As a way to try the product, BitTorrent lets you make your first three sends for free. You’ll then be prompted to pay $1.99 after these three transfers complete. For the receiver, BitTorrent promises the product will always be free.
BitTorrent Shoot uses the same underlying syncing engine as BitTorrent Sync, the company’s file synchronization service that lets you share directly between devices without uploading to, and downloading from, the cloud. Shoot is simply for a very specific use case: sharing photos and videos between mobile devices.
Shoot’s big advantage is cross-platform support. “If you’ve ever experienced a situation where you’re on iOS and a friend next to you has an Android phone, sending something like a big batch of photos or a long video is a challenge,” Erik Pounds, BitTorrent Sync’s VP of product management, explained. “We based the use case around spontaneity: You could be at a concert with friends, recording a video; on vacation with your family, taking tens/hundreds of pictures; maybe at a birthday dinner, capturing a group serenade.”
BitTorrent describes the app as “easy-to-use, private, and fast.” The first is of course very subjective; the video above shows it is pretty straightforward, though you’ll need to deal with QR codes. The second and third are both due to the fact Shoot is powered by the BitTorrent protocol: Since files move directly between devices without going through the cloud, they are less likely to be intercepted and can be transferred quicker, regardless of what network you’re on.
BitTorrent explains that because Shoot is based on Sync technology, “large items are no problem.” We asked whether there is a limit to the number of files or the total size transferred, and a BitTorrent spokesperson told VentureBeat, “No. And you can send to multiple devices at the same time. You can also be on separate networks. We’ve seen that other apps that do not use the cloud require you to be on the local subnet.”
With BitTorrent Sync coming out of beta in March, the company is now focusing on developing and releasing a slew of products under the Sync portfolio. BitTorrent is very eager to see which products resonate with users, and especially which ones can make money.
That said, it’s difficult to see BitTorrent Shoot appealing to a large number of users. Right now, sending pictures between mobile devices is certainly a hassle, but it’s not a massive headache either. A paid mobile app is a difficult pitch: Attaching photos and videos in an email may not be pretty, but it gets the job done. Even sending photos over Facebook Messenger or via another social app is straightforward.
This is the first time that BitTorrent is launching a paid mobile app without a free tier. BitTorrent and uTorrent apps on Android have paid Pro versions, but they also have very popular free counterparts.
We asked BitTorrent why the company wants to charge for this app right at launch, rather than offering a free version and adding new features. “Like with BitTorrent Sync, we never monetize the user indirectly,” a BitTorrent spokesperson explained. “On Shoot, you’ll never see an ad. Sharing is fully private, so we’re not harvesting any user data. We’re keen to see the market reaction at this price point, and the hope is that users can find value in this product.” BitTorrent wouldn’t share what features it was developing to make the price worthwhile.
In short, BitTorrent is betting users will pay for privacy. As has been proven time and time again, that’s a very hard sell.