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Free Ambiance Classic available to pacify upset users


Ambiance creator Matt Coneybeare is temporarily offering a free copy of version 1.0 as a gesture of goodwill to the negative backlash to the 2.0 upgrade of the iPhone audio app.

When released last summer, Ambiance (link opens iTunes) -- along with aSleep -- introduced "environmental enhancers" to the iPhone. These apps would produce sounds ranging from rain and storms to pieces of technology to white noise. The intended effect is to drown out background noise, such as the annoying leaf blower currently being used outside my window, and let you concentrate on your work or get some sleep.

Ambiance 1.0, now renamed to Ambiance Classic, was well-received. In a review done back in August, Brett noted that some of the sounds were surprisingly good and that the application was easy to use. As with aSleep, Ambiance Classic included all of the sounds with the application. Over time, Ambiance gained features and additional sounds, swelling up to a download that was more than 50MB (Ambiance Classic clocks in at 51.1MB).

In an effort to slim down the app, Ambiance 2.0 not only featured a radical redesign, but also a new way of getting content. Instead of having the sounds pre-loaded, users are directed to register for a free account where the sounds can be downloaded. The price of Ambiance also increased from 99 cents to $4.99USD (currently on sale for $2.99USD).

There are both pros and cons to this decision. Ambiance now has more than 250 sounds, and the app would just keep growing as more are included. However, it comes as a cost -- mainly for iPod touch users. The sounds must be downloaded via a wireless connection onto the device, and if you're not near a WiFi connection, you won't be able to get new sounds.

It would also be a slow process for those still on first-generation iPhones without access to WiFi to access the new Ambiance accounts. It also makes little sense to quadruple the price of the app without including some free sounds, though there is the free Ambiance Lite for people who want to give the software a try. But that also still requires site registration, access to WiFi, and limits the download capabilities just to three songs.

The move has been pretty negatively received among a good number of Ambiance users, prompting the brief availability of Ambiance Classic -- some worry that it might be the next step toward having to pay per sound downloaded onto the app. I can understand their concerns. While apps such as Ambiance have the potential to become extremely large with the inclusion of all available sounds (my copy of aSleep is just a tad over 165MB), they shouldn't be completely stripped of all content either. With the price increase of Ambiance, it needs to come with some pre-loaded content. Give users the option to download additional tracks, but don't force them to pay then register for an external site just to have the absolute basics.

Thanks for the tip, David!

Edit: Matt Coneybeare contacted TUAW to let us know that he plans an update to Ambiance 2.0 that will include several of the more popular sounds, but keep the overall app as purchased from the App Store less than 10MB. The update should be pushed to Apple next week, so it should be available within the next couple weeks. Thanks for the e-mail, Matt!

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