I can only speak for myself: I am not against subscriptions. I have no issue to subscribe to an app if I need it. But I tend to find myself more often in a position where I realize that I do not need an app. Which leads me to not subscribing to it.
“There is an app for that.” This marketing slogan in the early years of the Appstore has led to me trying (and buying) very many apps because I love trying out new things. Many of those apps were very affordable and the often-called “no-brainer” to me. Typical impulse purchases. The ecosystem has matured, the prices have gone up. Which has changed me into a more sensible direction: “There is an app for that. But I do not need it.”
Many developers have brought apps to the market at an extremely low price point - and some also with a feature set not comparable to the one of today. Fantastical is the perfect example. It started as a little calendar in the menubar. Beautiful and affordable. Today, it is a very sophisticated calendar with a lot of features I do not need. It still is beautiful. But its feature set at its current price point is not for me.
Developers and sometimes also tech “press” state over and over again that an app needs to be sustainable. And that is perfectly true. Otherwise, it will not work out in the long run. But the challenge is to find a market for those new “sustainable” price points. Sustainability has to work on both sides: it has to be sustainable for the customer, too - not only for the developer. Many apps have entered the market at a price point and with a feature set that was sustainable for the user/customer. Some of them are not sustainable any longer for some customers. Which is fine as long as they find their place in the market with enough existing or maybe new customers.
A second point: a subscription feels more like a commitment to me. Do I really want to have this contract that automatically charges me regularly with whatever amount of money? For a calendar? Or not? My answer after the recent price changes is a clear no.
I would not call it a backlash, but I think that impulse purchases are being done more likely than impulse subscriptions. I am more the guy that likes to spend a certain amount of money and be done with it. If there is an update that is not free, I decide if I buy it or not. That maybe is not very desirable for the developer, but that is how I roll: a subscription is not out of the question, but it for sure is not something I am doing on a whim. And while there may be an app for everything, for sure there is no need for me to subscribe to everything.
I’ve concluded that what I “need” in apps is far smaller than I originally thought. At this point, I need an app for 1PW, so I subscribe. I don’t “need” a subscription-based note-taking app, so I use Apple Notes, iA Writer, and Obsidian. I don’t need natural language processing to create an event in a calendar, nor do I need calendar sets. Those are nice-to-haves, but not “needs” for me, so I use Apple Calendar.
Subscriptions can be worth it, but for me they often feel like a drag. One more thing I need to keep in mind which will show up on my credit card. So mostly I make do with stock apps and one-time purchases.
I personally find Fantastical’s pricing quite steep. It is a calendar app after all (I do not really care for their other app). Actually, I felt quite cheated when they moved to version 3. I had version 2 on Mac and iPhone. Suddenly, instead of a paid for app with everything unlocked, I had the free version (plus grandfathered in features) of an app and hated that a lot of buttons pushed me to get a subscription. If they had made a separate app, I would have been fine with them going subscription.
Also, I would hope that more developers consider their apps done when “all” major features are implement. Afterwards, find that a lot of additions only cover niche use cases and make a formerly easy app complicated.
Well said, and a good trend overall. More specialized software is more useful to fewer people, meeting needs that couldn’t be met before. It should cost more per customer to provide this and there should be more providers. And it should grow over time because the broad trend in recorded history is for our careers and interests to become more specialized with higher standards for excellence.
And that leaves a few huge providers (Microsoft, Google and Apple) to mop up the middle market that has few specialized needs, which they can afford because of the marketing benefits to their platform, increased value to complementary services, added demand for device or cloud storage, or on a whim as a loss leader.
So that’s good. The bad part, from a forum perspective, anyway, is exiting that period when the third party software was more generally useful in aggregate, but less useful to people wanting the most from that software category. For example, when Fantastical was cheap, it didn’t really matter how you were using it. So more people in tech communities based on a platform or an OS were using it together and could better relate. As it and other software become more expensive and specialized, we’re improving our mutual appreciation skills or splitting off into more specialized communities.