Alarmed has been a successful app for me and I have hundreds of thousands of satisfied users. I have learned (from past experience and general observation) that users dislike big changes in software, even if it is for the better. I recently got a taste of just how true that is!
When I first created Alarmed, it was focused on reminders & timers, but I later added a wake-up feature. I realized at the time that I was making a potentially "dangerous" move as some users would only want the reminders & timers and have no interest in an alarm clock. Or the other way around. I was creating a polarized app. But there was some utility in having a true "all-in-one alarm app" so I went with it.
Things were fine until Apple released iOS 5. Without going into technical details, Apple doesn't make it easy to create a functioning alarm clock app in iOS. Much of this has to do with restrictions on multitasking imposed by Apple on third-party apps. In iOS 5, Apple changed some of details of how things worked beneath the surface and this had a big impact on the wake-up feature in Alarmed. I found a way to keep the app all-in-one, but it required me to use an older version of the development toolset.
Eventually this became untenable and I knew I had to make a fundamental change. In addition to the technical issues which made an all-in-one app impractical for future development, the app itself was starting to become bloated. I found myself unable to add in new functionality without making it harder to use and certain aspects of the clock couldn't operate as I wanted by being stuck into an all-in-one app. I considered many alternatives, but decided that I would split the wake-up section out into its own app and refocus Alarmed on just reminders & timers. I started the process by creating Yocto Alarm Clock in the late spring of 2012, but then got busy with other things and didn't get around to working on Alarmed until the fall of 2012.
When I released Alarmed 3.0, which removed the wake-up section, I knew I would have some unhappy users, but I was (and remain) convinced that it was the best choice I could have made. One big problem was that there was no way to warn users in advance of removing the wake-up section. I had long ago abandoned the old developer tools (they weren't even installed on my system anymore) so I couldn't do a quick release of the existing codebase to say that change was coming. And since Apple doesn't allow developers to access customer contact info (for good reason!) there was no way to send out a mass email or anything similar.
The best I could do was a) make it clear in the What's New update notes and b) display a pop-up alert when the app was first run after the update explaining the changes and pointing to Yocto Alarm Clock as a replacement for the wake-up section. I also included a detailed description of my reasoning for the split both within the app itself and on my website. To make the transition less painful, I released Yocto Alarm Clock as a free app with *all* features included. There is a "tip jar" for those who want to support my efforts, but no extra or bonus features.
It is one thing to have disappointed users, even upset users. But I didn't expect the sometimes angry and bitter reactions that I received. People made all kinds of crazy assumptions. Some thought the split was a clever ploy to make more money (not even close!). Some accused me of bait-and-switch marketing (again, makes no sense!). Some thought I was just evil and being vindictive, purposely trying to hurt my users (huh?). Others were freaking out at the thought of having to accept one more icon on their home screen (the horror!).
Some users even went so far as to give a one-star rating for Yocto Clock simply as a protest to the Alarmed 3.0 split.
One of the amusing trends were users who assumed incremental updates were solely for the purpose of erasing the negative reviews. This couldn't be farther from the truth. The 3.0 release was a major update with a total rewrite of some portions of the codebase. It was bound to have a few bugs and I squashed them quickly with small updates. Even so, if I wanted to avoid negative reviews, I would resist updating, not the other way around. The angry horde is always waiting to post their rants as soon as an update is released, but the glowing reviews come in at a slower pace, eventually far outnumbering the negativity.
Oh, another nice touch … some angry reviewers say they deleted the app, but continue to leave new reviews with new updates. Seems like they just pretended to delete it and are anxiously downloading the updates just for the pleasure of trashing the app.
Many of these angry people never both to read my explanations for the split. But some do and still don't "get it". Sort of reminds me of those who think that Microsoft ruined DOS when they added a graphical front end to it (i.e., Windows). Software evolves. It is the way of the world.
Without dragging this issue on further, I am disappointed at those users who were openly angry, bitter and full of bile. This is simply not called for. It is a piece of software. Why all the anger? If you don't like it, find something else among the 3/4 of a million apps on the App Store! I can't respond to the App Store reviews, but do respond to all the direct emails. In almost all cases, when I calmly responded to a ranting angry tirade from a user, they emailed me back to say they were sorry. They were just upset, but now understood and were happy again.
I truly think that some of the most angry users were upset not so much at my app, but rather at something else in their life. It could be their job, their significant other, just about anything. It is not easy living in our modern, fast-paced society and people sometimes need to vent. They build up anger a little bit here and a little bit there. Then something happens (an app splits in two) and they lose their cool and have a full-blown tantrum.
As I write this, most of the drama has settled down. The new features in Alarmed 3.0 are being very well received and most users are finding Yocto Clock to be a superb replacement for the wake-up section in Alarmed. In this case, two apps are truly better than one!
As a developer, I always try to make the right choices. For everyone involved. Having happy users is the best reward and my prime motivation in doing all of this work. The negativity surrounding this particular change shook me up a bit, but now that things are settling down, I feel good again. Lots more is in store for the future. Thanks for your continued support!