Apple’s iOS 7 finally became available on compatible iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches on September 18, and while the translucent design could cause a few issues for developers, they’re certainly not doing bad financially out of the new update.
Ever since Apple took the wraps off iOS 7 all the talk has been on the new design, the fresh typography, the redesigned icons and even less eye-catching features – such as the update for Siri and the improved enterprise features.
However, one thing that has swept under the radar has been how the operating system update is giving a shot in the arm to developers' bank balances.
With developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) deeming iOS 7 to be a clean slate, thanks in part to the new design language, some have decided to do the unthinkable; charge existing users for new apps.
Yes, rather than update apps to iOS 7 and allow existing users to upgrade for free, a number of developers have discarded the old version entirely and instead launched new apps that will cost money, irrespective if you’re a long-term customer or first-time user.
Popular RSS client Reeder was one of the first to go down this route, launching Reeder 2 for iPhone and iPad at $4.99 earlier this week, with Iconfactory – which is behind the popular Twitter app Twitteriffic – later argued that the business model made sense.
“I’m sure many users are expecting developers of popular applications to simply update interface elements, compile some code and easily drop a brand-spanking new version of their app onto the App Store for free,” said The Iconfactory co-founder Gedeon Maheux in a recent blog post.
"There’s little doubt that the majority of iOS 7 updates to existing apps will be free (which will please Apple), but I suspect there will be a surprising number of developers who will use the launch of the new operating system to completely re-boot their app, and why not? The visual and interactive paradigms iOS 7 mark a natural breaking off point and a perfect opportunity to re-coup costs."
Productivity app developer Readdle was one of these developers when it launched the iOS 7-ready Calendars 5 last week, albeit at an introductory price of $4.99 to lessen the blow to existing users. The firm’s CEO, Igor Zhadanov, told Cult of Mac why it made the decision.
“We at Readdle believe that when you ask a customer to pay for the upgrade, there should be good reason for that,” said Zhadanov.
”It doesn’t have to do much with the iOS 7 update, rather it’s about the product. We would be happy to provide discounts for our existing customers, but the lack of the upgrade pricing on the App Store is an issue." (Note: Apple has not introduced a way for developers to upgrade pricing in the App Store).
There were others too. Cult of Mac notes that Realmac Software's to-app Clear would be sold as a separate app for iOS 7, while productivity developer Omni Group announced similar news concerning its apps just last week.
The firm detailed how OmniFocus 2 for iPhone, OmniOutliner 2 for iPad and OmniPlan 2 for iPad would be redesigned for iOS 7 and would be “completely separate” from older versions. As a further disappoint to customers with older versions of iOS, Omni Group said that its older products – OmniFocus for iPhone, OmniOutliner for iPad and OmniPlan for iPad – would be removed from the App Store.
“Please note that we don’t plan on doing any more work on thee iOS 6 apps: our iPhone and iPad development efforts are now fully focused on iOS 7”, wrote CEO Ken Case.
(App Development will be a key panel at the upcoming TabletBiz conference & expo in New York on November 13.)
Developers want to ditch iOS 5 and 6
Compared to Android, Apple has few worries when it comes to fragmentation but it still made a smart move earlier this week when it tweaked the App Store so that users on older devices could download the “last compatible version” of an app, even if the app's latest version supports iOS 7.
That said, it appears that the developers themselves are keen to move on from older versions of iOS, in a bid to cut losses and to become more efficient.
"Developers love the ability to build products for smallest possible selection of platforms and architectures," said Viktoras Jucikas, the CTO of London events app YPlan, when speaking to The Guardian.
"With iOS 7 we'll be looking to drop iOS 5 support, which means we'll be able to migrate to constraint based layout, collection views and add support for state restoration. That makes things so much easier to maintain.”