I suspect I'll be buying far fewer apps if there's a mass movement from a purchase model to a subscription model among app developers. I'm perfectly happy to pay $20-30 for an app (even a simple app) if it provides value and I'm happy to pay for major upgrades or additional content/features, but I won't pay $20-30 a year just to maintain the ability to launch an app on an ongoing basis.
In addition, after years of terrible search in the app store, coupling search improvements with search-based ads is just a kick in the shins.
Apps are a service.
I would actually prefer to pay developers of apps that are truly useful to me a monthly amount so I know they can continue to update and improve the app. If an app saves me $1000/yr in headache, I'd prefer to spend $30/yr on a subscription rather than lose the app entirely because the developers can't keep the lights on.
Yes, I have subscriptions for IntelliJ IDEA, for Dropbox, for FastMail and for a DigitalOcean VPS. All these are producing money for me. But the list ends here. Because here's the thing: $5/month here, $10/month there and pretty soon we're talking about serious money. Not only that, but as soon as you stop paying for whatever reason (eg temporary financial problems) you're out.
Of course, with our oversized salaries, we stop noticing that $5/month for a passwords app is actually expensive. And that's actually a good example because a passwords app at least has some utility.
More importantly, subscriptions are immoral because the end result is robbing users of any sense of ownership. And as a software developer, you no longer feel compelled to innovate, to improve, in order to convince users to upgrade. I for one hate renting things, I prefer ownership.
1) You're absolutely right: Pricing matters. If I charge you $10/mo for my app that sends you a text message every time there's a full moon, that would be way too expensive and you'd be well within your rights as a consumer to spend your money on something else. As far as I'm aware, Apple will not force you to subscribe to any apps.
2) "... subscriptions are immoral..." Bullshit. And you don't "own" software you buy and pay for once. Operating systems change. Companies and developers come and go. If you value a piece of software, then you value the developer and should desire that they maintain and improve the app.
What is moral is creating a system by which software developers can support themselves by creating products that are useful to the community. I'd say the App Store is currently broken in that regard (with a few high-profile exceptions). If popularizing subscription-based pricing will help fix that, I'm all in favor.
The mechanism is simple: the slight inconvenience of cancellation prevents a huge number of users from cancelling as soon as they want to.
This is why getting your customers to set up automated and recurring payments is the pot of gold everybody wants (not just in software).
You don't have to intend to bilk people if you do subscriptions; it's inherent in your business model.
Try putting a confirmation screen in your app that makes the user press "Renew" each month before the app charges them again. That would move you toward the moral end of the spectrum, but it would gut your sales.
A $2 per month subscription, even if totally unneeded, is not something most busy people can find the time to deal with cancelling. Pretty soon a year has gone by and your "service" has provided zero value to them but you've ripped them off for $24.
(For clarity: I don't mean you personally, and also I do work in subscription-based software. I just don't have any illusions about it and it makes me feel icky.)
Yes, I fully agree.
> Many subscription models have nothing to do with tricking people
I don't agree with this, at least for auto-renewing subscriptions; that's my point. Every piece of software sold on auto-renewing subscription has some significant number of subscribers (as a percentage of its total number of them) that don't actually want it.
That is true regardless of what the publisher intends or wants.
Obviously, the exact percentage will vary a great deal, depending on the product.
Water is an example of something where that percentage would be low — presumably, almost everybody wants their water to stay on.
Netflix, not so much; I myself once paid for Netflix for months, perhaps years, without using it once, and without wanting to keep it on "just in case". I was just too busy to cancel it the few times I thought of it (until I finally did).
Netflix is not on the sleazier side of the spectrum, though; it's quite easy to cancel.
There are, however, a lot more disgusting sleazy fuckers out there like the Wall Street Journal, MyFico.com, and Comcast, than there are Netflixes.
As a bonus, here's my Second Law of Subscriptiodynamics:
The total difficulty in cancelling an isolated auto-renewing subscription always increases over time.
Some SaaS providers make unused subscriptions free of charge (Slack AFAIR), others auto-cancel them after a period of inactivity. This obviously only works if the provider has knowledge of whether a subscription is used, but it shows that the flaw is not inherent with subscriptions.
Other than that: I have quite a couple of pieces of software that I bought at pretty much full price and never really used. Is that immoral as well?
But, I don't think that's very common.
Why is it the company's responsibility to determine if a user "really wants it" or not? If the subscription is live, the assumption is that the service is desired. Personal accountability.
BTW, can I interest you in a franchise opportunity? We at "Veidr's Payday Loans" are always looking for local owner-operators who understand "personal accountability".
I don't understand your point. If you're incapable of cancelling a subscription...maybe you shouldn't be subscribing to things? But that's up to you, bro; don't count on others to do it for you.
I like this experiment. If I had to bet, I think you're right that it would reduce revenue.
OTOH, to be fair, try this approach in the old-fashioned model... take the standard (large) transaction up front, offer a lifetime money-back guarantee (a very moral policy, to be sure), and then put a launch dialog in your app with two buttons: "Refund Now" and "Continue Using".
I predict one would also see reduced revenues by taking what could be considered moral high ground in the non-subscription model.
I wonder if a service could actually function based on this idea. Sure, eventually all the initial money would be refunded but while you had it you profited by investing it in a fractional-reserve manner.
The pot of gold that everybody wants is not because people forget to cancel the subscription, but because you don't have to acquire new customers every single day. You can provide a good product to your "fan base" for years.
I can speak only from my experience in the B2C space with a 2 bucks a month product:
It's basically prepaid. Accounts will become inactive when the payment period ends. There is no automatic renewal. The reason is precisely, because I think this is the most transparent way.
It works, it pays me a decent salary and I get to maintain the software for a long time.
And I have seen some actual metrics on stuff I've worked on, where we can tell that they haven't used the software for months... but they are still paying. I know this goes on with other products too.
Perhaps "immoral" is an overstatement, but it's certainly a sleazy business model.
I'm sure that happens. But when I buy an iPhone app for a fixed price, the incentive for the vendor is to make the app look fantastic at a first glance, and then to never fix any bugs or incompatibilities. Because why bother? Everyone who notices these problems has already paid, and getting a refund is even more troublesome than cancelling a subscription. How is that more moral? As a consumer, I generally prefer subscriptions for everything that I plan to use for a year or longer (which is most software).
Even just having a central place to cancel subscriptions is significantly better than having to do it individually -- and Apple almost certainly won't allow developers to get too obnoxious with the 'customer retention' hoops we need to jump through to actually cancel.
Speaking as a developer - what kind of entitled, self-important thinking is this? No one owes developers a decent lifestyle or a liveable income. I can't wait till some idiot sells a subscription to a calculator or flashlight app - I say to them GTFO! The app 'industry' is not the first one to deal with product saturation, but somehow we do not have Dishwasher subscriptions (thank goodness).
> "... subscriptions are immoral..." Bullshit. And you don't "own" software you buy and pay for once. Operating systems change. Companies and developers come and go. If you value a piece of software, then you value the developer and should desire that they maintain and improve the app.
Sadly, all apps 1) non-consumable & non-perishable and 2) most apps are utilitarian and can't really be improved - if they could be, subscriptions wouldn't be necessary as developers would depend on people buying the improved versions as in every other. If Nike sold you an indestructible trainer (including non-wearing sole) that you could buy tomorrow, would you rather buy it outright or pay subscriptions in perpertuity?
If the developer cannot make a living by creating an app (or any other piece of software for that matter), why would they bother creating it at all?
> If Nike sold you an indestructible trainer (including non-wearing sole) that you could buy tomorrow, would you rather buy it outright or pay subscriptions in perpertuity
This is not a great comparison. As was previously mentioned, software like requires updates to continue running correctly (new OS versions, bugs, etc) while a shoe does not require any changes or maintenance. If the shoe fits, then you wear it and that is that. You can do nothing to it and it will continue to work as a shoe forever (especially, if it is indestructible as in your example). However, if you paid once for a piece of software and then do nothing to it for a few years, the chance of it running correctly on your device is close to zero.
People should be paid for creating and maintaining software.
If you're trying to make a living doing X, and you can't, then don't do it anymore. There are tens of thousands of apps that did not need to be made, yet were (no doubt the first step of someone's get-rich-quick scheme). If there is a need, the need will be met, eventually, by someone, and if it is truly a "need", people will be willing to pay money for it.
As others have mentioned, requiring updates to run correctly is actually a fault of the underlying system, and the change therein.
> People should be paid for creating and maintaining software.
This "should" is really nebulous. By whose standard/ethics? What belief system led you to believe that you were guaranteed to be paid for your work (software or otherwise)? You get paid when you sell something. You can create the shit out of lots of things and maintain lots of things, and not see a dime for your efforts. Software is no different -- you need to create something that will SELL and be profitable.
These two things do not go hand in hand. Creating and a necessity of maintenance are not necessarily the case. Remember when software used to be sold on CDs? You bought and were able to use the software for your given operating system, and for the given time that it had no bugs. There were no other guarantees, and I don't think there should be today.
If something in your app breaks, release an update and either release it for free, or charge for it. There is no need for me to pay you forever -- your certainly won't be releasing updates forever.
It's obvious why companies want to move everyone to this model though -- much easier to setup recurring incomes, and once it's ingrained in the culture, people won't remember a time when you bought a piece of software and you actually owned it.
Maybe this will be a chance for F/OSS to make a resurgence? Once people get tired of paying for Office 365 and their Flappy Bird subscription, they'll start looking for software that they can truly own
> As others have mentioned, requiring updates to run correctly is actually a fault of the underlying system, and the change therein.
Theoretically yes, but this changed from the customer perspective as well. Whereas a few years ago, it was a sign of quality software that no updates were required, it's now a sign of an app that is unmaintained. No updates is a negative signal and thus, updates are mandatory to be perceived as high quality software and to a certain extend, to prevent 1-star reviews.
> If there is a need, the need will be met, eventually, by someone, and if it is truly a "need", people will be willing to pay money for it.
"If there is a need, the need will be met, eventually." Period. The rest of the sentence isn't always true. People aren't necessarily willing to pay money for it and there are other revenue streams ("pay with your data").
.. not really? There are only so many bugs to fix (and are they really significant enough to be a major hindrance anyway?), and bit rot is a platform problem, not an application problem.
And even then, shouldn't users be able to choose whether the "upgrade" is worth it?
I've been employed by companies (who I've now left) where the management explicitly wanted to move to subscription for this reason: not having to keep adding new features to get customers to buy new versions. (apps were desktop software).
That's not to say subscription doesn't make sense - but it's not a complete win for everyone.
Yeah, we (IntelliJ subscribers) had to fight for that: before there was an outcry, JetBrains had planned to brick your IDE the moment your subscription lapsed.
Sure, charge a subscription for Creative Cloud but taking software that worked fine without a subscription, tacking one on under the guise of perpetual updates and killing access if they stop paying stinks of doing what is best for the business, not what is best for the customers.
The other option is bit-rot and some form of DRM (the only way to enforce subscription) which would make playing the games an impossibility, even with emulators. It's clear to me the non-subscription/non-DRM option is the better one: even with subscriptions, no publisher will last forever.
I've also got a desktop with tech mostly circa 2000. It's got DOS and Windows 98 on it. Among my collection, I haven't found anything that I can't get to run.
The hole that I see is during the time shortly after Dosbox's release when its compatibility with software would've been low and before they optimized for speed. It'd be closed up somewhat if we could send the current Dosbox source code back to 2002 ;-)
Because without it, you could be 100% sure the developers won't be updating them.
Now, lots of games from the late 90's, early 2000's don't work anymore on modern Windows versions. And DOSbox isn't powerful enough to run them.
What you do now?
Me, Personally? I have a Pentium 3 desktop running Windows 98, with a GeForce 4 video card. It's also got a Sound Blaster 16 video card. I consider it my machine to cover an era from the 80s to about 2002, when I can't run the software anywhere else. Actually, I mentioned that machine in my last post.
An example piece of software: Rayman 2. I had trouble running it under Windows XP, 7, and Wine in Linux. It won't run in a VM because it requires (I think) DirectX 7 and hardware acceleration. It's a flawed example, though: it's had a few re-releases, including a compatibility fix by GOG for modern Windows versions.
A more recent example: Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. It'll run on more recent versions of Windows, but has trouble with having over 2GB of RAM (or was it 4?) available. Some lovely group logged the system calls and developed a binary patch to allow it to run on modern systems. This illustrates another option: banding together as a community and doing what the publisher won't (or can't).
A lot of the posts in this thread (including yours) seem to elevate convenience to the level of a technical requirement. At some high-90s percentage of coverage, that isn't a problem for old software. Every once in a while though, you have to do the inconvenient thing.
Apple is not forcing anyone to adopt this model, and most people won't be comfortable with a subscription based game anyway.
However, for MMO's, subscriptions make sense.
> If you value a piece of software, then (...)
No. Just no. If I value X, I value X. Don't try to con me into doing something else. It is "I value X because something.", not "I value X because I want something else to happen in the future." (in this case, maintain and improve the app). I may want to donate, or buy future products from the same developer, just so I can support him. But if I just value X, no further action is implied.
> As far as I'm aware, Apple will not force you to subscribe to any apps.
True. In the same way nobody will force you to pay taxes. You are not forced to pay taxes. But you are punished if you don't. You are not forced to use this app model, but you are punished if you don't. (if the current model of buying apps completely migrates to a subscription based one).
Do you really think people like subscriptions?
People prefer to pay $50 for a 64GB micro SD card in a store, than $1/mo for 50GB cloud storage.
Offering your app for a one time fee is an advantage for the developer.
No, but if the marketplace shifts to 90% of developers using subscriptions in their apps (essentially replacing the existing in-app purchases model), then it was facilitated by Apple as the "preferred" model for monetization.
I'm in the same boat as others in the comments. I am willing to pay a subscription for the 2-3 pieces of software that are absolutely core to my daily habits. Beyond those precious few apps, no developer deserves a monthly subscription from me - and they will never suck one out of me. I'm sorry, but too many solo developers think that creating a single app should earn them a $200k/year salary. I've known a couple of these people who think that a single app they worked on for 3 months should set them up for lifetime retirement. The expectations are unreal, and will never be fulfilled no matter the monetization scheme used.
My pessimistic opinion is that within Apple's walled garden, the consumers don't get to choose. If the majority of apps go the subscription route, they will succeed because there is no alternative. Average users won't stop paying because it's subscription; in the grand scheme of things, I suspect my refusal to go along with that model puts me in the minority.
I'm a huge fan of Apple hardware/software, but the App Store is not something I ever expect to operate on a set of ideals I agree with. The day they came out with in-app purchases, I figured the days of a model designed for someone like me will never happen.
But very little software needs to be SaaS, that was a mess you got yourself into in the first place.
It's pretty crazy that people expect to be able to pay themselves indefinitely from charging the same people repeatedly without any improvements to show for it.
Only if the rest of the ecosystem doesn't move. If the OS stays the same, APIs, platforms, and the hardware. Then yes, you're eventually done.
See, I guess a lot of this discussion stems from what specific examples people have in their mind. Yes, there is obviously software that is done at some point, that doesn't require updates, that can be run forever and is good enough for most people.
And there's software that is essentially useless after a few years if you don't upgrade to the newest version.
Offering paid upgrades or providing a SaaS are often the same thing, with slightly different billing schedules. Try to use Microsoft Word 2000 in 2016. The software you bought once and "owned" is of no use in 2016, where businesses email .docx files around. I think software ownership is a myth. Almost every product comes with a best-before date.
I think the market will reflect precisely this. Some apps will keep one-off-pricing, because it fits the nature of the app. Other apps will use subscriptions. If a subscription-based app doesn't provide enough value to its users, someone will come, make a better product with a lower price point and that's it.
> It's pretty crazy that people expect to be able to pay themselves indefinitely from charging the same people repeatedly without any improvements to show for it.
I agree, but my assumption is that the software gets continuously improved, because that's what's expected. If software is subscription-based and doesn't appear to be maintained, people will complain and stop using the service.
What else could ownership possibly mean at that point?
The thing that's missing from the app store isn't subscriptions, it's service contracts.
* I go down to the store and buy a toaster -- I now own that toaster. Now I don't expect the toaster to last forever, but if the toaster breaks or simply stops functioning after a year I have both contractual and legal recourse to have my toaster replaced or refunded.
* When I buy a Windows license I know that I am paying for a guaranteed X years of support.
* If I buy an app I'm paying for... well that's the thing, I don't really know. Some apps it's indefinite, some apps it's until the VC funding runs out, some apps it's until the dev is bored with the project, etc.. Worse, since apps are all thin clients now when that support ends the app is useless.
> What is moral is creating a system by which software developers can support themselves...
Don't kid yourself, no morality went into this decision from Apple's side or any Dev that chooses this monetization path. This is about what people think they can get away with.
I think the central point worth debating is this: A customer has a reasonable expectation that a one time purchase guarantees them that an app will continue to function and be maintained^1 for either the lifetime of the service or the lifetime of the device on which it runs^2.
^1 Not necessarily any new features, just continuing to function.
^2 Depending on whether the app is a service or not.
I applaud your idealism, but with this attitude, you might as well not buy any apps at all. When you buy an app, or TV show, or pretty much anything digital in 2016, you're purchasing a license, not the thing itself. You don't "own" anything.
Even if you can download the app you buy in 2016 in 5 years from now, what are the odds that it still works on whatever operating system is still available, on your 2016 hardware? What good is ownership when you can't even use what you own?
I pay subscriptions for a few TV-related things (Netflix+Amazon for me, DirecTv for the wife). If I really expect to want to watch the shows at some point in the future, I'll buy a copy. If I buy them, it's on a medium that I can format-shift at my convenience and get to run on arbitrary devices (which usually means DVD and the subset of Blurays with released keys).
> What good is ownership when you can't even use what you own?
I've never run into this in a practical sense, but it's an excellent point in the theoretical one. I keep around enough old hardware and software to make it a non-issue.
It's not like asking "ah don't like coal or nuclear power? Go live in a cave."
Sure as long as you also accept that you are not owed bug fixes it updates. If you however believe that with system upgrades you should get corresponding app upgrades, then it starts to sound more like a service. I like subscription because I want developers to treat this as a service: support, fixes, features, etc.
"Bug fixes" and "updates" are both too broad. If a feature is broken enough that an advertised feature of the software doesn't work, or in the case of something criminally negligent on the developer's part, I'd consider myself entitled to an update to fix the issue. Either that or a refund for whatever amount I paid for the app (or potentially damages, if I could prove them negligent).
New features and functional changes should be available as an upgrade, perhaps with a discount over buying a new copy of the software.
I'd expect the app not to break over minor OS updates, but major versions changes are always a less predictable.
If a company publishes an app and then goes out of business, and then years later the platform shifts out from under that app such that it no longer works, do you feel like you deserve a refund? If so, who do you expect to pay? The platform gave your money to the developer; the developer ceased to exist. Neither one has "your" money any more.
If I buy it and they're out of business 5 minutes later, then I guess I should've been paying more attention to who I give my money to.
At this point, no one supports CS6. The fact that you can use it on some particular desktop platform is partially a consequence of their past support, and partially because the platform hasn't "shifted out from under" the application yet.
I don't think that reflects reality. I would suggest taking a look at the internals of AppKit and other critical paths, you'll discover they are very aware of the applications linking into them.
Most recently we had this https://storify.com/gruber/blizzard-exemption-to-ios-and-mac... , which highlights the Platform keeping Developer software running. That looks like the platform doing support to me.
It's a chicken and egg problem.
I don't know why people allowed this transition from software ownership to subscription to happen (although they really weren't given the choice). It's ridiculous that the customer is giving away his MS Office ownership in exchange for the marginal improvements that MS has been doing in the last couple of releases.
Most people here on HN (me included) would benefit from this development but I agree with you: subscriptions are immoral.
PS: IntelliJ IDEA it's great but it is ridiculously expensive imho.
I wish there was more software like it that can just instantly make all my developers more effective. The cost is so minuscule compared to what it actually costs to keep a developer's butt in the chair, I'd be a complete idiot to try to save a few bucks on the tools they use.
Do note that the big conversions to SaaS models in recent years—Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office 365, etc.—are of products where 90+% of the revenue already came from corporate buyers rather than from individual consumer licenses. That the SaaS model also does something-or-other to drive consumer income is cute, but kind of irrelevant to the product managers who are making these business-model decisions.
I don't know why developers allowed to happen the transition of reasonably priced software to ridiculously underpriced almost-free apps.
A bed was made. This bed worked worked out well for IAP driven consumer apps but not so great for less disposable software.
Go ask a mechanic or carpenter how much money they spend on their tools for a job that pays significantly less.
That's a hilarious example, because they don't rent and pay subscription for those tools, they buy them.
No. Flat out no. If I spend $x0 or $x00 for an app to create something (music, code, mechanical drawing, whatever), I darn well better be able to access my music/code/drawing at any point in the future, even if the maker of the app has gone out of business.
This is not a new phenomenon. Try running a game made for Windows XP or even Photoshop 6.0 on Windows 10, it likely doesn't work even in the backwards compatibility modes. Companies like GoG.com have made it a successful business to take old beloved games and make it convenient to play on today's machines, and I'm a happy customer of theirs even though I also own the originals in many cases.
The way I see it, the software was sold to work to work in a certain environment and period of time, and I'm free to try to keep it running best I can. But I'm certainly not entitled to demand that the software developers keep supporting me forever simply because I paid once. Therefore I strongly prefer subscription models for the software that I regularly use, as it's the only model that aligns both my and the developer's incentives in the long run.
The "available in the next version" effect of one-time purchased software creates bad incentives for the developers to exclusively focus on new features even if they're gimmicks, because that's the only thing that brings in the money. As a customer, I literally cannot give them money (except gifting copies to friends) just to keep polishing what they have even if that's exactly what I'd like them to focus on.
I've found that after Adobe switched to Creative Cloud, and Jetbrains to their yearly subscriptions, I've benefited as a customer of Photoshop and IntelliJ respectively by both more rapid releases of genuinely useful features, not in big-bang releases but constantly over time, and that they've stepped up their general polish in the products. Photoshop CC is SO MUCH BETTER these days than the always buggy yearly releases of the past, because they don't have to cram 51 new crap features in every 12 months! A developer with a subscription model doesn't have the constant feature pressure, and can work on what the majority of current customers values most, and some times that is just bug fixing and polish.
This is the exact opposite of truth. Windows 95? Sure. But XP? Rubbish.
Putting all your eggs in one basket is generally considered a bad business model, and the same easily applies to software. Free software does not need to just be ethical to be useful, it is also highly pragmatic.
At least if I purchase an app I can continue using it for a significant amount of time and look for an alternative. A subscription makes this much harder.
We used to call that webpages.
There are other games that I play all the time where I'd be happy to pay a bit every mo/yr to ensure content/fixes keep flowing.
Whereas I would prefer to pay for a useful app... and then if they develop in ways that I find attactive, pay some more for the improvements.
With the subscription model, they have absolutely no incentive to ' continue to update and improve the app'
So each month we are now going to pay for Netflix, Spotify, Dropbox, Github, Amazon Prime and a bunch of apps...
I love and subscribe to all of the above, they provide me with capabilites that were simply not available before, such being able to stream any song I can imagine instantly. Heck, I'd happily pay 5x the current Netflix price if it was more like Spotify in terms of coverage.
Operating systems are a service.
I would actually prefer to pay developers of operating systems that are truly useful to me a monthly amount so I know they can continue to update and improve the OS. If an OS saves me $1000/yr in headache, I'd prefer to spend $30/yr on a subscription rather than lose the OS entirely because the developers can't keep the lights on.
Sounds like Apple is still too incompetent to care about backwards compatibility.
In a reasonable world, stuff running locally on your device would keep working, regardless of what happened to the original developers.
The reason I usually hate subscriptions is that they are a headache remember, changing credit cards requires me to remember and update subscriptions in many different places, and providers make it hard to cancel. My experience with subscriptions on iOS has been very positive. It's easy to pay for and easy to cancel.
Personally, I would rather pay a small amount per month while being able to cancel at any time than pay a larger amount up front for something I've never tried. If the app is compelling enough to keep using, I'm happy to keep paying.
Right now you get problems like Tweetbot. It costs money to maintain Tweetbot and keep it working, and to add new features. I use it every day, I'd be happy to 'subscribe' to it.
As it is now they only get paid when I buy the app. If I keep using it for 4 years I may still expect support but they're not getting additional income.
If you don't have enough growth to sustain you, what people have to do is release a new version of the app. Maybe it's a big upgrade (like Tweetbot has done) but some companies basically arbitrarily decide "This one is new, pay again".
And even though Tweetbot is great they lose money because people who are addicted to the app don't want to pay another $2. And they spam the rating for the app with 1-star ratings.
For apps that need constant maintenance? This seems like a great idea.
This is like leasing vs buying, the only difference is with your example you'll get one choice, pay the lease, or pound dirt. I'd rather buy the app once and be done, and have the choice to upgrade at my discretion, than be forced to pay yearly.
If Twitter changes the API on Monday, how many versions back should Tweetbot have to support based on a single $2 (or whatever) a few years ago?
That's the issue. People get pissed there isn't perma-support for apps that need constant updates. This is a way to make that more feasible.
Somewhere along these lines, the software will need to be updated repeatedly: security updates, API changes, SDK changes, etc.
Software just does not stand still like we think it does from the consumer perspective. Any app in production is going to have maintenance costs and forced upgrades that will be an ongoing cost to the developer.
I grew up in a world where software came on a disc, I bought it and installed it it was mine. A perpetual subscription model feels to me like ransomware--"pay up or you'll never see your app again." But I have to admit that I know that the costs of having an app in production today are continuous.
The only difference is that Google makes it easy for people to abuse the system.
Why do you need MORE apps? I'm a developer and heavy iPhone user and it rare for me to download apps these days. I browse the store regularly just to check out what's going on but most new apps provide little use. They let me make my face look phone. Share emojis created by reality stars. etc. I think this move will lead to higher quality apps. Developers will be able to invest more in updates and developing their product instead of abandoning it once sales drop.
1) Some apps have a limited life span - games, for example, or apps specific to an event (like the SIGGRAPH or GDC apps)
2) Some apps have bugs that you don't encounter until you use a particular function
3) Some apps stop being updated and you need more functionality than they offer.
4) You have a new need you didn't have before so you need a new app or apps to fulfill it
If you're talking about an app that's a major part of your workflow for something, maybe this makes sense. But most of the apps that I've paid $2-$5 on are things that I'm only likely to fire up occasionally when I need them. Monthly fee to mark up photos or scan papers with the camera? I'll pass.
I honestly can't think of a single paid app that I use that I don't think is worth more than $2 to purchase forever. If there's an app I won't use often but professionals would use daily for years (say a house measurement app while I'm shipping for a house) I'm happy to pay .99 or 1.99 for the month or two that I'm using it, and simply unsubscribe when I no longer have a need for it. The real estate professionals that rely on the app however can pay that in perpetuity and get a better app out of the deal since it's actually making the developer money every month.
On the other hand, for an app I use every day (say Overcast) I'd be happy to pay a subscription price for monthly/quarterly/yearly use of it.
I think this will have 2 positive effects -
1) developers can be incented and paid for keeping their apps current and improved
2) the 'top paid' areas of the app store will be strongly indicative of quality, as the more people are willing to pay recurring costs for an app, the more likely it is to be good (games probably fall in a different category, but I don't do much gaming these days).
Subscription price is $5/month ($60/year) because it's a professional tool for sysadmins who use it all the time. Maybe you'd have paid $30 for it standalone, but now if you want to use it for 3 years, the price is 6x as high (and the software poofs when you stop paying).
The line between professional tools and software I'd like to use for totally noncommercial purposes once every couple of weeks isn't always clear cut, and the pricing policies on the App Store have tended to keep things at an affordable mid-range where I can buy something even if it's only for occasional use. Subscription prices seem to get priced for the heavy professional users.
The solution I'm hoping for (carrying on the VNC example) is a free tier locked to a single connection, cheap tier with 5 saved connections, and professional tier for heavy users. But you just know the net effect of this is going to be prices going up (they wouldn't be doing it otherwise), and there are frankly a lot of things that aren't worth a recurring payment to keep around.
I'll pay a subscription for an app that receives substantive updates. But most apps don't need that, and they don't provide them at a monthly rate (they may provide updates that frequently, but not pay-worthy updates).
The problem with subscriptions is that it's hard for me to justify paying a recurring $12/year subscription for an app that I'll use once in that time. These kinds of apps I'm most likely to just do without if they go to a subscription model.
It's a special folder.
When you put an app in the folder it will DELETE the app from your phone and store it like a symlink. When you try to open the app from the folder it will install it again for you.
Think of all the subscription money you will save!
Only $5 per month.
That's where you diverge from the population. Apple needs a solution for the general problem of people not wanting to pay much for iOS apps. It may disappoint those of us who prefer spending more up front for quality, but Apple has surely determined that more people will buy more apps this way.
(By the way, you compared paying $X upfront to paying $X per year which of course is a worse deal. A more representative comparison would be $X * 0.33 per year.)
Yes! And thanks to missing app store features Apple has provided developers no way to set expectations for things like upgrade pricing. Not to mention in-app purchases which were another way to maintain the illusion of "free" apps among users.
The fact that subscription pricing is now seen as the solution is really sad because subscribing to an App is fundamentally different than buying one. In particular, transactions that used to be atomic - like buying an app or gifting an App to a friend - are now transient and come with all kinds of strings and commitments attached.
Today I could go home, fire up my 5 year old iPod touch, and still access all of its apps - and the data therein. In a subscription-based app economy I wouldn't be able to do the same after the first month!
Also, it's not clear to me that apps will be disabled if you stop subscribing as opposed to just no longer upgraded. So your 5 year old iPod might still work.
The Mac app eco system was thriving despite a ridiculously small market. The indie devs focused on delivering quality applications and a lot of people paid good money. Enough to sustain many indie companies and developers.
I don't get why Apple has chosen to ignore the factors that helped make that eco system such high quality.
Edit: I want to add I am not against improving the subscription model. My problem is that Apple doesn't seem to want to add the stuff indie mac devs have been asking for years (trial periods, upgrade pricing). It would have been great if Apple did both subscription, and better purchase models (it's still possible they might once WWDC comes around).
... none of which went to Apple. So that's one business model they're not particularly keen on. It might have benefited the platform at large and drive Mac sales (unlikely -- what drove sales were always the big creative suites), but it didn't directly benefit Apple in the same way as appstore sales now do.
Apple simply doesn't want big-price shrinkwrap on iOS. 75% of the market is games where whales are nickled and dimed; that's what they want: high frequency, low-price, constant, reliable revenue.
Was it? What's your source?
It's been pretty much proven that demos actually sell fewer apps than no demos, at least at the price levels seen in the App Store (once you get up to several hundred dollars or higher, then presumably things change). Even at the $60 price point of AAA console games, demos have been proven to hurt sales (which is why you never seen demos of AAA console games anymore).
Google Play purchases have a 2 hour window to refund any app you buy, Valve give refunds no questions asked in some circumstances, after the EU and AU asked a lot of questions. AU recently ruled it illegal to refuse refunds with requirements like trying to fix crashing games or not refunding functioning titles.
Anyway, why would a $30 purchased app become $30/year? Nobody prices like this. Photoshop used to cost $585. Now it's $10/month. I think a $30 app would probably become $1/month.
What's new is for someone who makes a Twitter client to be able to say "You can buy TweetMaster17000, but it's a subscription that totals $6 a year. That way I can afford to continually update it for existing users."
That's not a bad thing, but it may be a hard sell to many users.
This is part of the time-honored business model for places like fitness clubs.
Indeed I find subscriptions annoying too, hope the new AppStore comes with a friendly subscription management section along.
Also, I would quibble with your description of it as 'resetting of visible app reviews' as the old reviews are still visible, they're just one tap away...
They need an option when releasing a build: reset reviews (major release) or leave reviews intact (minor release).
Exactly this situation happens and it's fine because people mention it. "In the latest update, X happens"
Plus developers can respond to reviews and mention that the issue was fixed
But in a low volume market like the Mac App Store it takes anywhere from a few weeks to months to get 5 reviews after an update. (Or even years in non US stores).
I made the experience that updating a well reviewed Mac app leads to a drop in sales until you get back to at least 5 ratings. (You need at least 5 ratings to display the average rating in search results and category lists in the Mac App Store).
This is a big incentive to keep updates back until it is really necessary to release them.
- show the version the user reviewing was on
- allow the developer to reply to the review to say the bug was fixed in version x.x
Clearly a subscription model isn't for many apps - probably most apps. But it was right for us, as we've been maintaining and improving Zombies, Run! for over four years now, and every week we add new content. With a subscription model, we only get paid if people decide we're good enough to commit to over a long period of time. Since we're about helping people exercise, I think that's fair enough.
I do think that Zombies, Run! is an example of an app that justifiably fits the subscription model. The continued added content makes that make sense. (I am a fan!)
I just hope subscription doesn't become the norm - I'd hate to see a calculator on a subscription model.
In light of this news, I wrote up a short post about how we made Zombies, Run! a subscriptions success:
I don't see a reason to subscribe for apps that are one-time pay and periodic long term use. There is a fine line here that developers will have to be cautious not to cross. A lot of apps have no reason to be subscription model, but the prospect of recurring revenue is too tempting.
Edit: On the other hand, this is totally awesome for services and products that already offer subscriptions on other platforms or on the web, like online streaming, education, and as someone mentioned here, tools like Sketch.
This is the main issue I think. The only way to charge users for an update is to create a new version of the app and then try to inform users about it. A subscription will enable ongoing development for apps which is unsustainable at 99¢ per download.
So despite the fact that pretty much everyone will want continued improvements, nobody will get anything.
For most people and most apps, paying once up front is a huge gamble. Most app consumers have no idea how to get a refund. Many aren't even aware that it's an option. So, they don't buy. It's not worth risking even 99c up front. Especially because the vast majority of consumers are not interested in doing thorough research on apps ahead of time. They just want to try a bunch and see what they like.
Auria also had an upgrade which cost about 20-30 EUR (can't remember). It's not unusual for people to pay more than 150 EUR for Auria.
Decisions to buy are made based on the developer's reputation, reviews and discussions on forums.
Do users still expect the upgrade for free?
So currently your only option is to release app2, app3 etc. without the possibility to address your customer base (offering upgrades etc.)
Subscriptions are basically renting apps for regular time periods. If forced, this would kill all indies for sure as most people would spend budget to the few main apps they need. I can also barely envision how the platform would attract creative people as it would feel like oligopoly. Frankly, with computers we have a chance to break natural constraints on availability but companies seem to be hell bent on reintroducing the same stinky approaches from the past. Why?
Because I want to buy food and pay rent.
You're gonna have to show that would be the result. You'd also have to show that whatever your alternative idea is. You said you want to "break natural constraints on availability." How are you going to do that without charging per copy, or charing a subscription model? And how does your idea make more money that previous, or at least a similar amount?
"Subscriptions border on restricting somebody's financial freedom."
No, they don't.
I have a plenty of money I want to spend on software but only if it empowers me and not if it treats me as an ATM. For example, the old JetBrains model of buying a new major release (and keeping it forever) and then getting free updates for a year was simply perfect, both for allowing developers to love the company that treats them properly and financing ongoing development; not sure why they regressed.
Do new users have to pay all tiers of upgrade or do they get a reduced cost?
If it's the former, then the app's price keeps on rising and comes down to IAPs being better to unlock extra features you actually need without the whole package.
If it's the latter, then old users feel betrayed for having to pay the full upgrade price even though they bought the app earlier than new users.
There are pros and cons for both sides, unless I didn't think of one solution that could work perfectly.
Do they, though? Back when things like word processors were hundreds of dollars for the initial purchase and maybe half that for upgrades, it kept your users relatively happy. But when Apple introduced Pages on the app store originally, it was something like $30-40 for new versions. So I actually ended up spending less on it than I had on other word processors, but getting the same regular updates. It's free now, but I personally love the model of low reasonable price each time rather than really high first time price, and kind of high additional price when new versions come out. That initial high price meant there were a lot of programs I didn't buy when I wasn't making quite the salary I am today.
This. I'm a developer of such a "sporadic use" app and I don't see how a subscription model would benefit my users. And I honestly wouldn't feel too good about introducing subscription pricing to a tool someone might need once in a few weeks.
On the other hand this might be a solution to the upgrade pricing problem if one could set the subscription interval to 1 year.
One such annual subscription offer that I was totally in favor of was WhatsApp. Given the volume of use I had from the service, I would have gladly paid more. I would prefer subscription to a clean chat service instead of a free service shoving news, themes, icon-packs etc. in my face to make money.
Additionally, they allow designers to submit their own watch faces and share the revenue which I thought was cool. It helps combat the glut of "brand" knockoffs that fill many of the free/user-generated sites.
Originally, they offered a "pro" version that gave you access to all current and future watch faces for a subscription fee. I was not very keen on this because, like so many, I tend to forget to cancel these things when I stop using them. I mentioned this in an app review and so did many others. We requested a one-time IAP for the "Pro" version and soon after, the developer did just this.
So I paid $10 and every week or so I check out the new watch faces available for download. I like that some of the money goes to the platform and some to the designers. I like that the designs are high quality and don't include any knockoffs or blatant copyright infringement. And I like that I could just buy the full app after trying out the free options.
I've done the same with similar light-verion/paid-upgrade apps but this was the first one I'd run across that offered both a subscription or a one-time purchase.
For the first year of a subscription Apple will maintain its 70 / 30 revenue share; after one year, the new 85 percent / 15 percent revenue share will kick in (applied per subscriber). The new app subscription model will roll out to developers this fall, though if app makers have subscribers they’ve already retained for a year, the new revenue split starts June 13th."
That's a big change.
Unfortunately, from a user standpoint, this seems to be a disincentive to improve their horribly lacking search functionality.
Also for Search Ads (Coming this fall): https://developer.apple.com/app-store/search-ads/
I wonder if they added capacity or dropped review quality - so far we haven't seen a drop in quality and they are able to catch problems at about the same rate.
PS: I've come to a conclusion that whatever Cue runs, it is shit or turns to shit quickly. He's in charge of all the Apple services and they're a complete mess. I hope Cue retires or just transfers his responsibilities to someone who cares about them.
However, I think iTunes, Apple Music and Siri all have weaknesses. But we can only guess who's fault that is - certainly not Cue's alone.
Also, he is employed by Apple since 1989. He must be doing something right.
And Siri's fallen further behind their competition. Don't forget, Siri was the first (major) assistant on the market and Apple had a year or two of head start on their competition. But that advantage quickly evaporated because of Apple's neglect. Siri's creators left and formed Viv because Apple lowered their ambitions and didn't give them the budget they wanted.
That's all Eddy Cue's fault since he's the one who's in charge of these teams. It's as simple as that. And just because he's been at Apple so long doesn't mean he's great at his job. It could as well mean that he's accumulated so much power that he's untouchable.
What's the source of this information?
> And if you're just issuing fixes or simple changes, they don't spend any time "human testing" at all.
How do they differentiate between simple fixes and more substantial changes?
The Information had a blurb about this.
>How do they differentiate between simple fixes and more substantial changes?
I have no idea how they do it. I'm guessing it could be as simple as relying on App Store submission form information and as complicated as analyzing amount of code changes.
Now if we could see a similar factor improvement in TestFlight beta review times...
One could argue that those should be included in the purchase price, but today's app store economy often doesn't allow that.
A text expander is not a "service", nor is a password manager, nor is an audio looper or a to-do lister. To suggest otherwise would be disingenuous. Of course, we don't know what's going to happen in response to this change yet, but statements like Gruber's "win-win-win" and Brent Simmons' request for clarification indicate to me that indie developers will be more than happy to adopt this model with their decidedly non-service software.
I seldom accept any upgrades and keep old versions of apps backed-up in case I rashly do click 'yes'. I know I'm not unique; if an app works, why tempt fate by upgrading it?
Unfortunately with this subscription model everyone will have to pay regardless of whether they want those new features.
1. Fix app discovery
2. Fix app search before putting search ads. e.g. if your app name has a symbol in it searching by app name will NOT return your app in the search results.
3. App review times can be further reduced by automating the review process
4. Try it before you buy it option
5. Better UX
Credit card fees come out of their share and those could very well account for the bulk of the 15%. Even if Apple pays nothing in payment processor markup, there is a fixed minimum "interchange" cost that everyone has to pay (even Walmart). For "ecommerce" it's:
Credit: $0.10 + 1.8-2.4%
Debit: $0.21 + 0.05%
Those 10-21 cent minimums make a big dent in smaller transactions. For a monthly recurring charge of $1.99, already 6% of that goes to credit card interchange. That leaves a 9% gross margin for Apple (4% if debit).
At $0.99, Apple's margin drops to 3% on credit, and they lose money on a debit card.
Now, there is a "small ticket" interchange category that one would hope these transactions would qualify for. That's just $0.04 + 1.65%. But it says it requires a swipe, so I'm not sure. From a fraud risk standpoint Apple Pay should be treated better than a swipe, but I'm not sure if the rules have caught up yet.
It is sad that Apple only took action now, after years of requests and complains by indie developers. Now that app boom is over, I doubt this App Store changes will have any impact.
The reason I quit Adobe and bought Sketch was to support software that I could actually buy. Not this "Good deal for professionals, even cheaper for students, fuck anybody who just wants to use a decent art program every couple of months" model.
I'll see what I can track down on details, but I'm preemptively very disappointed about this.
EDIT: Sketch is _NOT_ switching to a subscription model. Sketch is breaking from the "paid major, free minor" upgrade schedule, and going to "rolling releases, $99 buys the app and a year of upgrades."
Personally I think that's a fair system. It frees them from having to plan new features around the major/minor release schedule, but you can still buy the software and just keep using it.
My biggest concern is going to be OS compatibility. With OS X on a yearly upgrade treadmill, if there are any compatibility issues (and there almost always are), then the Sketch upgrade is effectively not optional. That's not so different from how it is now, except there have only been two major upgrades since the original release (September 2010), so you'll be buying OS compatibility fixes more than twice as often. So I still don't love it.
It looks quite a bit like a subscription model to the average person. $99/year is a pretty big jump in price, but I guess they've gotten a chunk of pro market people. The whole bit about being unfair to late adopters is a bit of bunk.
Not really? My problem with subscription software is that you lose access to it if you stop paying. I used Photoshop 7 for a looooong time because we didn't need any of the new features. You can't do that with Photoshop CC. Because it's a subscription.
If anything, maybe you could call it an "update subscription," but if the software works without an active subscription, then it's not a subscription. That would be like Comcast saying "If you cancel your cable subscription, you can still turn on your TV and watch reruns of whatever aired when you were a customer."
> $99/year is a pretty big jump in price
For that much money, you could use Adobe Illustrator every January, May, and September!
> For that much money, you could use Adobe Illustrator every January, May, and September!
Illustrator is $19.99 per month paid monthly, so a little easier to handle but 2.4x more expensive. Illustrator has a lot more support but the difference in price just got reduced ($99 for about 2+ years versus per year).
Its about a 2x jump in price for Sketch.
I'm most saddened that neither company cares about customer loyalty in a money way.
Autodesk Sketchbook did this around version 6 (not sure if they still do it), and it's a horrible experience.
They change major versions and charge you again. You only find out when the older version you paid for is no longer available on your updated OS X.
Awesome software that I stopped using because of this.
The easy money's already been made in the App Store; with a million+ apps it's a visibility issue. No amount of changes to the App Store will remove the problem of there being a dozen apps that already solve the problem that your app solves.
That said, a subscription model with a reduced cut could improve monetization prospects for a lot of developers, indie especially.
Only if users except the model. I for one, will be removing any of my apps that move to a subscription model. I have no interest in renting the software on my phone.
If Apple adds subscriptions to the Mac App Store that is. We're still waiting for "App Analytics" on the Mac. (The stats where you can see how many people viewed your app's page in the app store and how many downloaded the app. Even though it's the same backend those stats are only available for the iOS store).
I also strongly dislike that they know that x% of users after signing up will barely use the service and it's essentially free money. I know this is why they do it, and I won't support companies for trying to take advantage of users.
about subscriptions - i don't see any reason a developer would share the subscriptions revenue with apple while they sale it for free and make in-app subscriptions.
If the supposed cognitive load of people for using apps is around 26-27, then is there an economic load that says that people will max at say--- $60/month--- in total app subscriptions in the US? And this number could change drastically for users in other countries based on fluctuating dollar values.
1. Rolling deploys - right now releasing on iOS is scary and big bang, combined with the review process it keeps devs up at night worrying.
2. AB Testing on images and copy - you can only update this on each (scary) release, so you can't learn what works quickly.
The goal is to avoid the "white screen of death" you get when a web app won't load.
Always-online is a luxury of spending all your time in certain parts of the world. Baking that assumption into all apps diminishes their utility greatly.