The latest trend among Apple’s one billion or so customers is App Store subscriptions. Travel back to yesteryear and iOS and Mac apps were a dime a dozen. Often less. Many required little more than 99-cents to get rid of annoying ads.
Those days are not gone because app developers need to make a living but some are racking up stacks of non-Bitcoin coin via the new In-App Subscription model where you try an app, then if you like it, you pay to get more features. By the month or year.
Browse through the Mac App Store or iOS App Store and you’ll see this growing trend everywhere. But get ready for some sticker shock. What you’ll see in the App Store (using iPhone as the example) is the familiar blue Get button with the words In-App Purchases to the right. Click Get and the download begins.
Before you do that it might be wise to scroll down into the app’s description area. Look for the Version History. Any app that hasn’t been updated in six months isn’t worthy of consideration. Scroll farther down to In-App Purchases. Yes, Apple is hiding the price tag. In some cases, the list of prices is obvious. $1.99 to remove ads and add features. Or, an additional dollar or two for even more features.
Or, worse, to get those features you have to subscribe to the app by the month or year. Here’s an example. The iPhone app Calm is about meditation and sleep stories. It’s the #1 meditation app on the App Store and gets almost 180,000 reviews, mostly four and five stars.
What’s not to like?
Click on In-App Purchases and this is what you get.
Sticker shock, right?
Now, I don’t want to disparage the Calm app. 180,000 reviews with an average of 4.8 stars makes the app a big seller with many satisfied customers. But I’m not wrong about the stick shock and if you search through the App Store you’ll find similar subscriptions for other popular and not-so-popular apps.
Here’s another example. This one is for Ultimate Guitar. It’s free but has the familiar In-App Purchase option for more features. Unfortunately, the list of options is not always clear.
Yes, almost 120,000 Apple customers love Ultimate Guitar and it must be deserving of the average 4.8 star reviews, but I would appreciate more details on the In-App Purchase options before I download and install the app.
Unfortunately, obscurity is a marketing term and it’s obvious that both Apple and app developers want you to download and install, then check to see the pricing details for a one-time purchase or an ongoing subscription price.
I have a problem with that.
Thanks to In-App Purchases and the new subscription model I need to be more careful about what I try on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and I must be even more diligent about how much I spend and where it goes. A $4.99 app with very good reviews can be considered throw away money, but a single app with a $2.99 monthly subscription is $36 a year. Microsoft charges a mere $99 for an entire Office subscription that runs everywhere.
Another example is the highly acclaimed Bear notes app. It’s free to try and use with basic features. It has thousands of four and five star ratings. The Pro subscription is a mere $1.49 per month, or $15 a year. Every year. Three years from now a user could have spent $45 on a notes application. Yes, it runs everywhere; Mac, iPhone, iPad, and customers love it.
Maybe we’re become anesthetized to sticker shock and no longer fully aware of the difference between price and cost.