Movies are awesome but…

Written by David Frampton @ 9:54 am, March 27, 2010

Movies are awesome to watch in the theatre… but…

Why make all the effort to go to the movies, when you can watch HD Blu-rays at home a little later, only a little worse, and eventually a little cheaper. A PS3 and a decent sound system isn’t far behind.

But I don’t pick up many Blu-rays. They often cost more than the cinemas, and sometimes don’t play without a player update, or take forever to load up. Does anyone understand those insane menus? And DVDs are way cheaper, play on more systems, and are not much worse.

I hardly ever watch DVDs though, they are full of piracy warnings and I have to go to the store to get them. They get scratches and skip or don’t play. iTunes movies on an AppleTV are much more convenient.

But I don’t download many iTunes movies. The selection is crap, and bandwidth charges really add up. The AppleTV has DRM and such too. It’s easier and cheaper to just torrent them.

I don’t torrent much stuff though, it takes forever, uses up my bandwidth and it’s often shit quality. And I worry that my ISP might be watching me.

I’d much rather just go and watch the movie at a decent quality in a theatre.

App Store gifting scam

Written by David Frampton @ 2:13 am, March 26, 2010

UPDATE – I had made the incorrect assumption that apps could be gifted using an account balance loaded from gift cards. This is not the case. Gifted apps require payment by credit card, as kindly pointed out in the comments by Zeno Popovici and verified by myself. I regret the error, and have modified this post accordingly. I would actually go as far as to say without this part of it, it’s no longer really a scam. I’d now call it ‘gaming the system’.

UPDATE 2 – It has now been discovered that gifting does not affect ranks. So the scam doesn’t exist now (it may never have) and I regret doing this whole post. I’ll leave it here however, as a reminder to wait until all the facts are known before ranting about what could be. Lesson learned. Now move along :)

Earlier this week, Apple opened up app ‘gifting’. Anyone can give any app to anyone else as a gift. This has been available for music for a long time, but it has only been applied to apps this week.

So that’s great right? Perhaps, but it opens up the potential for a pretty big scam.

The first thing to note, is that developers will still get 70% of the purchase price of gifted apps. So developers can gift their own apps to anyone, and in the end, only pay 30% of the purchase price to do so.

OK, but why would developers do that? Well, doing bulk giveaways was not possible before. Developers had 50 promo codes per update, and that was it. Now developers can do big giveaways of 1000 apps+.

So why do that? The obvious answer is to gain press and interest. Large scale giveaways attract attention, so for $300, a developer can give away 1000 copies of their app, and lavish in all the attention this creates.

But it gets better. To gift an app, you need the email address of the recipient. This is how Apple knows who to credit the app too. So not only does a developer get hype and press, but 1000 email addresses to stick on their mailing list, and announce new products to.

And it gets better still. At this point, no one is certain of whether gifted apps affect ranks in the top 100s. But unless Apple are displaying an uncharacteristic bout of careful App Store planning, they almost certainly will. So currently, there is a very good chance, that the day a developer gifts those 1000 copies, their app hits the top 100, and gets all the extra eye-balls such a placement receives.

The developer need only sell 300 copies due to the higher top 100 placement, and this little scam has paid for itself.

But wait, there’s more.

Developers needn’t pay full price when they gift their app. Right now in New Zealand you can buy 2x$20 iTunes gift cards for $30. I have heard of similar specials being held in the US at places like Best Buy.

So at 25% off, you’re paying only 5c per 99c app giveaway. And in New Zealand’s case, and no doubt some other locations, you’re paying GST for the card, but not on the app purchase. So apple end up actually paying me around 5c (tax free) every time I gift an app.

So, I get press, a mailing list to spam, a shot at the top 100 with the associated extra sales, and Apple pay me $50 to do it.


Except I won’t do it. If it’s not legally wrong, it’s certainly morally wrong. I’m posting this as it is interesting, and perhaps as a warning to Apple, but I hope developers won’t do this. It would make a mockery of the store, and is unfair to Apple, and unfair to honest developers.

Unfortunately, some developers will, and some are already trying it out to some degree.

I just hope Apple close the loophole before this gets out of hand. A limit to the number of gifts you can send per account per month would probably do the trick.

Universal iPad Apps

Written by David Frampton @ 10:03 am, March 24, 2010

As I am writing this blog post, the iPad is less than two weeks from launch. Developers have three days to submit iPad apps if they want them considered for the ‘Grand opening of the iPad App Store’. But us developers are a little unsure on one thing.

To be universal or not to be universal. That is the question.

There are a ridiculous number of apps in the app store, and a decent number of those apps will have native iPad ports available on April the 3rd. Some of them will ask the user to pay for the native iPad version if they already have the iPhone version, some will not.

Some will unfairly demand payment for the same app with twice the pixels. Some will fairly ask for a contribution to the large amount of work involved in tailoring an experience for a uniquely new device.

How developers’ decisions to go universal or not are perceived by the public is currently an unknown. It largely depends on how Apple implement the iPad App Store, and change the iPhone App Store, as well as what other developers decide to do.

But my apps will be universal. Apple are encouraging it, and customers will vocally prefer it.

And though I may halve my sales, I also may double the number of devices I have apps installed on. The maths of this is all a bit beyond me, but a hunch says that the day one iPad users will sell my apps better than anyone else ever will. I want them all, and making my apps universal is a good way to get them.

UPDATE – It has been pointed out to me that Apple are requesting that submissions of universal updates to current apps be left until after April 3rd. See about half way down this page: – “Don’t submit a universal app as an update to your existing iPhone app until after iPad ships.”

This sucks, as I’ll be missing out on the launch, but I’ll be going universal anyway, and most of this post still stands. I guess we’ll just see substantially less universal apps at launch.