswork.

My wife doesn’t think this is an issue but it drives me absolutely fucking nuts, sorry to curse but it really, really does. I read my iPad in all sorts of places and frequently manually adjust the brightness to match. It used to be that I’d go to the Brightness slider in Settings and look at the screen as I adjusted it till it got to where I wanted it – at the lower end of the scale a small adjustment makes a big difference so it makes perfect sense that one would use the brightness of the screen as an indicator of how bright the screen will be once you have adjusted the slider that controls the brightness of the screen.

I mean, that’s such an obvious use of feedback that it doesn’t even need saying, right?


In iOS 7 the screen is dimmed when Control Center comes up. When you put your finger on the Brightness slider to adjust the Brightness, the screen brightness still adjusts in real time relative to the movement of the slider but when you close Control Center the goddamn screen gets brighter again. For. Fucks. Sake. Back into Control Center we go, adjust the brightness down a bit more. This time as I move the slider I feel like I’m adjusting the screen to be darker than I want it, but remember it’s going to brighten up when I close Control Center. Maybe it’ll be where I want it this time.

So adjusting Brightness is now a game of trial and error. Great!

There’s a very simple way to fix this: when you touch the Brightness Control the screen could temporarily brighten up to the correct level, allowing you to make the adjustment accurately instead of trial and error. Release the control and the screen drops back to the ‘Control Center’ level.

Alternatively, I considered suggesting they don’t fade the background when using Control Center, just softly blow it out of focus, but that probably looks weird on an iPad. Also, those blur effects are only supposed to be used on layers that sit above other layers and on the iPad the Control Center layer only covers a small portion of the bottom of the screen so lowering brightness probably seemed like the next best thing to differentiate the layers.

Well, it drives me round the bend. Grrr, and argh.

Apple Editorial

Why I won’t buy a TapTapTap app ever again

You may have heard that an App Store developer called TapBots recently did something inexcusably disgusting and utterly outrageous: after 30 months of free support and a free upgrade to Version 2, they dared to charge for Version 3.

Yes, I know. I know! What a cheek, eh? I mean seriously: developers shouldn’t be in the business of selling apps if they’re only in it to make money. They should be on the App Store purely for our benefit and for their own love of making apps and giving them away for free, not because they’re trying to run a business.

If selling the apps you poured the last few months of your life into is your plan, better find another way to make a living. Nobody pays for hard work these days AND NEITHER SHOULD THEY. Deal with it, idiots.

Just kidding!

If you found yourself nodding along in agreement with me there, here comes the twist: I disagree with all of that. I have no problem with a developer whose business model is to put a fair price on their work and ask me to pay for it if I like it. Obviously some users of the app disagree with that policy, even though it may be one of their most-used apps. That’s fine – Tapbots doesn’t need them because plenty of their customers are only too happy to put the same value on the work as Tapbots do. In fact, many of us would pay more.

Turns out that some dicks over at a developer called TapTapTap completely disagree. While disagreement is all good and well, in this case it’s surprising because they’re not in competition with Tapbots. Regardless, a simple disagreement is not enough for the dicks at TapTapTap. No, they decided it would be really cool to slag off Tapbots (well, okay, they don’t name them, but it doesn’t take Benedict Cumberbatch in a warm coat to work out who they’re referring to given previous jabs over Twitter) not only in a blog post, but in the update notes for their own app. Reeeaaal professional.

The dicks at TapTapTap

The dicks at TapTapTap make an app called Camera+. It’s not bad, a decent alternative to the stock camera app on the iPhone although most of what it does is baked into the iPhone anyway now, but for a long time their app had better features and it’s become a stalwart of the Photography section.

So their business model is this: they sell the app to a mass market for $2, update it forever for free, and offer IAPs in the form of filter packs. Yes, sodding filter packs. Well hey, a developer’s gotta eat, right? Well, no, not according to the dicks at TapTapTap, but I’ll get to that.

Tapbots on the other hand employ a marginally different business model: they sell their app to a niche market for $3 (currently on sale) and don’t sell IAPs. Bugfix-type updates are free, the huge update to Version 2.0 was free, but after 30 months of entirely free support (and no IAPs!) they charged $3 for Version 3.0.

Both these models are completely fair enough. I have no problem with either as both demonstrate a sustainable business model. And to be clear, ‘sustainability’ means making sure the revenue your business brings in will keep you in business. That’s pretty much the first rule of running a business, folks.

TapTapTap’s ‘arguments’

I’ve always suspected the guys at TapTapTap might not be the sort of people I’d go for a drink with, based on the update notes for their app. They’re definitely a bit more amusing than the average update notes, but they’re also a bit “hey we’re KRAZY”, with a K. A bit attention seeking. And I find attention seekers kinda dickish. So I’ve always had my suspicions.

This week John Casanta at TapTapTap was happy to confirm my suspicions by posting an app update followed by a blog post which pushed way past “Krazy with a K”, way past “I’m an attention whore!”. It basically says: “Developers that charge for updates are pathetic and hate their customers. Go us! And fuck Tapbots!”

I’m paraphrasing, of course. Here’s what it actually says, make your own mind up:

I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum as a developer… I recall the early days where I’d earn less than $1,000 per month and essentially lived in a shack to make ends meet. And at the other end, I’ve made far more money than anybody needs to live. The bottom line is that absolutely none of this has any bearing on our customers.

If we, or any other developers aren’t able to make ends meet through selling our apps, the solution is neither to blame nor to screw over your customers. It’s more along the lines of: get better at what you do… or find some other work that better suits you.

Being able to get out of bed at noontime and work out of your home in your fluffy bunny slippers is a privilege, not a right. And you need to earn that privilege. A lot of developers seem to have lost that perspective these days and sound far more entitled than the people who support them by buying their apps that they accuse of being entitled.

If you’re a developer, it’d be nice if you actually thought all of this through in an objective way before just firing off the typical defensive, knee-jerk reaction.

Like I said: dicks.

This isn’t about developers with a lousy business plan not being able to make ends meet and screwing over their customers. This is about developers using a considerably underpriced version of the business plan serious developers making serious software tools have used since, like, forever: bugfixes are free; significant new releases have a fee. And if Apple actually offered upgrade discount pricing on the App Store perhaps we wouldn’t have the problem that’s emerged: that App Store customers unrealistically expect all app updates for free.

I’ve got to address some of the points in the blog post:

  • “If…developers aren’t able to make ends meet through selling [their] apps, the solution is neither to blame nor to screw over your customers.” – where to start? Firstly, where’s this “blame” coming from? Methinks this is just a little strawman that TapTapTap pulled out of their arselocker to make their flimsy point sound waaay better, as I don’t see any developers ‘blaming’ anyone except Apple for unhelpful pricing tiers.
  • Secondly, call me crazy, but I don’t think releasing an optional new version of your app at a reasonable price that reflects the work that went into it and the work that will continue to be put into it is screwing over your customers. I’m pretty sure Tweetbot 2 still works, because I’m still using it (I actually don’t like the design of Tweetbot 3, ironically).
  • Thirdly, because there’s just so much wrong in that one sentence, it’s pretty obvious that Tapbots are perfectly capable of making ends meet through selling their apps, because that’s what they continue to do: sell their app.
  • “Get better at what you do” – what does the quality of their coding have to do with anything? They’re already remarkable at what they do, which is why thousands of iPhone users bought their app in the first place.
  • “Find some other work that suits you” – presumably work that doesn’t involve being paid a fair and sustainable wage, because as we all know: charging fairly for your work = failing.
  • “Being able to get out of bed at noontime and work out of your home in your fluffy bunny slippers is a privilege, not a right.” – Jeez, what is it with TapTapTap and strawman arguments? Remember, we’re talking about the right to charge a fee for your work. Where you do that work is completely irrelevant. If anything, working from home in awesome fluffy bunny slippers is a more responsible and cost-effective move than working from an office, isn’t it? Try telling that to the dicks at TapTapTap, who perhaps wouldn’t need IAPs or to even charge for their app at all if they worked from home.
  • “A lot of developers seem to have lost that perspective these days and sound far more entitled than the people who support them by buying their apps that they accuse of being entitled.” – there’s nothing ‘entitled’ about saying “We’ve spent months working on a major update, we’re really proud of it, and it’s just $3.” Entitlement is this: “Waaaah! $3 for something I’ll use every single day for months if not years?! SO UNFAIR! I’m going to buy a different app instead.”. That’s entitlement.

The last word

What TapTapTap achieved with this post and app update was to reinforce the entirely misguided and unrealistic expectations of App Store users that developers should sell their work at rock bottom prices and then spend the rest of their lives working on the app for free, and hope for a sales spike.

Worse, they combined their airing of this rather silly position with a pretty nasty dig at non-competing fellow developers, using it as an opportunity to curry favour amongst the greedier and more selfish of their users who might find that sort of shit-stirring funny.

On TapTapTap’s About page is a list of their ‘important principles’. It includes the line:

  • High quality software doesn’t have to cost you a lot.

Come on, folks. $3 is not a lot of money. No, don’t give me “it’s a lot of money on the App Store” because for an app you’ll use hourly, daily, for months if not years, $3 is not a lot of money.

Similarly, a total of $6 over thirty months to support ongoing work on said app is also not a lot of money, and anyone who argues that it is while waving their $600+ iPhone around is as much of a dick as the guy that writes TapTapTap’s blog.

Perhaps TapTapTap should teach us by example and make a Twitter app without IAPs that’s anywhere near as good as Tweetbot, then demonstrate how the resulting revenue from that one app alone is enough to keep their company afloat forever. While they’re at it, I’d love to see them make their Camera+ IAPs free because as we all know, selling your work is such an insulting rip-off of your customers. Then they might have an angle on App Store business models that’s worth posting.

However, it probably won’t be worth actually reading if the maturity and professionalism in evidence on their blog is anything to go by. I’m happy to join the throng of folk on Twitter deleting Camera+ in disgust.


Just before anyone points this out themselves with passive-aggressive glee: I’m fully aware that TapTapTap couldn’t give a toss who uninstalls Camera+. After all, they’ve already got our money, and their business model evidently works for them, just as Tapbots’ model is working for them. I also don’t expect them to give a toss about my opinion on their policies and business model. This post isn’t about making a stand against them or trying to bring them down a peg. It’s just about airing my opinion on my blog, for others to either agree or disagree.

Also, I’m sorry to anyone at TapTapTap whose opinions are not represented by the blog post in question. I’m sure you’re not all dicks, and I support your right to be paid for your work.

Apple Editorial

Why the hell do I have to pay again for Tweetbot 3?

pay again for tweetbot 3Tweetbot 3 is out, the latest version of what is definitely my favourite Twitter client, and certainly one of the very best available for iOS and OSX, but rather than it being a free update in the App Store for existing customers it’s been released as an entirely new app that you have to purchase. Yes, even if you already bought Tweetbot 1, or Tweetbot 2. And yes, even if you bought it the day before Tweetbot 3 came out.

(Okay that last one is a bit unfortunate if that happened to you, but sometimes shit happens. Like the time I bought Borderlands 2 on Steam the week before it was 70% off in a sale. Dammit.)

OMG WTF? i hav 2 like PAY AGAIN?

Yes, you do. And before we go any further let me just say, if you came here with your Whiners Are Winners hat on looking for some moral support you won’t find it here. That post title above lured you here so I can say:

If you like Tweetbot and want Tapbots to be able to keep developing it, support them by paying the tiny price they’re asking for this major new update.

(N.B.: in the originally-published version of this post the above sentence read: BUY IT, YOU CHEAP F*&£$ but I thought that might be a bit argumentative…)

I have no problem with this business model. It’s fair for Tapbots to ask a very small fee to cover months if not years of work not just ‘reskinning for iOS 7’ as many on Twitter inaccurately describe the update, but rebuilding the app from the ground up to take advantage of the oodles of new code going on under the hood of iOS 7. Not to mention that Tweetbot 1 to Tweetbot 2 was a free update as I recall, so the longer you’ve been enjoying Tweetbot the better the deal gets.

If you still don’t think it’s reasonable please make sure you stick around to the end of this post where there’s a short exercise in calculating exactly how much Tweetbot has cost you thus far. It’s an eye-opener.

Here’s what Tapbots had to say on their blog:

Seven months ago, we started working on a big update for Calcbot. We were hoping to release it sometime in the summer. Two months in, Apple announced iOS7 at WWDC. We knew this was a huge change. It would make every single one of our apps look dated so we had to make sure our flagship app was ready for it. All of the design work that went into the Calcbot update was rendered obsolete in one keynote and so we focused our energy on updating Tweetbot for iPhone. Playing with the beta of iOS7 over the next few weeks brought us to the realization that this would not just be a “re-skin”. We really had to just start over with the new foundation and concepts of iOS7.

Major updates like this one take time and effort. Months of hard work rebuilding it with new iOS 7 frameworks, redesigning the interface (there is no convenient ‘Reskin Now!’ button in X-Code that redesigns interfaces by magic, you know), and all the testing and refining that goes with that. Months of work. If they were to give that away for free they’d need to find a way of making the money you spent on the first version cover not just all the work that went into that version you originally bought, but this version too.

But those are the unrealistic customer expectations set up by the App Store practices that have emerged, and it’s not sustainable for many – this is how IAPs gained dominance, screwing up the balance and gameplay of so many otherwise fantastic games.

Meanwhile, on Twitter some Tweetbot fans feel ripped off:

  • “It’s just a reskin” or “It’s not a major new version” (it’s a complete rebuild and redesign within the new iOS 7 frameworks and design guidelines)
  • “All other apps are updating to iOS 7 for free” (actually, not all)
  • “I’m an acid (sic) supporter since day one but I’m not buying it again” (speaks for itself really)
  • “They should adapt to the App Store business model of making updates free” (Apple’s suggestion to those wishing to charge for major updates is to release it as a new app – but they don’t allow them to offer upgrade discounting)
  • “This is a SCAM and Apple should stop it” (urgh, always with the SCAM)
  • “Apple don’t charge for updates to iOS 7, why should I pay to update Tweetbot?” (Apple sells iPhones for hundreds of dollars and can afford to keep you sweet with free iOS updates. Tapbots’s business is selling Tweetbot)

And so on. I replied to a few of these sorts of tweets this morning and asked: do you work for free? At what point do developers start working for free? How much value have you had from the app?

Out of a couple of dozen who replied, some did laugh it off and agree that yes, put like that it was fair enough. The rest argued with me. Whether they worked for free was irrelevant, and Tapbots needed to find a better way to make money. One said that even though he “loves” Tweetbot he’s stopped using Tweetbot 2 simply because Tapbots dared to charge for Tweetbot 3, and is considering buying Twitteriffic or Echofon instead.

Mind = blown.

Apple is the problem; could IAPs be the solution?

The frustrating reality is that App Store customers are now used to ‘pay once, get free updates forever’ but this model came about not because it’s good business sense (because on the face of it it’s not) but because Apple decided not to allow traditional upgrade pricing in the App Stores, presumably in keeping with it’s policy of making things as simple as possible for the average user. In Apple’s opinion too many price-points = confusion. Just look at Microsoft’s Windows pricing levels.

I am not the average user. I’m used to a world where ‘point release’ software updates (mostly bug fixes) tend to be free but major release updates are paid. That is: version 2.3.2 to version 2.4 I would expect for free. But version 2.4 to version 3.0 I would expect to pay for. So while I certainly don’t complain about this ‘free updates’ thing that’s happened to the App Store, I’ve always wondered how sustainable that is.

Just guessing, but I reckon most serious App Store developers, especially those with a ‘utility’ app as opposed to a game, would prefer to adopt upgrade discounting, would Apple let them. I base that guess on articles around the web about how developers have struggled with Apple’s update pricing policy. Recently a major developer called Omnigroup tried to overcome Apple’s limitations with inventive and seemingly fair workarounds, only to have Apple shut their attempt down.

For an app that offers all updates for free, major or minor, IAPs offer the only real alternative revenue stream to fund ongoing development in the absence of a sales spike: either with expendable ‘currency’, most often used in casual games to speed up hatefully slow timers that restrict progress; or with extra content packs such as the extra filters in Hipstamatic, or extra gameplay chapters in The Walking Dead. Unfortunately the former is far more frequently used (and abused) than the latter, and the satisfaction of paying a fair price (i.e. over £4.99 at least) for a good game and not being nickel-and-dimed to play without interruptions is rare these days – although XCOM may have turned that tide.

Somewhere in the IAP system there lies the germ of a solution to upgrade pricing, whereby an app costs full price the first time you buy it but major upgrades are made available as IAPs at a cheaper rate, thereby offering existing users an upgrade discount. It seems like that could work but presumably there is some kind of issue with completely overwriting an app with an entirely recoded version as an IAP or it would already be happening.

How to rationalise it

If you still have a problem with developers maintaining a sustainable business by charging for the considerable efforts involved in major updates to their apps, and still believe that all updates should be free and that developers should find some magical beans or something to finance their work, here is an exercise that may help you at least rationalise the expense:

Q: When did you first buy Tweetbot?
A: (I bought Tweetbot 1 the week it launched in April 2011 – Tweetbot 2 was a free update, ironically)

Q: How many weeks is that?
A: (I’ve owned it 130 weeks)

Q: What price did you pay?
A: (I paid £2 I believe)

Q: Therefore, how much have you paid per week to own and use Tweetbot?
A: (£2 divided by 130 = £0.0153 = 1.5 UK pennies per week)

One and a half UK pennies per week. That’s what I paid to have both version 1 and version 2 of Tweetbot on my phone. And in fact after Apple’s cut I’ve only paid Tapbots £0.0107, barely a hair over one penny per week, to sustain their efforts not just maintaining the app with bug fixes but also rolling out an entirely new version 2.0 of the app.

So a whole new third version, entirely rewritten and redesigned for the new iOS 7 UI and frameworks, for just £2*?! I feel bad for them that it’s so cheap, frankly, and as I fully intend to continue using their app, I have no issue paying them for the hard work they put into it.

The last word

I was told on Twitter that Tapbots are lucky to have customers like me. What, I replied, you mean customers that understand why they’re asked to pay for their products? Fortunately, I think there’s more than enough people perfectly happy to pay way below the deserving rate for an awesome app for Tapbots to do just fine, but the miserliness of strangers continues to drive me up the wall.


* The price I’m quoting for Tapbots 3 is their discounted Launch Pricing.


You Need A Budget for iPhone updated for iOS 7

you need a budget iPhoneThe excellent You Need A Budget for iPhone (free) (or YNAB to its friends!) just got a hefty redesign for iOS 7, and it’s rather lovely.

The new look is a bit of a departure from the look of the main desktop app (for Mac and PC) but it fits in a lot better with the simpler, almost minimalist look of iOS 7 and actually makes several elements much clearer and easier to manage, especially when entering ‘splits’ or when picking a Payee based on your location. A particularly nice new touch is a pop-up update of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ totals of a budget category when you add a transaction, making it even easier to keep up-to-date with the month’s spending.

As the App Store description page points out, YNAB for iPhone is a companion app for entering transactions on the go and keeping an eye on your running budget totals but it requires the full Mac/PC app to be of any use. It doesn’t have any budget-managing options – though I hear they’re working on a standalone iPad app that will meet that need – but your budget is available to view, however. It syncs over from the desktop via Dropbox and you tap your on-the-go transactions into the app as they occur. Of course, you don’t necessarily need the iPhone app, you could just import a downloaded statement to the desktop app periodically, but I find that makes it harder to keep on top of your budgeting day-to-day.

you need a budget iPhone
The redesign of You Need A Budget for iPhone is clearer and easier to use

So overall a great-looking update with some welcome new features. However, a couple of old features seem to have been lost including the ‘Favourites’ tab for quickly selecting regularly-used Categories and Payees.

According to the developer the autocomplete for Category and location-based Payee ultimately do the same job and for the most part I expect that’s probably the case but for me the Favourites filter was quicker and easier than relying on Autocomplete, narrowing dozens of budget categories down to the four or five I only ever needed on my phone whenever I had to manually enter a category or change the one Autocomplete entered.

They’ve also made a Search function more accessible but I found that tapping to activate it, then typing, then tapping the results was all more faff than using the old Favourites tabBut hey, not the end of the world! 😉

So in summary – a largely welcome update, with a couple of niggles I’ll just have to get used to.

Save 10% on You Need A Budget

You Need A Budget is a fantastic Mac/PC personal budgeting app and I highly recommend you check it out if you’re looking for an intuitive, effective way to manage your household income or even a small business.

If for some reason you’re reading this but you don’t actually have your own copy of YNAB yet, click here to find out how to save 10% on your purchase over at!