Why the change?

Sophisticated, reusable apps, with relatively regular updates, are a new phenomenon as a resource, interpreting the natural world. As hand-held guides, they have become indispensable, for anyone interested in nature, either for pleasure or for work.

TreeProApps and BirdProApps – which are in the same stable – face the same dilemma as all app developers of the well-known brands in the natural history market. It is a cliff face issue for every developer. Apps are sold for very little income to the creators, and once issued the norm is “up-dates-are-free”. The reality is that costs of essential modifications, to keep abreast of the incredibly rapid changes in the digital platforms (Apple and Android/Google) are unsustainable on the current model that app companies have all been using. Any additional changes to improve the apps themselves are further costs that simply does not come in from sales.

In essence, if these resource apps – rather than service apps which often have other income sources – are to survive – the developers and the users themselves, are going to have to embrace a new mind-set about how these apps are sold.

No one would ever consider or expect, having purchased a physically published resource book, that all future editions would be for free. In books, it is understood that a new version has incurred costs and these do have to be paid for. Sadly there is a widely-held, non-sustainable, attitude about this type of app. An alternative purchase model simply has to be found or these apps will die.

The first alternative is that an app is taken on board by a commercial venture and used for marketing that company. This brings in some degree of help – depending on the deal done. Philanthropically funded apps are ideal but in South Africa, with the dire needs of the humans being paramount, this type of support is hard to find. Believe us we have tried tirelessly for 10 years. Yet another income booster is that adverts can be run alongside the function of the app every time you use it. This has been rejected outright for being too little monetary return for ruining the visuals, and function, of our magnificent Apps.

One other alternative is for each new app to be released at a price around R600 (or more) for each initial purchase and then renewed at a much higher price some 5 years later. This high price is simply unaffordable for many people in the general population and guide/student markets.

We believe that the best of the methods is yet another model and this has been implemented by BirdPro, in the same stable as TreeProApps. They moved from outright purchase to offering a subscription alternative at the end of 2020. This has been successfully integrated and well-received by the public. As detailed in the introduction to this announcement, High Branching will be launching TreeProBotanical at the beginning of February 2021. From that date, TheTreeApp SA and TreeProBotanical, will both be part of TreeProApps and will follow the subscription method used by BirdPro.

Our central beliefs that led to this decision were that the reduced subscription price brings these apps into an affordable range for most people who enjoy nature. And this method offers us, as the developers, long-term sustainability.