Although the Mac has its own App Store, it’s not exactly as popular as the iOS App Store since Mac users can install apps from third-party sources. And while some developers trust their apps to the App Store, Apple’s platform lets them down in some ways. This time, developers of the Kaleidoscope app wrote a letter complaining about App Store bundles and the lack of paid app upgrades.
For those unfamiliar, Kaleidoscope is a popular macOS app that offers advanced tools for comparing folders and files. The app was recently acquired by Letter Opener, which has committed to releasing a major update to Kaleidoscope to make the app more modern and better.
In October last year, Kaleidoscope 3 was released with a new interface, dark mode, native support for M1 Macs, and more. The team decided to charge for the upgrade due to the efforts to keep the app updated. Dealing with this process through the company’s own website was easy, but the App Store version of Kaleidoscope made things difficult for developers.
The ‘pitfalls’ of the App Store
One huge problem is that the App Store has never supported paid app upgrades, which are common when software gets a completely new version. Although the developer can release the update as a new app, everyone who owns the old version has to buy the new one at full price, since there’s no way to set a discounted price for current users.
As noted by Kaleidoscope’s developers, App Bundles seemed like a “potential solution” to this problem. With this feature, which was introduced in 2014, developers can offer bundles of two or more apps on the App Store for a discounted price. And if you already have one of the apps included in the bundle, the price will be lower.
Unfortunately, Letter Opener realized that App Bundles have more disadvantages than advantages, but it was too late. For instance, if the user changes the country of their Apple ID, the bundle price discount no longer works. At the same time, developers have “very limited pricing choices” when creating an App Store bundle, so they can’t choose exactly how much they want to charge their customers.
But this is not all. The upgrade price is not the same for everyone, since it depends on how much the customer paid for a single app in the past. If the app was purchased during a special offer, the upgrade bundle will cost more. Apple also requires that all apps in the bundle must be available for sale separately on the App Store, so they can’t just stop selling Kaleidoscope 2 to new users.
Is there a solution?
Right now, there isn’t. Apple now lets developers unlist an app, which hides it from the App Store unless you have a direct link to it. However, the bundle still indicates that it comes with two apps, although only one of them is shown to the user – making things even more confusing.
The team at Letter Opener has sent multiple reports to Apple asking for improvements in this aspect, but Apple hasn’t provided any details other than asking for more information from the developers.
Situations like this make it clear why there are many developers who simply ignore the Mac App Store, as it turns app distribution into a nightmare. In the past, multiple developers have complained about how Apple has been prioritizing subscriptions and forgetting that there are still many apps available as a one-time purchase.
As long as the Mac App Store doesn’t let developers charge for app upgrades or do something as simple as offer a trial period not tied to a subscription, it is unlikely to become a relevant platform for many Mac developers.
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