418 Teapot

Subscription Apps and Apple Arcade

Last week Flexbits released a new version of their calendar app Fantastical. There is some great stuff in there and seeing constant innovation on great Apple platform apps is great. But that’s not the most important part.

Flexbits changed their revenue model with this upgrade, instead of a one time purchase, or an upgrade pricing for previous major version users they are migrating over to a subscription model. They’re not the first (Adobe, Microsoft, Sketch to name a few) and definilty won’t be the last. Nor will the outcry of online publications regarding this subject.

And here’s the thing; as a developer I understand why developers are making this move, they need consistency, it’s hard to make a living, espeically when you are writing mobile software. Apple used to ask money for things like iWork (80$ for every major version), Aperture (doesn’t exist) and OS X upgrades (129$ for a single user comes to mind).

The first month of the App Store being around for the iPhone I spent 8$ on Super Monkey Ball. But quickly after it’s introduction an App Store app was either Free or 99ยข. You can’t build a living on that, unless you are in the top 0.001% that reaches fame.

I looked it up, I bought Fantastical for iOS in 2015 for 4$. I got 4 years of use out of that app for the price of an overused coffee metaphor. I once got 1Password 3 for ‘free’ with a MacHeist bundle. I didn’t upgrade until 2 years ago, I probably got years of use out of that for nothing, and I skipped a version. Something a lot of people do, like using Photoshop CS2 in 2019 because you only use it once or twice a year.

In the world of subscription pricing this doesn’t happen, when you use the app you pay for it and you get the latest and greatest. As a consumer that makes me sad; because it means I probably won’t be using a lot of these apps anymore. I can only buy so many coffees a year, and I can only spend my money once. Just like the new Mac Pro isn’t for me, a lot of subscription apps aren’t for me.

I don’t think for one minute a developer cares I bought their app for 4$ 5 years ago. I mean they probably were happy at the time, but they spent that money a long time ago on food, or a beer. They’re looking forward to their next meal and me buying something once very 5 years isn’t going to cut it.

I hope, that just like skeuomorphism we are currently overcompensating and that someday in the future we will reach a point that we can address these issues. Apple Arcade for Apps maybe?