Thursday, November 17, 2011

Navigon and the dark side of the iOS marketplace

One of the downsides to the iOS App Store model is that vendors can change the rules -- and it's very hard to avoid an update.

NAVIGON used to bundle maps withe the purchase price. At $50 it was a good price, and even though there was no commitment to map updates they were updated. Yes, it was a 1.8 GB download -- but that was a rare event.

The price is even better than it appeared, because if a family shared an iTunes account the $50 covered all family iOS devices.

Now Navigon has moved to the in-app purchase model. The default "update" is "free" and only 48MB, but the maps are in-app purchases and they are not free. Old maps are removed during the "update" (and so are "favorites", which is not nice). I am not certain, but I suspect in-app purchases are tied to a phone and iTunes account, not to an iTunes account alone. So each user in a family will buy their own maps. (I seem to be the only one whose noticed this.)

This may not be a terrible deal for new users, but old users are moving Navigon to a 1 star rating.

Unfortunately there's no way to prevent app updates and no way to keep an old version of an app. iTunes will nag forever. So I made a copy of Navigon 1.8.2.ipa and put it in a safe place. That way when it's "updated" I can delete the update and restore the original.

PS. What should Navigon had done? Forget the evil "update" trick. Create and sell Navigon "Pro" as a separate app and stop updating Navigon 1.

See also:

Update 11/19/11: I tried a few experiments

  • I "locked" NAVIGON 1.8.2.ipa in the Finder then tried updating. Alas iTunes ignored the Finder lock, it just deleted 1.8.2 and kept v2.
  • I dragged 1.8.2 into the iTunes app window and iTunes let me replace v2. It, however, put v2 back on my free update list.
  • I changed permissions on 1.8.2 so I had read-only permissions. Then I tried the Update again. This time iTunes installed v2 and showed it in the app list. However the 1.8.2 file was still in Mobile Applications. I quit iTunes, deleted 2.0 (must put in trash and empty trash) and restarted. iTunes still listed 2.0, but when I tried it I was asked to locate the missing file. I pointed it to 1.8.2. The available update appeared again.

So it looks like while I can't truly fool iTunes, by changing permission I can protect 1.8.2 from deletion. If I accidentally update to 2.0 I can revert.


Anonymous said...

Thanks time to look for a new one then! Tom Tom maybe? Post if you switch.

Rob said...

Why not just use Waze? Its free and with the social aspect the maps etc are more up to date.

JGF said...

We use Navigon for our way out of the way US car trips, and for Canadian travel. Hard to imagine Waze competing.

Also we need offline support, not online. Many times we have no data service.

Anonymous said...

9 July, 2012 :

I just updated from Navigon 1.8.2, which I had bought via the iTunes Store, to Navigon 2.1.0.

My experience differed from yours in some important respects.

My old "favorites" were indeed lost during the upgrade. But in the end I was able to get the new maps for no additional charge.

The Navigon "upgrade" procedure involves downloading the basic app
( c. 80MB ) via iTunes, and then the maps must be downloaded directly to the phone after first disconnecting the phone from the main computer. I did not have to pay to get the entire set of US maps, but it annoyed me to have to download them to the phone. I suspect the download direct to phone is an attempt to prevent people from cracking the software and using it without paying.

There seem to be some usability improvements in the new version, but there are still some stupid mistakes,
for example the difficulty of navigating to frequently used screens.

The upside is, I didn't have to pay, which at least indicates that the promise of the
original company to its customers has been kept for the most part.