Got Social?

Word Lens

In the last 24 hours I’ve seen the new iPhone app Word Lens come across my radar twice.  Once in a mention from a friend on Twitter and the second time on the blog that the chair of our Sociology department puts together. BTW, I read Jay’s postings with regularity and enjoy them, he does a great job.

Anyway, back to Word Lens, which is produced by a company called Quest Visual.  I was very interested in this.  As many of you know I interact in the Brasilian community a great deal, with ties in Brasil both personal and professional.  My Portuguese is okay, but it would be great to have some help sometimes – especially in stores or reading the paper.  So I decided to check this out.  The only language they have right now is Spanish, but I’m sure they will be adding more eventually (although my guess is that Portuguese would not be next on the list).

I started reading through the reviews and ran across a post from someone who was complaining on the bait-and-switch introductory price.  I always take at face value what I read in these comments, so I decided to pursue it myself.

Let me first say that the video they’ve produced for this product is quite impressive.  If this product performs as well as it says, it’s going to make a big difference for folks who live or visit multi-lingual communities (namely, Spanish-speaking at this point).  My concern was not the product so much as a business practice.

I visited the web site and sent my question to the email address listed.

Hello, and congrats on the recent publicity for the product.

Although Spanish/English is a great start, clearly you’ll be adding languages.  When the time comes to do that, will there be a charge for those who have already paid for the app (albeit the “intro” price)?  Also, aside from the sign up cost (the $5 currently), should I expect any other costs moving forward.  This was mentioned in at least one review I read, although I wasn’t really clear what the reviewer was talking about.

Thanks for your work and for your response.

Within (a very impressive) three minutes I received a response.

There is no charge for the app itself — you can pick and choose which languages you want.  Dictionaries you buy will be updated for free.

— john deweese, quest visual

Ok, so, this really didn’t answer my question, not directly.  And the more I looked at it, the more I thought the answer was a bit dodgy.  So I decided to write back to get some clarification.  What I wanted to know was, will new dictionaries cost money to update (which I think he is saying yes to above) and would there be any other expected expenses once I buy in initially.  Of the apps I have that I’ve paid for, I’ve never been asked to pay more money later on for added functionality.  Granted, I don’t own a ton of apps, and none that do what this app does, but I do own other translator apps and none of those, or any other apps for that matter, have ever come back and asked me for more money when they add functionality.  I have apps for both my iPhone and iPad, both of which are my main interaction devices, so this was something I thought was significant, especially in my own consideration for purchase.  So, I wrote

Thanks for the quick response.

My understanding is that the only dictionary available at this time is Spanish/English.  So, when Portuguese/English comes out, will I have to “buy” that dictionary (as you say below) and then updating the app with the dictionary I bought will be free?

My bottom line question is, once I buy the app, should I expect any other costs as you add functionality (including dictionaries).

thanks again,

aj

This time the response took over 21 hours.  Now, don’t get me wrong, a response from a company within 24 hours may seem pretty good (although it should not – we should expect responses from online, technology driven companies fairly quickly), but these guys set the bar high by responding in three minutes.  Time zones often restrict response time, so I didn’t expect three minutes again, but the much longer time this time let me know that he was most likely checking his response language.  My guess would be that they don’t want people to know that there will be more charges down the road, since that might stop people from trying it now.  Just a guess, that is, until I got the response.

That’s correct, individual language packs will be offered separately for purchase, and once you buy them, you can update those for free.  The only additional charges we will ask for is for fundamentally new features, and additional individual language packs.

cheers,

John DeWeese

Ok, clear as day.  So, added languages are not considered a “functionality” but  a “pack” that will get added later.  This makes a bit more sense, and I’m not placing judgement on this practice (although I’d prefer to not see it roll that way), but they should make this clear someplace so people know.  I’m not saying it needs to be in the app store, but it should be on their website.  If someone clicks BUY in the app store without checking things out, they get what they get.  I don’t always check the developer’s web site, but that is a decision I make at the time of purchase, as I did this time.

I must commend John for writing me back so quickly and then writing me back again, providing information I’d guess he’d rather have not been providing.  Kudos on that front, now if only they’d take that honesty to their site (and if they did, I apologize for missing it, but I did look).

I think they have an awesome product.  I think it’s a better business model to sell higher and not nickel/dime your customers later on.  I may even end up buying this app, just to check it out to see how it works – especially since its only $5 right now.  I just wanted to put out my experience so others can learn from it and make their own decisions.