Wolfram Alpha tried to charge $50 for its iPhone app while, at the same time, offering a free iPhone-optimized mobile site. Then, the company shut down the mobile site of its "computational knowledge engine" altogether. Now, however, Wolfram is reversing this strategy and is not just bringing back a new and improved version of its mobile site, but the company also just announced that it will reduce the price of its iPhone app to $1.99 and will issue a refund to every customer who bought the app at the full price.Once upon a time,
A New Policy for Wolfram Alpha
According to Wolfram Alpha's newly minted managing director Barak Berkowitz, the team's "number-one priority as of today is to get Wolfram|Alpha in the hands of everyone." This, obviously, is a complete reversal of Wolfram's earlier policy, but we are very happy to see this new direction the team is taking.
Refunds for Those Who Bought $50 App
While Wolfram always argued that the app was worth $50, not too many people thought so. The current version only has 24 reviews in the App Store. Wolfram will obviously take a loss on the refunds as Apple won't return the 30% cut it took from all the sales, but the Wolfram Alpha team clearly feels that this is the right thing to do. We can only guess how much money Wolfram made from the $50 app, but chances are that the company will sell more than enough $1.99 apps to make up for the price difference. If you bought the app at the full price (or $19.99 during the holiday sale), you can go to this site and ask for a refund.
To get a refund, users will have to supply their phone's or iPod touch's UDID, a screenshot of their UDID on the iTunes summary and account details page, as well a copy of their receipt from Apple.
You can find our full review of the iPhone app here.
New Mobile Site
The new mobile site feels faster than the original page, but at least in the version we tested just before the official launch, result pages seemed to be formatted for a screen somewhat larger than the iPhone. We assume, however, that this is just a glitch and that the company will fix this shortly. Unlike the native app, the mobile site obviously also doesn't offer the specially formatted virtual keyboards for entering formulas (something Wolfram used as the main reason to charge extra for the iPhone app).
More To Come
According to today's announcement, the company also plans to expand on this strategy of making the service more accessible in the next few months, though the announcement didn't offer any further details. According to Schoeller Porter, Wolfram|Alpha's architect, "the new iPhone and iPod touch app price, and the refund offer are just the beginnings of a wider strategic move toward ubiquity."