What App Services In Your Subscription?

I guess this then comes to the next elephant in the room – apps that are embracing the subscription model.

It seems that we have fewer qualms about paying a monthly fee for an app which grants us a regular, ongoing service, such as music or video streaming. The utility is quite clear – I launch the app, and there’s always something new or different ready for me to consume. The music library I can access today via Apple Music is clearly much wider than what it was a year ago, and it will only continue to grow.

What then about software? What we don’t see is the developer working tirelessly behind the scenes (or so I presume) to iron out bugs and implement new features. Work which doesn’t exactly generate any new income, and which could have been used to create a brand new, paying app instead. It also begs the question of how long I am supposedly entitled to “free” bug fixes after I have purchased the app. Is it really fair to demand that a $20 app such as Ulysses or Things continue to be supported 3 years from today? Do I really expect a $1 app to be supported for many years to come?

I am quite mixed when it comes to what appears to be the increasingly new normal. I get the argument that developers need to eat, but the reality is that I am simply not a power user for many of the apps that I download. I simply don’t find myself using services like Textexpander or Bear to the extent that I consider the monthly fee worth it. Evernote sat in my phone for a full six months after it was installed before I finally got round to making it work for me, and there was no pressure because I was on the free tier. My use of text expander is quite sporadic. Certain months, I use it more (when my work demands it), and certain months, not at all. But I still value the service enough that I continue to pay for it (for now) because the alternative (going without it) is worse!

With paid apps, there is no pressure. I have purchased it, it’s mine forever, and I am in no rush to use it. But with subscription apps, there is this nagging feeling at the back of my head that if I am not milking the app for all it is worth, I am somehow not getting my money’s worth, because I am paying a regular fee for it.

What I like about iOS is that I can have a dozen different apps on my iPhone or iPad that do similar stuff, and I can pick and choose depending on my preference. It seems that the move towards subscription-based apps will ultimately cause me to have to settle on a small selection of core apps that matter the most to me, and I will have to give up on the rest, because I simply can’t pay for them.

Is this what the future of apps holds? Each developer catering to a niche group of users with an app customised to their needs and milking them for posterity? – @abazigal

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