As a matter of personal policy, I buy the apps I use. I try out a hundred or so apps each year on Mac, iPhone, and iPad; and I do reviews on those I like or would recommend to co-workers, family members, neighbors, or friends (knowing there’s an element of support in a recommendation).
The latest trend to hit app customers and app developers is the so-called subscription model. On the one hand, I’m OK with it. On the other hand, all I’ve seen so far is an increase in prices vs. the old model where we could buy an app and use it forever, or pay a lesser sum for an upgrade that included substantial new features.
Those days, I fear, are going away.
Two examples of the subscription model that many of us may be familiar with include Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom combo for about $10 a month. Forever. Or, the entire Adobe Creative Suite for about $50 a month. Forever. If you’re a business, it’s just another ongoing expense. For the rest of us, it’s a hefty sum without end and fewer options other than to seek out a competitor (Affinity Photo, I’m looking at you).
The other notable example is Microsoft Office, available both as a standalone package and as a monthly subscription which ranges from $7 for personal to $10 for the whole shebang and some extras.
The trend toward a monthly or annual subscription model is growing. The excellent Enlight drawing app won the Apple Design Aware for 2017. The price? $3.99. In all fairness, that’s dirt cheap for what it does on iPhone and iPad. The newest version is called Enlight Photofox, is even better than the original, and it’s free. To try. It’s also a subscription which has a monthly price tag, an annual price, and a heftier one-time for everything price tag that goes well beyond the $3.99 for the original Englight.
There should be no question that app developers– Mac, iPhone, iPad, or whatever platform is chosen– should sell their wares for a price that makes money. The market will decide whether the app is worth the money.
The problem I see so far in the subscription trend is the major jump from a nominal price tag to sum that adds up to significant money very quickly.
Here’s another example. It’s called Bear, a note taking app that works more like a mini word processor for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. It comes with nominal features for free, but plenty of very useful functionality for the subscription price of $1.50 per month or $15 per year (rounded up a penny).
That seems nominal. Is it? Bear is not a word processor in the traditional sense of Word, Mellel, Nisus Writer, Mariner Write, or others of renown on the Mac. Bear is more like Notes and it works on Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
Do the math. $15 a year seems nominal, but becomes $45 over three years. Over time, an app with nominal features becomes competitive with word processors packed with features for about the same money. I want Bear to succeed. It’s a great app and multi-platform. I want Enlight to succeed. It has marvelous features for iPhone and iPad. But both of those apps and others come at an ever increasing price which is a stark contrast to the previous model.
While I worry about the trend toward subscription pricing– which seems simply to raise prices from previous levels to premium levels– I know the market itself will respond accordingly.