Apple’s iOS app upgrade policy

I went to update some apps on my iPad. But instead of being greeted on the update screen with the normal buttons with ‘update’ written on them, they had ‘free’ on them instead. Everything exactly the same, just the wording was different.

It certainly would be interesting if they did allow developers to start charging for updates.



  • http://www.cerebralgardens.com/ Dave Wood

    This looks like a bug in the App Store app. When scrolling, Free changes to Update again. Likely a cell reuse bug.

    • Zepfhyr

      It definitely is a bug, as I’ve also had apps in the Updates tab say Update instead of Open when I’ve already run them. Scrolling resets the view then, as well.

  • http://www.smiley-dread.com kiil

    Instead of updates call them upgrades.

    ie app 1 version 1.xx –> app 2 version 2.xx viola new app buy again.

    Apple did it. OS X 10.8 now it’s known as OS X 10.9. Adobe does it all the time; Photoshop 4, Photoshop CS5 and so on.

    Sure some customers will bitch about “paying all over again” but as long as most apps are already reasonably low priced and the developer justifies his upgrades with reasons such as hardware or iOS changes, major rewrites and or major new features he/she should do just fine and gets to have repeat customers.

    Low prices will help mitigate not being able to offer existing customers an upgrade special price. Otherwise once I have paid for an app — that’s it there is no reason for me to purchase it again.

    • JohnDoey

      With in-app purchases, there is no need for Photoshop CS4, CS5, CS6, etc. The CS5 features can simply be in-app purchases for CS4 users.

      Photoshop itself could even be free, but all the free version does is the most basic editing. If you are a pro user you could buy CMYK support for $199 in-app purchase, and 3D support for $199 in-app purchase. If you are a casual user you might buy a basic filter pack for $49. When the new version of Photoshop comes out, you would simply install it as a free upgrade from the previous version, and you would have a bug-fixed, ready-for-your-new-OS version of Photoshop but with basically the same features as your previous version. But the in-app purchases in the new version would add many new items you want to buy. Things that would save you so much time they are easy to buy in many cases. And the fact that every single Photoshop user has no barrier to running the newest free version means you have a lot of users shopping at the store that is built-into Photoshop.

      Blowing up the user’s existing software is terrible user interface design. User’s hate it. The developer should maintain the features the user already has and has paid for with a very high priority, and then they have goodwill for their in-app purchases and can sell the user many more things.

      Before Apple bought Logic, it was made by a developer called Emagic. You got a basic set of tools in Logic, and you could buy add-ons that were tracked with a USB key. The add-ons were things like a Hammond Organ instrument. The great thing was you would buy the Hammond Organ for $99 and it would be added to your key and you would use it in your Logic 4. Then when Logic 5 came out, it contained a newer version of the Hammond Organ, which would also be activated by your key. So buying the organ was an easy investment because the $99 permanently made your Logic include a Hammond Organ. I bought all the accessories because the long-term nature of the investment made $99 ridiculously cheap. Smart developers on iOS will make users feel that same way about the in-app purchases they buy for their apps.

      But let’s say I bought an iOS app for $4.99 an I spent $20 inside the app on in-app purchases that tricked the app out. Then 8 months later the developer introduces a 2.0 for $4.99 and now my $24.99 investment is abandonware. I’m shut out. No bug fixes, no new in-app purchases being offered, no support for new operating systems and so on. That is basically a gun the developer puts to my head to extort $4.99 from me. Why do that when you just sold me $20 in voluntary in-app purchases and could easily sell me another $20 if you develop quality content for your app.

      In short, developers should try to sell users new features as content within the app (which users understand) not try to sell them a 2.0 to replace a 1.0 (which users do not understand.)

      • Moeskido

        If only Adobe would consider such a format.

  • David Hinder

    Something similar happened to me back in 2012. As I was updating an app, I was told that the discounted price was only available to those who had bought a previous major version. Here’s a picture of the alert window: https://twitter.com/davidhinder/status/244722611551088640

  • http://instagram.com/real_jason_ip Jason Ip

    I have no doubt Apple will allow this, after all, Apple is all about the bottom line and if there’s a new revenue stream (updates) for them to skim off of then it’s a no brainer. Don’t be surprised if they patent this ‘idea’ also.

  • JohnDoey

    I think one of the best things about App Store is no upgrade prices. Upgrade prices are user-hostile. Users don’t think that way, and so what happens is they end up running abandonware because the developer has essentially forked the app with the 2.0.

    There are in-app purchases on iOS. If I buy a 1.0 from you with 10 features for $4.99, when you ship your 2.0, you should send me a 2.0 with the same 10 features plus bug fixes for free and include a bunch of new features as in-app purchases.