General discussion

iBird Explorer Plus Reneges Promised Upgrades

The Mitch Waite Group has gotten away with cheating its customers with its $20 iBird Explorer software for iPhone. This otherwise excellent software for identifying birds has been dishonest about its upgrade policies.

A little over a year ago, Mitch Waite Group introduced iBird Explorer Plus, which it billed at the time as the ultimate software for bird watchers. Its sales pitch on Apple's AppStore explicitly promised users that if they would buy the app at that time, they would enjoy the benefits of a long list of promised upgrades. Shortly thereafter, Mitch Waite Group introduced those promised upgrades, but not in iBird Explorer Plus. To get them, one had to buy iBird Explorer Pro for an additional $30, a supposedly "new" app aimed at a different audience. There was no truth to this. It was the same old app, with the new features bolted on. Worse, it was the same audience, those of us who had spent handsomely on the promise of having the best possible app for bird watching. How I wish I had a screen shot of those promises! Anybody have one?

Scrolling back through the reviews on Apple's AppStore reveals the history. Going way back, one finds tons of posts expressing the considerable anger of early adopters at getting blindsided and cheated. Going back not quite as far, one sees something different. Those who first bought after the promise was revoked tried to cast the early adopters as whiners. There were silly posts about how one should not expect the manufacturer of one's car of camera to give one the latest version each time the model is improved. The comparisons are not parallel. Waite Group promised the upgrades, as is common with iPhone apps, but unlike other developers, they refused to deliver.

It is remarkable how self-righteous Waite Group has been. They chide customers for disapproving of their policies, give prizes to people who post what they consider acceptable reviews (those not critiquing their bait-and-switch), and they refuse to answer eMail questioning mistreatment.

Apple tried to quiet me when I complained, by offering me a $5 credit in the AppStore, good for songs but not apps. Mitch Waite Group refuses to answer.

This is not about the quality of the software. It is superb, and continues to improve, despite not adding the promised features to the Plus version.

Reading the angry reviews, it is evident that people hate getting cheated. An in-app upgrade is available now for $10, but that would not fix the issue that Waite broke its promise to early adopters. Seems a shame to let the issue fade with time, especially with the new CNET to the Rescue.

It's not as though Waite Group did not have better options. Breaking promises to customers is bad business. It's hard not to recall the cheat every time one opens the app. Waite could have upgraded all the early adopters to the Pro version for free, and then split Pro from Plus, to be sold as two separate apps thereafter, but chose to stiff us instead.

Can anyone help?

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iBird Explorer Plus

Dear Bozo. I have a suggestion to help...go see a therapist.

Flaming a company over an app to me is a sign of some serious psychological disorder. You want to sprout about how life is not fair, fine. You want to make a difference in the world?

Then pick a subject where your energy will have a real impact. How about world heath, global warming, nuclear proliferation, or the dozens of issues that really affect people's life?

I read your post and it seems you are complaining about a "promise" a company made, and I don't think companies make promises. They have contracts and software agreements, the ones people click without reading. Did you sign any agreement with Waite Group? You seem to be talking about some product advertising. What is said in an ad is not a contract - and what they say is always open to interpretation. I haven't read what Waite Group said, but if they said they would give me a free Lexus every week I certainly would not believe it. And if they said something vague about updates or upgrades I would try to find out what they meant if I was worried so much about buying their product.

Have you ever read software click agreements? They promise they will not help you if their software damages your computer. They promise they will sue you if you reverse engineer their product. But I have never seen a click agreement that were a company promises a life time of upgrades. Sure be nice. Like how about if Apple promised to give us free updates to Mac OSX. Or Microsoft Windows OS? Maybe you would like Adobe to promise to give free upgrades to Photoshop forever.

Truth is Apple, Microsoft and pretty much ever software company in the world makes you buy new versions of their software on a regular bases. Unfair? Maybe but life is unfair.

Anyway I wasted too much time already responding to this nutty complaint, I am going back to work on my project which will help to make the world a better place.

PS Why did you choose BozoCity as your user name? Is there a Freudian slip in there?

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Please Stay On Topic

Dear jflynn2000:

This forum exists explicitly to answer "question(s) about... misleading advertisement(s) or what looks like... anti-consumer polic(ies) foisted on (buyers) by a vendor or retailer." Where the post in question requests assistance in response to the breaking of explicit promises made in an advertisement by Mitch Waite Group, and refers explicitly to documentation of a large number of similar complaints, it is appropriate to this forum. In contrast, this is not a forum for expressing one's grandiosity, contempt, superiority, or vitriolity; nor does it encourage hateful comments toward strangers.

For the record, the post does not refer to any click-through licensing agreement, notably because Apple's AppStore does not have them for individual software packages. It is nevertheless possible to click through to CNET's policies for its forums, a worthwhile use of your time prior to continuing the crusade.

One presumes the moderator to be a mature voice of reason, so I shall flag your comment as inappropriate, and allow the moderator to decide.

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In researching the topic of the post I found a forum where it is discussed in much detail.

After reading the threads I do not believe that the Mitch Waite Group is being unfair to their customers. Here is the link so you can read the entire story and draw your own conclusions:

One key paragraph that helped me to understand why there is confusion is as follows:

"....I would like to explain the confusion some people have with the definition on our App store product page were we say we will update iBird for the life of the program. There is a difference between an upgrade and an update. An update means changes to the content, such as illustrations, photos, sounds, writing, etc. An update may or may not contain changes to the functionality of the program. We will continue to update all our apps with new content and that is specifically what we mean on our product page. Updates in Apple's business model are free by definition, there is no other way to do them. Upgrades on the other hand are changes to the feature set of the program itself. It may be improvements, additional features, etc."

I recommend you read the full text of the thread - there are 95 posts and most of them are supportive to the company.

Most of the posters do not feel that there is anti-consumerism at play. There seems to be a small but loud group of people who feel they where not treated fairly.

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A Convincing, Logical Thread, but Immaterial

I am familiar with that forum. It sounds reasonable, until one realizes it evades the issue. A majority is always a majority, but it is not always correct.

Quite deservedly due to the fine quality of the software, iBird became an enormous success. The people who got cheated were the early adopters, who were explicitly promised, in iBird's listing on the App Store, that if they bought iBird Explorer Plus at that time, they would receive with that purchase a specific list of upgrades to be delivered in the near future.

This case would look incontrovertibly different if I, or perhaps some other reader, could produce a screen shot of Waite's original listing for iBird Explorer Plus clearly stating that promise. This is why the situation is so sour. Despite your claims of "buyer beware," there is trust involved in business, which is what this forum is about.

No one is doubting that Waite Group, or any other publisher, has a right to differentiate between "updates" and "upgrades." The issues are:

(1) Regardless of what they are called, can a company not honor its promises to deliver purchased goods, including those contractually implied through advertising; and,

(2) When the early adopter gets cheated, is it okay to evade the issue by lecturing about the difference between an "update" and and "upgrade?"

The relevant data is not the cited forum written after the fact with the backing of those not promised and so not effected, after the original promise was removed from the listing. I'll search the reviews on Apple's App Store to see whether the relevant links are still posted. The number of complaints, and the specific detail they include, is astonishing. Ordinarily, so many complaints would crush a company into either bankruptcy or compliance. Waite Group was able to ignore its obligations by pulling the advertisement just prior to the moment its sales grew exponentially, with the new buyers feeling completely and legitimately okay with the new terms.

If CNET decides to take this case seriously, they will need to receive from Waite Group the full text of its early listings for iBird Plus on the App Store. Waite may or may not cooperate, indeed may or may not even have kept a copy. Perhaps it was typed directly into the posting interface, and later overwritten.

Thank you for taking the question more seriously. I am nevertheless still curious what the moderator will say about your prior post.

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