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app store

It’s the time of the year for gifts, and yet if you spend enough time around AppStorm and other app-focused sites, you’ll find a number of gifts throughout the year. We’re always excited to feature a giveaway of an app we love, and I’m certain many of you have filled your launchpads with apps you’ve picked up on deals and free giveaways we’ve featured. And yet, there’s one thing that always seems to stump almost everyone once in a while: redeeming gift codes.

So here, in a nutshell, is how to redeem an App Store gift code for any Mac or iOS app — or just to add App Store credit to your account if you’re lucky enough to find an iTunes Gift Card in your stocking this year.

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Turkey Day 2013 is over, and now it’s time for the biggest savings of the year: Black Friday and its close cousin Cyber Monday. And, as usual, there’s more than enough incredible deals to go around. There’s Apple Store gift cards if you buy a new Mac, steep discounts on App Store apps, and much more. Best of all, the majority of them are open to anyone, anywhere — even if you’re not in the US, there’s plenty of Black Friday offers for everyone!

Here’s the very best deals for apps and gadgets we love and recommend — but hurry, most of the deals are only for today or this weekend!

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It’s US Thanksgiving today, the day we set aside to eat turkey, play (or, more likely, watch) American football, and hopefully spend at least a few minutes of reflection about what we’re thankful for from the past year. And so, why not think about the Apps you’re most thankful for at the same time? After all, they’re the tools that have freed you up this year, made your devices come to live in new ways, and perhaps helped you acquire new skills. Why not be thankful for them too?

The app I’m most thankful for this year won’t come as a surprise to faithful Mac.AppStorm readers: Ulysses III. That writing app — especially with its new full-library search — has changed how I write and save text, and holds everything from article drafts to notes to archived published writings. It’s awesome.

There’s so many more great apps that I’ve started using this year or become better acquainted with, from the newly-updated-but-notnew MailMate and Pixelmator to brand-new apps like Ember and ReadKit, it’d take forever to list them all. But then, that’s what our upcoming roundup of the very best apps of 2013 is for.

So today, we’d love to hear what brand new apps you’re thankful for in 2013. Tell us why you love the app, and how you use it – and it just might end up being featured in our best of 2013 roundup.

And while we’re taking about being thankful, hey: thank you for being part of our community!

No matter how much developers and users alike have hoped Apple would bring traditional upgrade pricing to the App Store, it’s not going to happen. Traditional upgrades — where you get a discount on version 2 if you already own version 1 — have been deemed too complex. In a world where simplicity rules and everyone is supposed to be treated the same, that’s one confusion too many for Apple.

So, they’ve opted to slash the prices on their own apps — all the way to free for most of their consumer products — and charge full price for new versions. 3rd party developers have been left to do the same, making the App Store the place where apps like Pixelmator get seemingly endless upgrades for free while other apps get full-priced new versions as we’ve seen with so many iOS 7 apps this year.

But that might not be the only way. The Omni Group has been the most bold at trying to find ways to offer traditional upgrade pricing with their OmniKeyMaster, a short-lived attempt to offer App Store customers upgrade pricing on their own store. And now they’re fighting again, with the most brilliant use of in-app purchases yet.

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Imagine, for a moment, that the apps bundled with OS X — Preview, TextEdit, Safari, Mail, and the rest — along with the iWork and iLife apps were the only apps that could run on the Mac. There’d still be a lot you could do with a Mac, and some would still buy them — but in all reality, if there were no 3rd party apps for the Mac, we’d all end up switching platforms.

Apps make or break our computing experiences. They’re what make a thousand dollar slab of aluminum turn into something that can do whatever we want. The lack of indie apps on Windows is one of the sharpest contrasts with the Mac’s vibrant 3rd party app market — and that’s what keeps our Macs being amazing machines, far more than the core stuff in OS X.

But apps are tough to make, and take serious time and money to develop and design and support. And it’s getting harder — the race to the bottom in app pricing has made it tough for developers to keep making amazing apps. It’s time we started helping developers out.

Here’s how:

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The App Store made buying software something normal people do again — but almost as quickly, it’s seemingly turned into a marketplace of free apps paid for by in-app purchases. Marco Arment of Instapaper fame has argued that “Paid-up-front iOS apps had a great run, but it’s over”, while Joe Cieplinski, the developer behind Teleprompt+, argues that “there is a whole world of untapped potential on the App Store for developers who can solve real problems for people who are happy to pay.” I’ve always sided with the latter argument that paid apps will never die, but it only takes a few minutes of browsing the App Store to see that freemium apps have seriously encroached on the domains previously held by paid apps.

Are paid apps dead, or not — and is this just about iOS, or is it the same on the Mac? To answer that, we’ve talked with Nik Fletcher, product manager at Realmac Software, about their team’s experiences with app pricing and sales on both the iOS and Mac App Store. Realmac has recently faced backlash on the iOS App Store over Clear+’s pricing, but at the same time decided not to run discounts on their pro Mac apps, so they have a unique perspective on both markets.

To them, there’s a bright future for carefully considered in-app purchases and paid pro software. Here’s the interview:

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In-App Purchases have earned quite the bad reputation since they were first introduced to the App Store with iOS 3 in 2009. Their addition to the Mac App Store was met with dread and foreboding that it’d spell the end of quality paid apps in the wake of freemium apps filled with ridiculous in-app purchases. That hasn’t happened on the Mac yet, but on iOS, it seems like the traditional paid market is eroded more and more every day by free apps with in-app purchases.

The bad reputation is undeserved, though. I’m as critical of apps with in-app purchases as anyone could be — their very presence on free apps makes me skip the app by default unless it looks very impressive otherwise. But they don’t have to be bad.

Right now, the Mac App Store has escaped the worst of the race to the bottom in app pricing, in large part thanks to the fact that Mac developers can still distribute free trials to their apps on their own sites. It’s on the iPhone and iPad that in-app purchases have taken over, with a vengeance. Smartphone apps, perhaps, aren’t the best thing to compare to Mac apps, but iPad apps surely are fairly easily to compare, since many people today use iPads as laptop replacements. If in-app purchases are to be the future of app sales — especially on the Mac — they’d better be done right, and the best iPad apps with in-app purchases today are the best examples of how in-app purchases can be done well.

Paid apps aren’t dead, but in-app purchases are still going to be a big part of the app discussion going forward. Here’s what they need to make them work in a way that’s equal to or better than the traditional paid app market.

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Adobe and Microsoft — along with Evernote, Wunderlist, and other web app companies — think the future of software is subscriptions. Apple seems to think the future is lower priced pro apps without upgrades on the App Store, and free bundled apps for everything else. Game developers think the future is free apps with in-app purchases. And traditional developers with paid apps and discounted upgrades are being pushed to the side.

Is paid indie software doomed, perhaps by the very App Store that pushed so many developers to prominence?

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After making an app just to help their App Store customers move away from the App Store, the Omni Group has just removed their OmniKeyMaster app and stated that they can no longer offer upgrade pricing to their Mac App Store customers. It’s a surprising turnaround for a team that has offered their own workarounds for App Store policies already, such as extending a 30 day money-back guarantee even when Apple itself doesn’t, and even more surprising since apps like TextExpander have made workarounds to help App Store customers move back to non-App Store versions of their apps.

This time, though, it seems Apple itself didn’t want Omni’s App Store customers moving away.

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The App Store’s arrival on the Mac is hard to classify as anything other than a good thing. It’s made great indie Mac apps more discoverable for new Mac users, helped spur the transition of many apps from the iPad back to the Mac, lowered the price of Apple’s pro apps, and even made installing updates for OS X and apps a simple process — one that gets even simpler in Mavericks. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on Mac App Store apps, and there’s every indicator that I’ll spend hundreds more over the coming decades.

And yet, it’s not perfect. Its sandbox restrictions have prevented apps like TextExpander from releasing their newest versions in the App Store, and the review process is slow enough that you’ll have to wait days after updates are ready to get them in your apps. But worst of all, there’s no way to offer upgrade pricing for new versions of apps. Instead, developers have to either release new versions as a free update for those who have purchased their apps already, or just make a “new” app for the new version, perhaps with a launch-day special price as an overture to those who owned the previous version.

For developers like the Omni Group, that just wouldn’t work out. (more…)

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