As many of you may know, I spend a good deal of money on mobile applications. Whether it is to test something interesting or because I need an application to perform a certain function, I "swipe" my card at least a couple times per month for some sort of app. Here recently, I've even started buying and playing more mobile games than before.
But there is a problem. I'm not particularly loyal to one brand, operating system or hardware. I tend to switch phones fairly often, which isn't a problem if I stay with one operating system, but in the past two months alone, I've switched from Android on my primary line to BlackBerry, Windows Phone and back to iOS. For each of these platforms (save for Windows Phone), I have paid for a decent amount of applications. In the past year, I've paid for over $120 for Android applications and $60 or more for iOS. And back in the day, I paid for roughly $40 of BlackBerry apps. That's somewhere north of $220 in mobile applications over a fairly short period of time.
The problem is, when I switch platforms, the applications I have purchased for one are not transferable to another OS. That, or sometimes developers create separate applications for phones and tablets. This is less common nowadays, but unfortunately, it's still prevalent.
I don't mind supporting a developer. In fact, I strongly believe in buying premium applications just to support the developer, even when there is no added functionality. But there is a point where I draw the line. If I've paid for an application once, I really don't feel like buying it a second time – especially not at full price – when I switch to another phone or tablet.
A perfect example of this is with Pocket Informant. Pocket Informant is a calendar and agenda application that originated on iOS. I bought the HD (iPad version) shortly after the original iPad launched for $6.99 (it's now $14.99). I used this application a lot – every day. But a few months ago, I sold my iPad and bought a Galaxy Tab 10.1. Sure, there is a built-in calendar that (obviously) has Google Calendar support, but it lacks quite a few features that Pocket Informant offered. To get the app on my Honeycomb tablet, I would have to buy it again for $9.99. That's not about to happen. It's a great app, but it's not that great.
Another example deals with the upcoming Adobe Touch Apps family. I plan on buying all six applications in the suite – Ideas, Photoshop Touch, Kuler, Proto, Ideas, Collage and Debut – once they launch, for $9.99 per app. That's $60 total. If I wanted them on both iOS and Android, that's $120. Yikes. Individually, at $9.99 per app, that's one heck of a deal. But I'm not about to buy them twice, based on principle.
If you were to buy Photoshop CS5 from Adobe, it would be compatible with both Windows and OS X. You buy it once and you can install it on different operating systems. Despite the fact that the full version of Photoshop is several hundred dollars versus the measly $10 for the Touch version, this is how mobile application purchases should be.
Unfortunately, however, there are some hurdles to overcome. Apple and Google are not going to get along and work together; they each want to make their money and cross-platform applications purchases would take a rather large chunk out of their multi-billion dollar cash cow. And developers aren't going to just give away copies of applications that they can easily sell to customers for full price. But the likelihood – for me, at least – of someone buying a $5 or $10 application for both Android and iOS is pretty low. Almost zero. These are investments that play a major role in which operating system I will use next; meaning I will stick with a particular OS instead of switching if I need the functionality of an application that I have already paid for.
What if developers and users could come to a consensus?
Even if the developer doesn't give away the application on another platform, they could at least offer some sort of deal: "If you buy the iOS app, get the Android version for only $0.99!" If the customer purchases the Android app first, they could be given a coupon code for the iOS version. Since Android Market doesn't allow the use of coupons, this could be done by offering a partial refund for the corresponding Android app (i.e.: buy the app for $6.99 and get a $6.00 refund). This a deal that I would take time and time again. That's another dollar in the developer's pocket and another app in my library that neither of us would have had otherwise. Seems pretty fair to me.
It could also be done by offering the app for free through the respective application store and have an in-app purchase to unlock the premium features. After the in-app purchase, you create an account that gives you universal access to the application, irrespective of the mobile platform.
What say you? Have you bought an Android or iOS app and wished you could have it on the other OS, too, but didn't feel like dishing out another $5? Do you think developers should offer deals to repeat customers? Or should customers have to pay full price both times?