April 17, 2012
Success isn’t always good. Just ask the folks behind the popular Paper by FiftyThree app, which arrived for iPad just weeks ago. The app has already been downloaded 1.5 million times, but is now facing some customer backlash over its in-app purchase options. First launched on March 29, the free drawing app has recently received criticism from many of those same customers that likely convinced Apple to name it the App Store's App Of The Month. Paper by FiftyThree was also named AppAdvice’s App Of The Week on March 30. Paper by FiftyThree, however, isn’t being panned for anything it does. Rather, people are upset with the prices the app's developers are charging for in-app purchases. You see, the app only includes one free drawing tool. Four others are available for $1.99 each. These include Color, Sketch, Write, and Outline. You can also purchase all of the above in an “Essentials” pack for $7.99.
Here’s where things breakdownIn the U.S., the bundle is actually $.03 more than if you were to purchase the tools separately ($7.99 versus $7.96). While $.03 isn’t much of a big deal, consider the situation in Australia. There the Essentials bundle is $8.49 AU, while each brush is $1.99 AU each. In this case, customers pay $.53 more for the bundle for the same tools. In the U.K. by comparison, the bundle is £5.49, versus £1.49 separately. In this case, the bundle is actually less expensive by £0.47. Naturally, customers are angry about the pricing differences since many purchased the bundle without first seeing the pricing anomalies. Says illum007 on Paper’s customer forum:
Seems underhanded. I'm going home to review with one star and will also request a refund via Apple directly.According to Paper’s Aseem Kishore, speaking on another part of the forum, the problem is the result of how Apple sets prices.
“It's not clear that we can fix it immediately. We can only set price "tiers", and Apple maps those to prices across different countries, which aren't consistent.”In fact, only Apple benefits from the pricing differences. This is because Apple pays developers in accordance with the U.S. pricing system. In other words, for each Essentials pack that is sold, Fiftythree receives $7.99 U.S., minus Apple’s 30 percent.
What Not To DoWith exchange rates changing daily, there isn’t much that can be done. However, one solution would be for Apple to allow developers to insert some sort of message into their apps explaining pricing differences when they occur. What customers shouldn’t do is give Paper by FiftyThree, or any other app that has this type of pricing irregularity, a bad review in the App Store. Unfortunately, in this case, many have already decided to give Paper a one- or two-star rating for this reason alone. Our advice is for customers to look at in-app pricing more carefully, especially when bundles are offered. After all, while $.53 AU doesn’t sound like a lot, those pennies can add up. In the meantime, we encourage our readers to download and install Paper by FiftyThree. It really is a terrific app. Finally, be sure to check out our original review for more about Paper. Have you noticed any other apps for the iPhone/iPod touch or iPad that also have in-app pricing inconsistencies? Which ones? -- We thank AppAdvice reader Richard Gibbs for bringing this story to our attention.
Paper by FiftyThree