Springpad ShutdownI wrote a little while ago about how pleased I was with Springpad after switching to it from Evernote, despite having used Evernote for several years. Now Springpad is shutting down and it looks like I’m going to have to go back to Evernote, purely because I need a notes app and Evernote seems to be the only viable solution for importing my data.

As far as eminently minor first world problems go, this is pretty major. Going back to an app that’s a bit on the broken side and the momentary inconvenience of having to go through the import process on a mobile connection (long story) is hardly the end of the world, but it got me thinking about how these things happen, particularly when app companies are all apparently worth multiple billions.

That’s the bubble we’re in right now. Everything runs on venture capital (I’m pretty sure that’s just a fancy name for a massive payday loan) and no one ever thinks about monetising things until either it’s too late or people are so ingrained in using the free app that they resent having to pay for it.

Are Users The Problem?

Everyone wants something for nothing – I’m just as guilty of that as anyone – and looking through the Google Play store will show you litanies of complaints about ads or making you pay for apps, but if we don’t go along with that, where do the apps we love come from?

In my post about Springpad, I mentioned another piece of software that I couldn’t live without – Dropbox. I’m a premium user of that app and I never complain about forking over my money for it every month, but that said, the push to premium needs to be inobtrusive and has to offer clear benefits. That’s probably why I never made the move to Evernote Premium and will most likely not go premium with Pocket, despite how much I like the app.

It’s interesting, really: people will think nothing of dropping £500 or £35 a month on a phone, but we’ll moan like hell over a £1 charge for an app or game. Compare that to games consoles, where we’ll complain over it costing £400, despite its lifespan being years longer than a phone, but think nothing of dropping £50 on a game that’s a complete rehash of the game we played last year and the year before. Yes, Call of Duty, I’m looking at you.

I don’t know if that means that we’re the problem or if the whole “freemium” model is at fault in the app market. I don’t have the answer, but I’m pretty sure that tons of venture capital, inflated valuations, VC-funded companies dropping billions on other VC-funded companies and everyone hoping for the best isn’t it.

Maybe the app market needs to grow up and stop worshipping child-genius programmers that were so focused on making the next hot thing that they never thought about monetisation. Maybe app users need to accept that the free ride has to come to an end at some point. Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle. Like I say, I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that I would’ve paid for Springpad if they’d asked me to, and now I’ve got to try and find something else to use.

I just don’t want to have to go back to Evernote.

How About You?

Am I wrong? Should apps always be free and people should make them in their spare time after finishing their day at a “real job” or should everything be paid for after a 30 day trial? Just how bad is this bubble? I know I always say this, but I’d love to hear what you think.

And if anyone’s got a viable Springpad alternative with a data import option, I really, truly want to hear from you. Comments are open or there’s always Twitter.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be blogging more regularly once my internet issues are sorted out. Until next time, intarwebs.