Productivity Apps and Subscription Pricing

This post by David Sparks from a couple of days ago got me to thinking about the impact the subscription model will have on the end user and ultimately the developer.

David uses the recent event of the journaling app Day One going to a subscription model as the basis for his post. He also makes reference to a post by Gabe Weatherhead on the same subject.

David Sparks:

Day One, the best diary app for iOS and Mac is transitioning to a subscription model and they are taking a beating for it. Gabe Weatherhead wrote a post about this and I agree with every word.

Gabe Weatherhead:

So, the obvious question: Am I signing up for the new Day One service? The answer is “not right now.”

David Sparks:

I spoke with a developer friend that makes legal-related apps. He explained the transition of his app to a subscription model as a last resort to keep the lights on but also “the worst two months of my life”.

My fear, as someone who really likes quality productivity apps is that all this will end up driving productivity apps out of business.

Those apps take a lot of time and attention to do right while at the same time consumers are not used to paying subscriptions for them.

The traditional model for productivity apps was the upgrade price, where developers released a new version every year or so and everyone paid a reduced fee upgrade price.

In the meantime expect more quality apps to go to the subscription model and, if they are apps you love (or even like), I’d encourage you to support them through the transition.

My thoughts on the subscription model for the end user:

I have two productivity apps that I use many times every day. They have a lot of overlap. But each does things that the other doesn’t do. Now let’s say they both decide to go to a subscription model. I’m likely not going to pay a subscription for both. So one of the developers will lose. With the upgrade price mode, I have the option to upgrade none, one or both apps. Whether I upgrade or not I can continue using the app that I originally paid for.

I’m not a fan of this model. I think the subscription model has the potential to kill some great apps. Many end users myself included have to take a hard look at the cost of app subscriptions. With only so much money to go around I have to be selective with the subscriptions that I sign up for. With the upgrade pricing model, I have the option of upgrading and paying the price or continuing to use the current version of the app.