App Store Entitlement

I am a well documented early adopter. I was attempting to update my iPhone and iPad to iOS7 at exactly noon on release day. I sat and watched Apple’s most recent announcement live, and spent the rest of the day updating my computers to Mavericks and all of my software. I read rumor sites, and check the App Store for app updates multiple times a day. I love seeing what new functionality things will bring, and how it will improve my productivity. The last month or so has been nerd heaven for me. With the 2 major OS updates, app developers have been releasing major new updates to their software. As they have, I’ve noticed a really strange thing rising up on the internet:

Entitlement

I know there is a lot of discussion about the prevalence of entitlement in our culture, but most of it revolves around big ideas like socialism and the economy. The Apple App Store is not somewhere I expected to see it. And yet, it rears its ugly head even there. There are 2 forms of App Store Entitlement I’ve seen.

The first occurs when developers charge money for an update instead of offering it for free.

There was once a time before broadband internet connections where software came in the form of floppy disks or CDs you had to purchase from a store. Developers had to make 100% sure their software worked because issuing minor bug fixes was next to impossible. It also meant the time between major new releases was much greater. Microsoft went from Windows 95 to Windows 98.

Now we have major OS updates every year which can be downloaded straight to your computer for free. Since iOS 7 was released at the end of September, Apple has already updated it 3 times to 7.0.3. So it has also been the case for apps.

Since the app store opened its digital doors in 2008, developers have generally subscribed to the model of selling their products for a one time fee, and giving away all subsequent updates for free. This is fine for larger companies, apps who only ever receive small, incremental updates and bug fixes, or companies whose apps are a small part of their total services. But for smaller developers who redesign their app from the ground up, this isn’t a sustainable business model.

A great example of this is the official Twitter app vs Tweetbot (my favorite twitter client).

Twitter is a huge company with over 2,000 employees. Its primary source of income is from advertisements in its feeds. Mobile is just part of what they do. Twitter is also a free service, so giving away its app for free makes a lot of sense.

Tweetbot is made by a 2 person company. Their primary source of income is selling the apps they make. The first Tweetbot app took a year of development and was released in April 2011. They sold the app for $3. Since that time, they have continued to release free updates incorporating more and more features. Last week however, they released Tweetbot 3 and are again charging $3 for the update. People have been outraged about having to pay another $3 as though they expect the first amount they paid 2 years ago to still be sustaining the company.

This is the classic huge company vs mom and pop store issue. Twitter offers their product for free because they can afford to, but the execution is sloppy. Tweetbot has to charge more to sustain the business, but the services the experience of using their app is second to none. No one is forcing people to use Tweetbot. They are welcome to go to a free alternative. But if they want the tools and services it provides, they will have to pay for it. There is no reason to complain or leave rude/scathing reviews for the developers.

The other side of App Store Entitlement occurs when developers make changes to a free app.

You would think most people know you can’t please everyone. App developers certainly do. They take user feedback and usage statistics very seriously to build an app that pleases the vast majority of users. In doing this so, they can remove features or change workflow in the app.

I understand the desire to give feedback when things like this happen. I’ll often report bugs or make feature requests on app forums. However, getting rude and hateful over a change to FREE app is just plain absurd to me.

An app I frequently use called Skitch just released iOS version 3.0. The stripped away a lot of features, but they were features that were difficult to use on a mobile device to begin with. I found myself saving those tasks for when I was on one of my Macs. They made the iOS version super fast and easy to use which is personally what I wanted from them.

There were however a few bugs, and a few things I wish they would have done differently. So I got on their forums and thanked them for the fantastic update, but let me requests be known. After my post, I saw dozens of comments filled with what can only be described as hateful language for how the developers had changed a free app. I wanted to share one post in particular, but it was long and vulgar. I will share one of my favorite lines from it though:

“You fools have made Skitch worthless to me. Happy now?”

This company spent months of their lives to give this person something for free, and this is how the person responds. If you don’t like the free thing someone gives you, you don’t have to take it. It’s horrifying to me this behavior is acceptable in our culture today.

Have you experienced any App Store Entitlement recently? Or have you had any apps go through one of the above changes lately? Let me know in the comments.