Subscription or no subscription? That is not the question - Founder of iA Writer

Sharing a write up from the founder of iA Writer


Subscriptions [EDIT: insert “for consumer software” here] are just evil. Extorting me of money every month? No way.

Look, app devs say they need money to put food on the table.
Here’s what I say: don’t develop full-time if you can’t afford it.
Will some good apps disappear? Yes.
Will life be better? Yes.

If devs still don’t want to do that, they should use the Omni Group pricing model. All purchase options available, so that you can buy your app outright or choose to “support the developers”.

Edit: I would like to clarify that subscriptions for services are perfectly valid. However, software is not a service per se, and I am not willing to pay for it as a service. Yes, some software might die out. But better, cheaper ones will take its place. And yes, “evil” is an exaggeration. Sue me.


We tried different things before. We tried high prices, mid-range prices, low prices, free, and freemium. Getting Android users to pay for software is not for the feeble-hearted. So far, offering a free basic version with a choice between paid and subscription seems to be the only thing that works. And that doesn’t mean we buy yachts, it means that we might be sustainable in one or two years."

The share of customers that decide to either buy or subscribe is at 50/50. Note: The subscription (USD 5.-) is substantially cheaper than buying the app (USD 30.-). In other words, we make substantially more via paid apps. ’

We might be sustainable in one or two years???

Sounds like a plan for disaster!

I work in the Semiconductor ATE Industry started in 1980 and at that time >30 companies existed globally. Now this number is down to 4 so I expect to see the same thing happen to the computer software industry.

I see the industry going to the SetApp model and then developers are compensated by the amount that their customers use their application. Eg. why pay for a app like Gemini duplicate file finder when I probably will only use it a couple of times per year?

This is similar to the Skillshare model.

Pay-per-use just like Toll-Roads.

Some people do not value their own time so trying to convince them to a subscription model is a waste of your time. Sometimes you just need to fire these “select” customers because they bring nothing to the value equation and because they have so much free time on their hands they will be the first to write scathing comments about any issues. I have seen this happen for free applications on the iTunes store.

There was a day when software cost several hundred dollars and utilities at least $50.00. My life is better than the good old days as there was nothing good about those past days except so much wasting my valuable time.

1 Like

We don’t bat an eye when we write checks for cable TV, Internet, phone, gas, electric, magazines, mortgage, and so on. We don’t even object to paying monthly fees for digital services. Netflix, after all, has 44 million people worldwide paying monthly, and Spotify/Apple_Music have over 160 million subscribers between them, not to mention Audible. com and books subscriptions like Scribd and Amazon’s offering.

Just evil" is over the top when - unless you’re a student having mom and dad pay your way - you’re paying subscriptions all the time.

They glossed over quite a lot. But it was still an interesting read.


That’s a very extreme view of the world. People need to get paid in a predictable way. I’d hate to have a job where I didn’t know how much I was going to get paid each week/month.

I’m all for low-cost subscriptions (like Drafts). Ideally you’d get critical mass so you can keep the costs low per user whilst generating a reasonable income.


Yes I thought that was an over the top comment as well but did not take the bait other to say sometimes it is good to fire your customers.

Being in the service business, it has been good to qualify your customers. In fact, I view it as a partnership and as a partner companies are very interested in making sure that you are profitable to be there in the long term. Customer that just want to grind you down end up being the same ones suck up all your support time so I would go back to them and say nothing personal but it is no longer financially feasible to keep you as a customer.

Business are moving towards collaboration all throughout the supply chain. I remember one company who told Apple to go pound sand when they had IC’s in the first Ipad but Apple tried to grind them down on price for model 2.

This is timely as I just got off the phone with a Software Development company who is updating their web bookmark app extension Toby asking for inputs on subscription pricing and new designs and functionality. I happily gave her 45 minutes of my time discuss the apps and ideas for improvements and pricing.

People are used to buying phones every 1>2 years and computers around every 5 years cars every 5>6 years but somehow want their software to last forever.

I think we are going to see many changes in the next few years and much consolidation.

I have none of the optional subscriptions you speak of. No Netflix, Spotify, Apple Music, Audible, Scribd, etc.

A mortgage is a loan, not subscription.

Internet is a constantly provided service, that deserves a subscription.

The key is, software should be a one-time thing. I’m not asking for new features, not asking for major updates. As long as the app doesn’t crash, I don’t care whether the dev continues to develop it. The argument that devs need money to continue developing is of no concern to me.

And yes, “evil” is an exaggeration. Sue me.


Despite it being evil. How about your phone service? :wink:

Anyway my point was that you were making it a black and white polemic when it deserves a better discussion. I’m glad you do agree you were exaggerating.

1 Like

Of course it’s an exaggeration! I’m not insane.

I think.


Cool. No need to be posit extreme arguments though. Extreme people are completely totally crazy and evil.


Here’s a neat idea for developers: Develop good software and sell it. Let us buy a license for free updates for a year, but let us keep using the version that we purchased forever. If you put additional work into your product that we feel is worth another purchase, we’ll buy the update. Xojo (formerly REALbasic) does this and it’s fantastic. I never have to worry about having my license yanked and they’re incentivized to keep making improvements, improvements that I’m happy to pay for.


Agenda uses this model too. Good idea, in my opinion.
Eastgate/Tinderbox sells updates for a year ($89).

Didn’t realize REALbasic was still around, but I notice they carefully avoid saying BASIC on the website.


If the Dev doesn’t continue to work on it, then you are buying a product that may only last until the next Apple update.


Why is life better when good Apps disappear?


@MereCivilian: thanks for posting this. I’m a diehard iPad user, but I have to admit that I’m less than comfortable with the ethics of the iOS app store and the amount of power Apple can exert over developers.

@ThatNerd: on the one hand, I empathise with your distaste for subscriptions— particularly in cases where an app you’ve used and established a relationship with handles the switch to a subscription model poorly. Lots of potential for disappointment and frustration there.

On the other hand, I’m happy to judiciously support the makers of apps whose efforts make a marked difference in the way I do what I do. Currently, via the app store, that’s Drafts, Evernote and Due (Due has a really fair model where you don’t lose features you’ve unlocked if your subscription lapses). Of course, that’s just my stance, and you’re entitled to yours, same as developers are entitled to try whichever pricing models they think might suit their needs best. In the latter case, time will tell, right?


I just read the write-up published by the founder of iA Writer. It was a very interesting read. Highly recommended. Thank you @MereCivilian for sharing! :slight_smile:

It might be a good idea to read the linked blog post before commenting here. I think that this could provide more substance to the discussion. :slight_smile:


And I would take my time making a decision as to whether I needed to use that software or not, hopefully with a free trial. When you’re about to plunk down a decent chunk of cash, you really take your time to consider whether you will use it or not.

The monthly subscription model is great at grabbing compulsive app purchasers whom randomly sign up for a subscription without thinking it through (“Only .99¢ a month!”) that will likely only use that app a couple times a month, if that.

I love subscriptions,

  • they give the user the possibility to switch apps without extra cost since they all are subscriptions.
  • they allow the the developer to update without waiting for a new version.
  • they stop the flood of new apps to learn since it’s more profitable to continue developing existing apps.
  • it keeps developers on their toes since the threshold to jump to a new app is lower.



I’m not so sure that the rate of updates has significantly increased for subscription apps. It might even be the opposite, as the developer doesn’t have to attract new customers once (s)he has a solid subscriber base.

Also disagree on the ease to switch apps. Once you have subscribed, it takes effort to get rid of it. You have to cancel it somehow, I suppose. Don’t know for sure as I dislike app subscriptions so much that I refuse to use those apps.


I think perhaps we are being two binary or absolute. As I posted before, I don’t care for subscriptions but I also recognize that there are some that are worthwhile and whose development is consistent and good.

My approach is to minimize and be highly selective about all subscriptions, I track all of them in Bobby, and I curate them every six months. In other words, they have to earn their keep. When possible I use default apps as being good enough and select apps without a subscription, e.g., Scrivener instead of Ulysses. But, for example, I find MindNode, 1Password and CleanMyMac worth the subscriptions. I did not find Text Expander to be worth it (lack of development) so I dropped it and created a workaround. Not counting entertainment (e.g., NetFlix, Apple Music, etc), I have four app subscriptions. That’s it and those four have earned their subscription cost for my workflow needs.

In short, I think thoughtful balance and weighing the ROI for each app and the ROI for the total being spent on all apps over a year’s time is the best approach.