Smile has a new version of their excellent PDF markup app PDFpen for iOS. PDFpen 2 is a new version that requires a repurchase for owners of version one. This has become familiar to anyone who uses the App Store in the last year or so. Apple still does not allow upgrade pricing, so developers have little choice. That is, until iOS 8 and bundles came on the scene.
Bundles are not for upgrades. The idea behind bundles is for developers who offer multiple, related apps (The Omni Group comes to mind) at a discount price if you purchase them all. You can also “complete” your bundle if you purchased an individual app and want the others later.
Before iOS 8 even was released a lot of developers and users wondered if this feature could in some way solve the upgrade pricing problem. To my knowledge, this has been untested until now. Smile is the first example I know of any developer trying this. And the results are, well, mixed.
Here is how it works. Smile is still selling the old version along side the new. If you purchased the old one, the amount you paid is credited toward the purchase of the bundle. So you get a discount on the new app if you owned the older one, otherwise the bundle pricing is more.
And that is one of many downsides of this method. The problems include:
- The old app is still for sale, and may be accidentally purchased. In fact, it is currently appearing higher in search results than the new one.
- If you purchase the new app first without noticing the bundle, there is nothing you can do.
- Users may purchase the bundle without owning the prior version not realizing there is little value in doing so.
- Pricing is different depending on the device you use to purchase due to the old version being different prices for iPhone and iPad.
That lasts point affected me. I nearly bought the bundle on my iPhone until I realized that I owned the iPad version, which was more expensive. Sure enough, the bundle is $3 cheaper on my iPad than it is on my iPhone. The new app is universal, so it is the same on either device, but the old apps were not. There is no way to bundle in the cost you paid for both old versions though, so pick whatever is cheaper.
I don’t begrudge Smile doing this. In fact I am thankful, as I get an upgrade discount on the new app. But it really is a hack, and not a good replacement for true upgrade pricing in the App Store.