In a matter of weeks, iOS 7 will be released. Anyone with a compatible iOS device (iPhone 4 or later, iPad 2 or later) will be eligible for the upgrade. There are plenty of tremendous features. The overarching tent pole feature this year will be the entirely new look. Apple has been promoting the new update for months, but I suspect when it lands it will generate both shock and awe. It’s polarizing. As Apple indicated at WWDC 13, there will be no charge for upgrading, but the move to iOS 7 won’t be free. Many developers will be creating all-new iOS 7 compatible versions of their apps that will require repurchase. That’s not to say that all apps will require a paid update to get iOS 7 UI and compatibility. Expect a divide come this September when people start upgrading to iOS 7 en-masse.
iOS Developer Gedeon Maheux, co-founder of Iconfactory, called the move to iOS 7 a watershed moment for developers. Some will use the opportunity to reboot their app says Maheux, using the move to iOS 7 an opportunity to re-coup costs. While he doesn’t use the ‘f’ word, Maheux alludes to possible fragmentation, with some developers going all in on iOS 7.
Some existing paid apps might even adopt an iOS 7 only strategy which means they’ll have no choice but to charge again.
For those who have been around iOS long enough, you surely remember the uproar when Atebits Tweetie went 2.0 and required people pay again. And when I say pay again, the total out-of-pocket for the new Tweetie 2.0 was $2.99. We’re not talking about hundreds of dollars required to update to the latest version of Aperture or the Adobe Creative Suite. Not since Better Off Dead, have people worried about such a small dollar figure. We could be on the brink of this happening again, but on a large scale.
For most users, they spend their time in apps. The demand for iPhone 5 compatible apps was big, but will pale in comparison to demand for apps that assimilate with the iOS 7 UI. The iPhone 5 was just one device. With iOS 7, the update will available to iPhone 4/4S/5 and iPad 2/3/4 and iPad mini customers. We’re talking about a much bigger market.
Some apps will be free to update, others won’t. It’s the cost of change. There are entirely new APIs and there is are significant costs associated with updating an app for iOS 7. The divide between free and paid updates to iOS 7 friendly apps will be a sticking point for some consumers. Why can developer A deliver a free update, but developer B wants to charge me? It’s not as simple as categorizing developer A as slapping some quick code together, while developer B spent hundreds of hours recoding. Some developers will spend a day making an app look the part and attempt to cash in, tarnishing others who have spent weeks, even months creating an entirely new iOS 7 experience.
There’s plenty of good stuff in iOS 7. New features like Control Center, improvements to apps including Camera and Photos help make it a wonderful update. It’s a shame, because some of those might get lost initially with people focusing entirely too much on the new pastel inspired icons. I suspect that over time, those feelings of angst will subside as people explore the depths of the OS. Change is hard and it’s not a slam dunk that this change is for the better. Unlike any iOS update, this one might end up being a costly one. I personally welcome a new breed of apps and will do my part to support development by upgrading as they become available. Have attitudes regarding paid app updates changed since Tweetie? We’ll find out next month. Are you comfortable with repurchasing an app that has been updated for iOS 7? Is there an expectation that with your repurchase, the developer needs to do more than simply update the UI? Join the conversation taking place in our forums or leave your comment below.