Local search king capitalises on premium sources
Cynapse, the developers of the location-based discovery app Localscope, has decided to open the service to potential new users with a new monetisation model. The kafuffle about Apple Maps and the integration with the new Google Maps app included in this new version seems like the perfect timing for this change. People are interested in Maps alternatives once again.
Current Localscope users have already benefited from years of iteration on the concept, bringing refinements, integration with new services such as the native Reminders and third party services like Instagram with every update.
For me the biggest improvement came one year ago with the introduction of the discovery mode — instead of searching, you can launch Localscope to see what's around you pulling info from different services without having to switch between apps.
If you're using the app already, the new model won't affect you as users who paid before the latest version 3.1 will be entitled to an exclusive lifetime premium subscription. This is automatically done once the app is upgraded, although I haven't been able to get this myself, perhaps because I didn't have the old Localscope installed when I did this (Maybe downloading a previous version works?) In addition, new customers can download the app for free and try a limited set of features included.
What's in the new free Localscope
Downloading Localscope for free today includes the core geographic browser with its map, list and augmented reality views along with content from Google search, Facebook Places, Panoramio, YouTube and Apple's own geo-tagged Reminders for free.
The premium in-app-purchase that runs for a year includes social media services such as Google+ Local, Foursquare, Yelp, Factual, Wikimapia, Wikipedia, Citysearch, Twitter, Flickr and Picasa at the time of this writing. These 'premium' services add extra layers of information that will enhance the results and potentially change the way you explore locations with the app. Any person serious about Flickr, Instagram and Yelp will identify the advantages of these filters combined together with tags from Wikipedia for example.
I rarely criticise developers for experimenting with different revenue models and with Localscope it isn't going to be an exception. Cynapse has found a way to let people try the core functionality of the app — at this stage this free version is much more powerful than the original app I bought two years ago. Allowing happy users to throw the developer some money every year simplifies the relationship, giving us the chance to reward the hard work updating the app if we want.
Over 20 updates to refine the experience
On a different note, Localscope has aged really well despite the change from Google Maps to Apple's native solution to run the mapping side of the app. The innovative horizontal service switcher included in the first version still feels perfectly fine on a longer iPhone form factor. The careful design, choice of gradients over skeuomorphism experiments and gestures to slide up panes and switch services remain current. It's impressive to see how some of the more extravagant choices (such as swiping upwards to reveal a local map) are now a standard that even iOS utilises on the lock screen to access the camera and reveal Notification Center.
Hoping these words convince you to try out Localscope, remember this isn't a paid app gone free, it's an attempt to expand the user base allowing every iPhone owner to try the experience with no need to pay if you don't want to. If this works out for Cynapse, I'm sure we'll see more innovative features added over time.