Apple’s Illogical App Store Upgrade Process (Updated)

06/19/2012

FileMaker today released Bento 4 for iPad, which the company touts as a tool for creating databases on an iPad which the company calls “apps.” This is all well and good, but this upgrade revealed some inconsistencies in the iTunes Store.

First, if you search for Bento on the iTunes Store, you’ll see two versions of the program. (There are two iPad versions; there is one iPhone version, because that app did not get the upgrade.) So if you don’t have Bento, you won’t know which one to buy. The older one is just “Bento,” and the newer one is “Bento 4,” a big jump from version 1, which the older one bears.

Next, when you view the older version of Bento, you’ll see that it was updated today:



But that update seems to have just done one thing: it added this dialog when you launch the app on an iPad:



All this is very confusing. I understand that FileMaker wants to get people to pay for this upgrade, and the App Store – and the Mac App Store – have no way of selling apps at upgrade prices to existing customers. In fact, talking with a developer friend, it seems that there is no way to easily remove an app from either the iTunes App Store or the Mac App Store. Apparently one has to deselect all territories for the app to be sold in to remove it from sale. (This might have something to do with users being able to re-download apps, even after a developer has stopped selling them.)

But all this is confusing for users. Let’s say you just bought Bento, and found out, today, that there’s a new version. There’s no upgrade path, so you have to pay the full price for the new app. (To be fair, it is currently on sale for $5 – half price – but you have to spot the sale price before it’s too late.) Also, having two versions of the same app leads to confusion. People may come into the App Store from an external link in an article about Bento, and buy the older version, even now. At the very end of the app’s description, you can read the following text:

Please note: New Bento 4 for iPad is now available and sold separately. Bento is also available for the iPhone and iPod touch. Search on “Bento” to learn more.

But this requires that the user click on the More link in the description, and that they read all the way to the end.

Apple needs to figure out a better way to do this. It is illogical, confusing, and, in the end, unfair for many users who will end up buying older versions of apps that have been upgraded.

Update: Apple has now removed the older version of Bento from the App Store. I assume that users of the older version will still get the upgrade to the “new-older” version, the one with the dialog in the screen shot above, alerting them to the existence of the new version. But I’ve updated mine, so I can’t check.