I love Instacast. It’s the best podcasting app that’s available for iOS as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been a fan of it since day one too, and this 2.0 release certainly does not disappoint. Here’s the thing: since Apple has no infrastructure in place to support paid app upgrades, developers are forced to either take massive profit loses by charging very little, or offer in-app purchases in an effort to recoup their some of their development costs. This is what happened with the recent release of Instacast 2.0 for iPhone (the iPad version will get updated later on). The developer, Vemedio in this case decided to drop the price of the app from $4.99 to $0.99 — though some features previously had were removed and added into a “Pro” in-app purchase for $1.99 — arguably this price is a pittance.
I’ve been involved in the software industry for a number of years, and have worked closely with developers, project managers, and designers. I know how hard all of these people work to ship a major new release. Shipping is not easy. You pour your heart and soul into the product, and hope that the pricing is right to sustain further development. Once you ship, the party doesn’t stop. You need to have a healthy dose of cash flowing in every month in order to pay people to continue to iterate and work on your app. If you’re just a one man or woman development shop, you may only need worry about yourself, however it’s even more important that you have a sustainable business model so you can remain self-employed.<
It saddens me when I see a small development company like Vemedio release a great 2.0 product, but get rewarded with plenty of one and two star reviews — all people bitching about the pricing structure change. Look, I get that some people are pissed off that features they previously had, such as playlist management, were removed and then added as an in-app purchase. The thing is, $1.99 is such an insignificant price to pay for that plus a few other great features. Unlike what some believe, push notifications were never a feature in Instacast 1.0 (only local notifications were supported). I look at the in-app purchase as a way of funding the continued development of a fantastic product. Besides, if 2.0 were released as a completely separate product, you’d end up paying more for a major upgrade — likely $4.99, which was the original price prior to the latest release.<
As soon as I installed 2.0, I happily paid the $1.99 for the in-app purchase. There’s no good reason why anyone should be upset by the new pricing structure of the app. Since the inception of the App Store and the $0.99 impulse buy, we have cultivated an ecosystem where incredibly powerful software is available for purchase for less money than what you spend at Starbucks every month. Unfortunately, some people have a huge sense of entitlement, and think they’re now owed something for nothing when developers decide to offer things like in-app purchases.
We simply can’t continue to foster a robust ecosystem of amazing app development, if developers themselves are constantly pressured into lowering the price of their apps — all whilst delivering more and more features to the end-user. This is beyond a shadow of a doubt, not sustainable, and it’s an unrealistic expectation for any of us to have.
If you enjoy beautiful, hand-crafted software on your iPhone, there’s zero reason why you should hesitate to buy the $1.99 in-app purchase. You won’t regret it, not to mention you’ll know that money is being funnelled back into the continued improvement of a truly great product.