Many of you will have noticed by now that Mental Case 2.0 for iPhone has hit the App Store shelves. The new release — or should I say, ‘releases’ — are the result of a significant development effort, and are a major improvement over version 1.0.

Despite this, we have received a few very angry emails, and forum posts, accusing us of ‘slimy’ and dubious business practices. I’ll be perfectly honest — I didn’t see this coming at all. It never occurred to me that someone would be insulted by our upgrade path, but they clearly are. I’m not sure if this is a widespread concern, or just a concern for the few that bother to email, but to hopefully clear the water, let me explain our reasoning.

What is a Mental Case ‘Lite’ Version

First, I should clarify the issue: When you upgrade from ‘Mental Case 1.0 for iPhone’ you end up with ‘Mental Case Lite 2.0 for iPhone’. The addition of the word ‘Lite’ to the name is what has some people ‘up in arms’; they are of the belief that we have ‘downgraded’ our loyal customers.

Let me reassure everyone that this is not the case. ‘Mental Case Lite 2.0’ is a much better product that ‘Mental Case 1.0’. It can do everything the original version can do, and a bit more. For example, you can now set the size and font for slideshows, and use correction (right/wrong) in slideshows, a much requested feature. You can double tap images to zoom and scroll them, and navigate slideshows in true full-screen mode. You can also browse (though not download from it). In short, there is lots to be happy about with this free upgrade.

So why did we call the product ‘Mental Case Lite’? To distinguish it from the new, even more advanced, paid edition. Some have asked why we didn’t avoid this by keeping the original as ‘Mental Case’, and naming the new edition ‘Mental Case Pro’. This would certainly have gone down better with our existing customers, but it has one serious flaw: a new user that downloads the ‘lite’ version may not realize that they can upgrade, because there is nothing to indicate that it is a less feature-full edition. This would be bad for sales, which would ultimately also be bad for our customers, because we could not warrant spending the same resources developing the app.

Should you purchase a Mental Case 2.0?

To be clear, the paid version of Mental Case 2.0 for iPhone has some significant advantages over the free version. You can add and edit notes and cases on the iPhone, for one. These can be synced back to your Mac over a wireless network. The full edition also allows you to download directly from Flashcard Exchange, the largest online repository of flashcards in the World. We did an exclusive deal with Flashcard Exchange to be able to integrate their content, free to everyone that buys the paid edition of Mental Case 2.0. If you do the math, you get a great deal: Flashcard Exchange normally charges $20 for an account that allows you to download; with Mental Case 2.0, you pay $7.99, and can download as much as you like from a free Flashcard Exchange account, and sync the downloaded cards back to your Mac. What’s not to like?

The last issue I would like to address is why we didn’t just let all existing users upgrade for free to the full version of Mental Case 2.0. After all, we make income from sales of the desktop product, so aren’t we just being greedy asking people to pay for the iPhone app?

Part of the answer lies in the previous paragraph: we have a deal with Flashcard Exchange, and it would not be right to give away their content, and the server traffic that involves, and not give anything to them in return.

The second part of the answer is that you no longer need to buy the desktop version of Mental Case to use Mental Case for iPhone. For example, a Windows user could buy the iPhone app, create some cards on Flashcard Exchange, and download them to the phone — no Mac involved. If we gave away the iPhone version, these users could use Mental Case completely free; nice for the user, but less nice for our bottom line, which ultimately would hurt our customers too.

We hope that most users look a bit deeper than just the name of an app. We hope that you like Mental Case based on its functionality and interface design, whether you think it has a good name or not. “What’s in a name?” Not much in my book.