Apple’s various App Stores made it possible for developers to charge for apps, then charge for application subscriptions (I’m still waiting for an app upgrade method that doesn’t involved paying full retail for a modest upgrade in features) by the month or year. Subscriptions are not the future.
Yes, subscription apps are a trend; perhaps a trend with legs. We see more apps moving to a subscription plan every week. Even Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft are in on the subscription craze with Apple Music, Creative Cloud, and Office 365. I understand the value of ongoing payments because budgets.
What I see with subscription applications should be obvious to everyone who tries and buys apps. Higher prices. Check out Bear; a highly acclaimed writer’s app somewhere at the low end of the subscription scale at a mere $1.49 a month, or $15 a year. The app is free to try but all the good features come with the subscription. Use it for three years and the price tag is a minimum $45 vs. Pages on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Free.
At the other end of the subscription scale is the popular 1Password at $3.99 a month or $35.99 a year. After three years, premium password security has a price tag at just under $108. Alternatives to subscription apps will stick around for years because, added up and over time, subscriptions often exceed the value of an application.
Look at Enpass. While not as feature laden as 1Password, it’s damned good, runs on Mac, iPhone, and iPad, syncs between devices, the Mac version is free, and the iOS version is a mere $10. That’s $10 this year, next year, and probably the year after.
How do I know?
Differentiation. That has has become a selling point among many iOS and macOS app developers that their apps are not subscription apps. Why subscribe and pay by the month forever when you can get an app that does mostly the same thing for 1/10th the price? That’s the story. Subscription applications are here and will be around forever, but they won’t take the place– completely– of apps with a good old fashioned price tag.
Think TOC. Total operating cost. What it costs you, over time, for a new gadget. Or, an application. iPhones may be more expensive than most premium Android smartphones, but with ease-of-use, better applications, fewer repairs, and much better resale value, the total cost of using an iPhone may be less than many smartphones that are far less expensive.
Ditto for applications. Competition breeds improved apps and the subscription model, though it has legs enough to be around for a long time, has competition that brings down the TOC.