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App Pricing and Expectations

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When I was listening to Connected Episode 116 a few weeks ago, near the end there was a really interesting conversation with Federico, Myke and Steven about app subscriptions and the plans and expectations when you purchase one in the App Store. It got me really thinking about what my personal expectation where having listened to theirs, as I haven’t really thought about them up until this point.

Personally, I find that when you hit a certain price point, you have a certain expectation of the number of updates and/or the number of features. When you are in a subscription model, my implied implication is that your application will be under constant development with features coming in, and stability being increased. When purchasing one-off my expectation often is correlated with the price point.

If I am paying to the tune of $40-$80 on OmniFocus for iOS and MacOS respectively depending on which tier I purchase, I have an implied understanding that I’ll be getting at a minimum 2 to 3 years of updates streaming through before another large paid update comes in. When I get something for $.99 one off in the App Store, while I might be slightly disappointed if I don’t get updates, I see it for the point of “you get what you pay for”.

Now at the same time, I purchase apps based on what features they have at the time, versus what is promised down the road, as that feature may never arrive. For example, I didn’t purchase Ulysses until version 2.5 came out with WordPress Export, which was a big feature I was looking for. In my opinion, it was absolutely worth the money and the wait!

I ran into some issues with the Export features on my blog, and their support team was been fantastic in troubleshooting the issues as well as showing me how I can generate logs in the future.

On a subscription example I just purchased Newton, an E-Mail client that has gone to a subscription model at 24.99 a year (Black Friday promotion, usually 50/year). This is a pretty large chunk of change to pay for an e-mail client, but I find the unique features of the client will be worthwhile for my personal and business use to be worth the annual fees, in particular the ability for send later and read receipts on every email. For example, adding in the read receipt feature on a gmail account costs 4 dollars a month on something like Mailtrack.io, alone costing almost the amount of the full price annual subscription for one used feature! For my personal use of email, this feature alone was worth the price for me.

On a “one off” purchase example, Editorial is a $10 text editor, extremely powerful and for most users is very much for the price point. Up until recently, I have been a little concerned about the updates that will be coming to editorial, as I have been in the Editorial 1.3 beta for almost a year as of this point. The last two update I received to the Editorial beta were just to extend the 60 day timer that is loaded on any single application on TestFlight. While it is a simple .x increment update to the software, it did concern me as to how frequently future updates were going to come. At the same time, the feature set at launch was sufficient for me to purchase the application, and other developers have added workflows to the application to make it more powerful even without the current updates (such as the Omnifocus Automation)

Funny enough during my time writing this post, Editorial just posted a new update into TestFlight, actually increasing the number of features and adding more, such as matching the same Python engine used in Pythonista (another app from the same developer), as well as fixing UI elements and adding more reporting features if issues go wrong:

• Updated Python interpreter to 2.7.12 – this required quite a lot of internal changes, so there could be more Python-related regressions than usual (the Python runtime is now the same as in Pythonista though, so it should be easier to maintain going forward).

• Improvements in various Python modules, e.g. sound, speech (also inherited from Pythonista).

• Fixed a couple of minor UI glitches (e.g. text color in “new folder” dialog). • The snippet editor includes the “selected text” variable again (note: this is obviously only useful when a snippet is selected from the list, not when it’s inserted via abbreviation).

• The location module should work again.

• Exceptions in Python scripts are now printed to the console (with traceback) instead of showing an alert (which often lacked sufficient details).

This alleviates some of my concerns about the future of Editorial.

One final example, of which I i’m currently battling with how I feel about their model, is Infuse, a media player for iOS. I paid the full price about a year ago for the app and overall have been mostly happy with it. The only big issue I had was that it did not not support Picture in Picture, or split view, features that have been in iOS since iOS 9. I figured in time the features would come.

A few weeks ago, they release Infuse 5, which has picture in picture as well as split view. Instead of offering it as a free upgrade which I expected, it is a rebranded new app, requiring a full new purchase price, as well as a free version that you can purchase as a subscription for 7 dollars a year to forever have the newest version.

I understand app developers need to continue to bring in revenue to survive, and new features are a big bonus to make someone want to upgrade, however I don’t know how I feel about making a full price paid upgrade for what I personally feel should have been features added over a year ago.

I would feel a little better about it if they had a timeline for when version 6 comes out, as its 7 a year for the subscription or 12 for the one time purchase of Infuse 5. If I had at least 1 year and 10 months of 5, I’d feel better about paying full price right now, but if we don’t have a timeline, I have no idea if in 8 months they’ll release the new version making the people who purchase the non subscription version very sad pandas. At the same time nothing is stopping me from getting the subscription version, and my current version that I own has not stopped working, its the same app I purchased a year ago and performs flawlessly.

Overall, I guess my opinions are mixed and variable, as humans tend to be!

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