Developers cannot monetize continuous development of their products.

Number:rdar://17845930 Date Originated:29-Jul-2014 03:46 PM
Status:Open Resolved:
Product:App Store Product Version:
Classification: Reproducible:Yes
Developers need a way to monetize long term development of their software. This will result in better quality software on the App Store and long term sustainability  of the small high quality indie developers on the App Store. Without proper incentives, you get Un-sustainability and many watered down Un-robust applications that do not solve real problems for users. 

I have a suggestion to incentivize developers to make their software better and help make their business sustainable  at the same time. This suggestion also has the great effect of giving "fans" of any particular app a voice and means of getting the features they desire since these are the exact features that they are willing to pay for.

So how can we allow paid upgrades, keep free updates, and make paid upgrades completely optional for developers and customers? 

My proposal is simple. When a developer creates “My great product 2.0” they do so as a new SKU, but can associate it as an upgrade of “My great product 1.0” in iTunes connect. When “My Great Product 2.0” is released, existing users will get notified of the availability of an upgrade. How? In the App Store app, the user will get a badge under updates. The updates section will include a row at the top labeled “Upgrades” below the "Purchased" item. Under this “Upgrades” section, users will get a list of all available paid upgrades for their apps. One important point, the new SKU should inherit the old SKU’s ratings, reviews and search ranking. This is critical for assuring to the developer no huge drop in sales overnight because of updating an app. Let's face it, if a developer is risking a huge drop in sales because of updating and make their product better, something is broken in this model and the incentives are misaligned.

This proposed solution allows developers to leverage the products existing user base, and phase out the older SKU without risking anything. It incentives developers to give users features they want. Oh and by the way, there should still be nothing stopping developers from “Updating” the older SKU for bug fixes , etc.  Those would continue to be free updates.Because users can still be assured free updates, I don't think they will feel slighted by this new policy. Expecting developers to grow a product for years, keeping it up to date with iOS, and all the advancements that will occur, for free is Un-realistic. 

 Its time to invite the true Apple developers to have a sustainable business model that makes them a profit and allows them to focus on what they love. Building great apps.

Steps to Reproduce:
1) Develop a quality app and put it up for sale on the App Store.
2) Update your app several times over the next several years

Expected Results:
1) Develop a quality app and put it up for sale on the App Store.
2) Update your app with minor maintenance releases which fix bugs and make minor improvements .
3) Minor updates get pushed to users immediately for free  
4) Ratings counts do not get reset to zero
5) Get feedback from fans of your app
6) Plan an Upgrade that will give users the features you want
7) Have pride and assurance that you are taking care of customers, and they will take care of you IF they want these new features. You can work heads down in your product making it better, knowing you get compensated for the work.
8) Release a new SKU on the App Store for 2.0 of your app, and associate it to the 1.0 SKU.
9) This linkage notifies users of great new features available for a small price.
10) leverage existing user base to bring in a small upgrade windfall that keeps your business afloat.
11) smile and repeat

Note: This policy change will also reduce developers from creating too many "One Off" apps to grow revenue, and allow a simpler business model for them. 

Actual Results:
1) Observe that improving your product with an update resets reviews and ratings, making your app less attractive to customers and can lower sales
2) Become  fearful that updating your app could result in huge sales drops.
3) Realize you are better off not updating your app, since your competition has 1000 ratings, and yours will drop to zero if you do an update
4) Notice that you did not make a dime on that several months of work
5) Stop updating your apps so often

Also if you instead create a new SKU today, there is no way for existing customers to be notified in any reasonable way, since customers are anonymous to developers. So the new SKU has a great chance of slowly sinking in sales.





Additional Information Added:

I'd like to add a suggestion about how the "Upgrades" notification works. It would be nice if in the "Upgrades" list there is a switch "Notify me of Upgrades" which sends a push notification to the user when a new upgrade is available. Of course as a developer myself, I'd love if that notification allowed them to purchase the upgrade right in that notification. But one can only hope. I'd also like to mention that it would make sense to include "Upgrades" of all apps ever purchased, not just apps installed. Why? Well because maybe when they tried the app it didn't have the features they wanted, but maybe now it does!!  Perhaps users can ignore items in the list by swiping the row too.


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