iOS 7 (multiple iPhones, flat 002)

In a few months, Apple will release the largest update to its mobile operating system since the original iPhone debuted in 2007: iOS 7. The software has been virtually rebuilt from the ground-up, with new features and an all-new user interface.

Because this new version of iOS is so different than its predecessor, developers will have to spend a serious amount of time bringing their app code and UI elements up to speed. The question is, should they charge users for these major updates?

The question was first posed by Gedeon Maheux of Iconfactory, who is behind Twitterrific and other apps:

“I’m sure many users are expecting developers of popular applications to simply update interface elements, compile some code and easily drop a brand spanking new version of their app onto the App Store for free. There’s little doubt that the majority of iOS 7 updates to existing apps will be free (which will please Apple), but I suspect there will be a surprising number of developers who will use the launch of the new operating system to completely re-boot their app, and why not? The visual and interactive paradigms iOS 7 mark a natural breaking off point and a perfect opportunity to re-coup costs. Some existing paid apps might even adopt an iOS 7 only strategy which means they’ll have no choice but to charge again.”

Before we tackle the question at hand, it’s important to look at some of the economics of the App Store. Developers like Rovio and Imanji are very much the minority—even those with very popular apps rarely see anything close to $1 million in sales.

The reality is that they have to deal with issues like piracy and copycatting, and the never-ending ‘race to the bottom’ that has forced many devs to price their apps well below what they’d like. According to Flurry, the average iPhone app goes for $0.19.

So with all of this in mind, would I pay for iOS 7 updates for apps I already own? Yes. Admittedly, I will make the choice on a case-by-case basis. But if a paid app I use frequently gets completely rebuilt for iOS 7, I will happily pay again to update it.

What about you, would you pay for iOS 7 updates for apps you already own? Why or why not?