Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Crippleware on the iPhone

Many apps have a free and paid version. If you pay money, you get the advanced and uber-cool features, while basic features are free. Software creators have every right to set whatever price they wish for their work and the line between what features should be free or paid is wherever the software creator says it is. It is then up to users to decide whether the software is worth the cost.

Some apps claim to be free while putting very basic functions behind a pay wall, making real use of the basic version either impossible or extremely frustrating (see crippleware). The most benign form of crippleware are trial versions or apps that at least tell you in advance what you can expect. Note that benign here just means "really frustrating, but at least you know what you are getting."

Kilojoule & Calorie Counter by ShapeUp Club for the iPhone is, in my opinion, crippleware. From what I can see it is the only app that lets me use kilojoules rather than calories - I live in a metric country thank you! To find a food, you can drill down through their database or perform an in-app search that hits the internet. There is also a tab in the app for "recent" food items, so you don't have to repeat the process over and over to find the same food again.

Except that in this app, when you hit that tab it says you have to pay. And not just pay $5 or $10 for the Pro version of the app. They want you to subscribe to the ShapeUp Club for $38 per year. I don't want to subscribe to a club: I don't want to participate in anything their website has to offer. I only want to use the app. Given the nature of this app is about choosing food items several times a day, I consider the "recent" tab to be a basic function.

I would have been prepared to pay $5 or $10 for a full version. When I contacted ShapeUp Club and asked if they would provide a Pro version without the subscription, they replied:

Most part of ShapeUp Club is free to use, but we also offer a gold membership for more advanced features. I'm sorry that you think this is expensive, but you can try to buy one month subscription if you want to test the features and see if you like it.

I hope you will enjoy our service!

What a shame. So now I use MyFitnessPal on the iPhone, which I thoroughly recommend to anyone - it doesn't have kilojoules, which is a big shame. But it is free, and has the "recent" foods option available.

While I am on the topic, UNO Free! is the most blatant and repugnant version of crippleware I have ever seen on the iPhone: it lets you play one card and then quits, telling you to buy the paid version.

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