Why there won’t be a GPS Log HD

When you port your App to the iPad, one of the first choices you get is whether to create a separate product, or a fat (i.e. “universal”) binary.

It seems that many folks on the App store, including several apps in the GPS/travel space have gone done the separate-product route.

Perhaps I understand why they did this. After all, it is not trivial to port an App to the iPad (basically your UI needs a complete re-think). For some apps, they have gone so far as to offer a totally new UI, using real life metaphors like “pages” and “books”.

I still think it’s a bad idea. Why? For two main reasons:
1) customers don’t like paying for the same product twice
2) how many people will actually buy both versions anyway?

Yes the iPad version costs you money to make. BUT, it will hopefully get you more customers. New customers who buy it for their iPad.

Historically I know of several products that used to ship with multiple targets. Warcraft 3 is one, and Adobe’s suite is another, both supported both Mac and Windows. Many steam games now support Mac as well (and don’t require re-purchasing).

So my theory is most users won’t buy the App twice. Some will buy it for the iPhone, some will buy it for the iPad. If you have the one binary to support both, a few will run it on both, and find that useful. If you sell it separately, I doubt most people would buy the counterpart, simply because they would use one device more than the other. Furthermore, users that have already bought the iPhone version get that installed to their iPad anyway, which may be enough.

So rather than trying to milk your existing customers to pay for the port, think of it this way: You get new customers (those who have never used your app, and want to use your App on the iPad), you add value to your product (by allowing use of both devices) which may give you an edge. And you’re doing the right thing (ask yourself, do you like paying for the same thing twice?).

I think so few customers will buy the app TWICE, that you actually de-value your product. I suspect that the number of additional people who buy your App because it supports both, will outweigh the number of people who would have bought a second copy, and that both categories of users represent only a small percentage anyway.

And please, don’t try to claim “but the iPad version is different”. I don’t care if it has a fancy book UI, a re-arranged layout, or up-res’d textures. If it performs the same function, it’s the same App.

GPS Log for iPad. Coming soon. Free for existing users.

Will


3 comments on “Why there won’t be a GPS Log HD

  1. I agree with this in principle, and it’s exactly why I made my app universal as a free update. However, the reason to do the opposite became apparent after the update hit the app store.

    To my surprise and disappointment, app updates no longer bump an app to the top of the “new releases” list. Therefore, the update I spend considerable time (and the retail price of an iPad) on did not provide any advantage in terms of app store exposure whatsoever. Despite being brand new to the list of native iPad apps!

    The result? After spending the time, money and effort “doing the right thing” by converting my existing app to a universal app, my sales slightly diminished as the app store was flooded by “new release” iPad-only versions of other iPhone apps, pushing my app further down the charts. Pretty much the same effect as if I had just sat on my arse and done nothing. Plus, I still got a few people whining about being “the same” as the iPhone version, despite being literally the same app and being provided for free. There really is no pleasing some people.

    I really wouldn’t have wanted to sell the iPad version separately, since it really is so similar to running the iPhone version on an iPad. But I was getting emails daily requesting an iPad version, from people who cared enough about that small difference that they would have been more than happy to spend another $2. Plus, considering the lower user base of iPad owners, you really can’t rely on volume, which means you can’t afford to sell apps for the tiny prices that iPhone apps go for. Besides, anyone who bought an iPad clearly has money to burn. I’m convinced that most of the complaints about app prices come from students, who wouldn’t hesitate to complain about one free app being not as good as a different free app.

    As a user, I really do hate separate HD versions (if only there was an ‘upgrade’ pricing option!) but developers have to “do the right thing” for themselves, not just for the users. The system should favour universal apps, but it doesn’t. The system should promote feature updates, but it doesn’t. Separate HD versions get all the benefits that universal upgrades should get, but don’t.

    Anyway, in conclusion: I wish things worked in favour of universal app upgrades, but in reality the users win while the developers lose. People that want an “HD” version are prepared to pay for it (let’s face it, app prices won’t exactly break the bank), and people that would object to paying a few dollars can clearly live without it. You might get a few pissy customer reviews, but hey, there’s no way to sort apps by rating anyway and the top 10 is consistently filled with apps rated 3 stars or below. The store is broken and developers have found a workaround.

  2. Couple of clarifications:

    Actually, releasing an iPad version did affect my app store exposure… but only on the iPad side of the store. I was hoping that this would help boost the app in the iPhone side charts, but in fact it’s barely maintained its old position during all the turbulence. FYI, my app is doing reasonably well in the iPad charts! Which just drives home how insignificant the iPad market is.

    Another reason not to do a universal update: One size fits all. You can’t upload a separate iPhone and iPad version, the universal package has to contain the assets for both. Every time an app I own goes universal, it gets about five times larger… on my iPhone! That thing only has 16gb space and it’s always full as it is. Now every time I update my apps I have to delete some things to make room for the new assets that my iPhone will never even load.

    Store’s broken. Workaround.

  3. Ergh. I hadn’t thought of that. At the very least, the first update with iPad should bump you up the list. That’s really bad, how the others get the chart boost for the iPad version. Wow.

    Easy to see why one app approach these days is to just “throw darts at the dartboard and see which sticks…”. The guy who writes 10 shit apps gets them featured every time, my 1 app gets featured once regardless of the updates.

    How can people possibly complain with the free update? Imagine if they’d bought a “HD” version… guess then at least you’d have their money.

    With GPS Log in particular, it’s not quite the same experience as the iPhone, only the 3G iPad has a GPS, and neither have a camera (both hardware are pretty crucial). So any HD version I probably couldn’t justify the same price tag. So I guess I’ll just release the fat binary anyway, to advantage existing users.

    As for the bloat, what a pity iTunes can’t download the (literally) “fat” binary, then just serve out what you need to the specific hardware? I totally agree – there is little room on my iPhone as it is. If we *have* to use iTunes anyway, it may as well do some good. At least for the iPad, they’re screwed as I don’t think there is a way to determine what assets are what programatically. For the iPhone4, it would be easy, as either the high-res graphic exists, or it doesn’t (or vice versa). Maybe this would have been better if it was designed for from the start…

    Will