Earlier this week Apple released iOS 7, an update to the software that powers Apple’s iPhone and iPad products that Apple CEO Tim Cook described as the “biggest change to iOS since the iPhone” when it was announced in June. The free update was installed on 18 percent of all iOS devices just 24 hours after its release, according to the Chitika advertising network.
Despite initial panic at iOS 7′s new user interface and the always-sluggish download speeds from Apple’s servers, then, it appears that the update is a hit with consumers. (Or, at least, that iPhone owners are particularly good at updating software without worrying about the consequences.)
That should be seen as good news by developers who rushed to update their applications to support the new gesture controls and design language introduced with iOS 7. Unfortunately, it seems that it simply shifted the focus back on consumers unwilling to pay for software updates, as The Verge notes in a report published this morning.
The problem, which has hounded iOS developers since the App Store was first released in 2008, is that people expect software to be free.
Much of the software they use probably is: Facebook, Twitter, Google, and any other company that deals in user numbers instead of cash have made everything from image-and video-sharing to translation tools and navigation apps freely available to customers. But for the small app developers who rely on revenues instead of advertising dollars, the problem remains.
Apple often takes the blame for these troubles, with some developers arguing that the company’s continued refusal to add free trials or upgrade pricing to the App Store hurts small developers.
Dark Sky developer Adam Grossman says in a blog post that adding free trials to the App Store would “at least double our revenue practically overnight.” OmniGroup CEO Ken Case tells The Verge that he’s been lobbying Apple to introduce paid upgrades since the App Store’s release. The list goes on.
Other developers argue that even if Apple were to bring these features to the App Store, the bigger problem — that consumers have been conditioned to seek free apps instead of their paid counterparts — would remain.
“The thing is, the entire software industry is changing. Computer users used to spend hundreds of dollars for great software and pay again every couple years for upgrades,” Contrast founder David Barnard says in a blog post. “But over the past couple decades people have grown accustomed to getting more and more value from software while paying less and less for it. The Web has played a huge part in that, but the trend was accelerated by the App Store and Apple’s management of it.”
That blog post was published over a year ago. I referenced it in a post arguing that the “app business has gone rabid,” where I argued that the prices at which Apple sells its operating system were making consumers less likely to pay for apps. (Why spend $30 on an app when an entire operating system can be had for $20?)
“Every year, we have another dust up about developers and power users wishing for the return of upgrade pricing in the App Store age,” Second Gear founder Justin Williams says in a blog post. “And every year, it becomes even more obvious that upgrade pricing is another relic of the past.”
Meet the new App Store, plagued by the same pricing problems and consumer expectations as the old App Store. Apple might have changed the way its apps marketplace looks in iOS 7, but as with the rest of the operating system, the underlying problems seem unlikely to be washed away any time soon.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for PandoDaily]