Complaints have been surfacing about Instacast’s dubious suspicious system, and for good reason: it makes some users pay for the product twice. Here’s how it works: The app was originally $2.99 (and lots of people bought it). Now, the new version of the app is merely $0.99, but if you want certain features which were free in the first version (such as re-ordering podcasts) you have to use an in-app purchase to acquire them. Here’s what rubs people fur backwards: If you bought Instacast at $2.99 and then you update to the newer version, you lose those features and have to re-purchase them. The move has garnered Instacast some one-star reviews and a lot of nasty comments on the App Store and, to be blunt, deservedly so.
TUAW took a look at Instacast’s “upgrade” and made a few comments of their own. In particular, they take some time to whittle down all the extremely weak counter-arguments they could think of, such as “it’s not that much money” (does that mean they’re entitled to take it?), “support the devs” (why does someone who bought the app early have to support them twice?), and the perennial favorite: “it’s Apple’s fault”… and they’re somewhat inclined to agree:
Imagine you’re GadgetSoft and you’ve just released WidgetThing v1.0 to great acclaim. All ten of its main features are popular. You have some great ideas for how to expand and improve it, but it’s going to take a good chunk of time and effort to do so. At the end of that effort, you’ll be able to release WidgetThing v2.0 with five new features in only one of two ways: as an in-place upgrade, meaning all your existing customers get it for free. Or as an entirely new app, in which case your existing customers have to pay all over again.
TUAW goes on to explain that Apple doesn’t allow paid upgrades, but what irks us isn’t the question of whether developers should be paid for their hard work; it’s that users are being asked to buy features they’ve already paid for. Paid upgrades? Fine. Charge for new features? Fine. Raise the price of the original app because a developer’s mortgage is overdue? Fine. But don’t ask the consumer to pay for something they already paid for. That’s a cheap trick.