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With Bento update, lack of App Store upgrades is front-and-center again

FileMaker released a meaty update to the iPad version of Bento on June 19, pushing it from version 1.15 to 4.0. But with this comes a move previously seen with Tweetie 2 before it became the official Twitter app: the original Bento was pulled from the App Store after a few hours of overlap, and replaced with a discounted Bento 4 until the end of July.

While paying $4.99 for a $9.99 app is a good deal, it doesn't help those who paid $9.99 for the older version of Bento on June 18, June 16 or any time within the past month or so. Not only is the software instantly out of date, but with the original Bento pulled from the App Store, there will be no further support for it.

This is something Instapaper's Marco Arment points out in a response to a Macdrifter article on it.

"The other problem with this approach is that it makes it impossible to issue bugfixes or other minor updates to the previous version without making it available for sale publicly, which would lead to some new customers inadvertently purchasing the old version and being quite unhappy about it," Arment said.

Indeed, the first review under the new Bento 4 for iPad is by someone who inadvertently purchased the older Bento during the brief period of time both apps were on the App Store at the same time.

Arment and others point out that it highlights one of the biggest flaws still in the App Store: the inability to offer free upgrades to those who buy the previous version of an app within a certain amount of time after its initial purchase. When I bought my MacBook Pro on Tuesday, the Apple Store specialist told me that I would get an email with a code that will enable me to upgrade to Mountain Lion for free when it comes out next month. If Apple can find a way to do that for its major OS upgrades, surely it can figure out a way to do it in the App Store.

FileMaker is going about this in the best way available to them. They're offering the new Bento for a reduced price for roughly six weeks, giving existing users a chance to upgrade at the lower cost. However, you have users that fall into the upgrade gap: they just spent $9.99 on original Bento and are now being asked to pay $4.99 more. Sure, that's not much money in the overall scheme of things, but it's a kick in the foot.

What can someone do about it? AgileBits' (and former TUAW writer) David Chartier suggested to me on Twitter to file for a refund. If you've purchased the original Bento in the past month, it's worth giving it a shot. One customer who complained of this in FileMaker's forums was urged to contact FileMaker's customer support. You can try there or give it a shot with Apple. Try with the developer first, however, and see what they have to say.

What should be done about it in the future? There's got to be a way for Apple to implement some sort of upgrade for recent purchasers of an app. One way could be to offer upgrade codes to developers. They would require a user to screenshot the date of purchase, send it to the developer, then get a redemption code for the upgrade.

How would you implement App Store upgrades? Let us know in the comments.

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