The App Store is an evil creation, with all those temptingly priced titbits willing you to tap the buy button while forgetting that doing so costs you real money. When there’s no notes to hand over or account numbers to type in, the feeling of spending is rather different to the norm in everyday life.
But the App Store is a cool place to visit regularly for another reason: app updates. Yes, barely a day goes by without one or more of your hard-bought apps ponying up a new version to download. Updates themselves have become a key part of the lifecycle of many games. Angry Birds really started to gather momentum when it became obvious that more and more new levels were going to appear every time a new build hit the App Store, without us having to pay any more money for the privilege. It was a genius way of building word of mouth through sheer strength of generosity.
I find myself checking the updates tab in the store a couple of times a day and tapping eagerly on the apps that appear, to discover what new treasures lie within. Often it’s just a boring bug fix (a letdown when it’s one of my favourite apps), but when there are new levels, new modes or new characters included, it’s straight on with the always speedy download and then into the app itself to see what has changed. Yesterday, NanoStudio – the best music app available by a country mile – turned up with a large number of new features, including audio copy/paste from other music apps and the ability to publish tunes directly to Soundcloud. This kind of update gets people talking again about the apps in question, which inevitably leads to more sales and, hopefully, a leap up the App Store charts.
So along with price drops, Lite versions and the nuclear option of making an app free for the weekend, updates are fast becoming a key weapon in the arsenal of developers who want to keep their wares in the spotlight. And that’s a good thing for all of us.