Earlier today Tapbots launched Tweetbot 2.0, and Tweetbot for iPad and an explosion of tweets followed. Most of the remarks were overwhelmingly positive, but there were a fair amount criticizing the Tapbots team for not making the app universal. This is an issue that I’ve wanted to write about for some time, but today forced my hand. Let me say that even though I use both Tweetbot apps (and really like them), my focus isn’t so much on the apps, but the response that the two app vs universal binary decision invokes.
We can all agree that Apple’s App Store ecosystem is pretty fantastic for its users. You can find just about any tool that you’re looking for for a minimal price. Even most higher priced “premium” apps such as the offerings from OmniGroup are less than $40. I’m totally willing to shell out this kind of cash for a tool that makes my workflow significantly easier, although I recognize that not all will. The argument over app pricing usually revolves around whether or not it is universal for both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad.
Today I saw loads of tweets from people complaining that Tweetbot wasn’t universal and they felt they were entitled to have it that way. Now there’s no way for me not to sound insulting even though I don’t mean to be, but that premise is totally ludicrous. The thought that a small development team is expected to do months work for free is insane to me. Yes, there are tons of successful apps that are universal (see Instapaper, Due, and Twitteriffic), but the perception that we are entitled to that is not only selfish, it’s just plain wrong. Universal app updates that come for free should be considered a bonus, not a right. A while back Iconfactory developer Craig Hockenberry gave a ballpark on Twitteriffic’s development. He estimated that it cost around $250,000 to develop Twitterrific. Think about that for a second. Still think you’re entitled to free universal updates for the lifetime of an app? I sure don’t.
Using Tweetbot as a model, one can argue that these are two completely different apps, and thus warrant two separate payments from users. The iPad version sports an all new interface, and new code. On top of that I’m sure a lot of server upgrades were needed for the push notification service. I’m also certain there are a slew of other things I’m not aware of since I’m not a developer, and I’ll bet that they all carry a cost. Above all of that, these guys are trying to make a living and provide for their families just like you and I. If our boss walked in on payday and said that this week’s paycheck wasn’t coming for the good of the customer would that be acceptable to any of us? Didn’t think so. Then there’s the “I don’t have money to buy all these apps” argument. Let’s be real here; if you paid between $199 and $900 for an iPhone or an iPad, that argument is slightly irrelevant. $3 won’t kill you, I promise. I don’t want to assume people’s financial status, but there’s nothing forcing you to buy the app in the first place. Some may think that I’m being unfair, but I feel strongly that good work should be paid for. To be honest, I’d pay double or more for a solid app like Tweetbot. So let’s all skip our morning latte and cough up 3 bucks.