That includes Apple. While politicians joust with one another over the influence of high technology, those of us who use it regularly are being manipulated. Who do we blame? This time, let’s target Apple.
Rent Run Amok
What online entity among the high tech giants is more successful than Apple’s App Stores? Not much. Apple took iTunes Music Store technology and turned it into an easy way for iPhone, iPad, then Mac users to check out and buy– with a click or two– any app the heart desired.
Without thinking about it, Apple turned that technology into a club to beat customers over the head. How so? App subscriptions. Or, rather, rental apps. Pay by the month or pay by the year, but keep paying just to use the app.
Why is that so bad? Let’s think rental apps run amok. Here’s the perfect example of how to do it all wrong.
One of my favorite apps– Mac, iPhone, and iPad– is Airmail. It comes with more features than Apple Mail, syncs accounts easily from each device, and after dealing with upgrade issues and bugs for a couple of years after I bought it, works well.
Along comes the subscription train and app developers have jumped on with all their belongings and next of kin.
Airmail for iPhone and iPad moved to the subscription model. No problem, right? I already paid for the app so I should be entitled to all the features I paid for, right?
Airmail’s developers (as of now; things change fast on the interwebs):
Airmail Is now Free. Push Notifications and Multiple Accounts Require a Premium Subsriptions (sic). Old users have all the features unlocked and 4 months Premium since the purchase date.
OK, what’s wrong with that?
First, I’m not an old user. Don’t insult me and then ask for more money.
Airmail is not free. It is free to download. And it is free to use— without some major features that users already paid to use. I already paid for push notifications and the ability to add multiple email accounts (seriously; who does not have multiple email accounts?) and now I’m being told I have to pay again just to use features I already have.
By the month. Forever.
See the problem?
Second, Airmail users are puking all over the interwebs today thanks to this very shortsighted adjustment. Airmail moved the iOS price tag to $10 a year, or $3 per month (minus a penny) so it becomes easy to see what developers really want.
What do Airmail customers think of that? If you have an iPhone or iPad handy then travel to the Airmail app in the App Store. Tap on Ratings and Reviews, but then tap on Sort By — Most Recent.
It ain’t pretty, folks. Lots of one star reviews. Including mine.
- Peetr – Now it’s just a money grab, always in your face. Will need to be replaced with another tool
- 1NHz_me – I paid $10 to buy this app and now you ask $10/year to enable push notifications? Are you kidding me?
- applefanboy17 – just like many of I am absolutely furious about the switch to a paid subscription model… You guys will fail.
- Ryuspeed – One day I open the app that I paid for and it tells me that notifications are now a paid subscription feature. No warning or anything.
- Catterbox – I paid for this app already and to be suddenly placed on this subscription model is bull****. Tried out a bunch of different apps and Spark seems decent.
There are many, many more such comments on the App Store but you get the idea.
This one was a favorite:
- Try2Remember – Bugs not fixed for years and now a subscription? After I bought on every platform? Goodbye, Airmail. Hello Spark.
- Developer Response – We are sorry for the inconvenience caused. Please contact our live support platform here: support.airmailapp.com so that we can further diagnose the issues.
Canned response. I can diagnose the issue for the developer. Stupidity.
Here’s the problem. Airmail’s developers crammed every feature they could bolt onto the app to differentiate it from Apple’s own Mail and other email apps. Differentiation is important. That may not have helped to bring in enough money to support the app, or the developers just saw fast money in the App Store subscription model, or whatever– they jumped on the bandwagon without giving much thought to how customers would respond.
Customers responded with a growing list of one star reviews. The app developer could have left Airmail as it was– no new features– but added other useful features to, say, Airmail Pro– a subscription based app– and slowly migrated those Airmail customers who want continued upgrades and were willing to pay a modest fee. The noise over on Reddit is even worse.
$2.99 a month is not a modest fee for email when email apps are mostly free. Start with $1.99 a month, or $7.99 a year. That kind of modesty won’t piss off so many paying customers who have abandoned the app.
See all the problems in the subscription model?
I have subscription apps. It is likely I will add a few more subscription apps, but I have soured on the model because app developers are not paying attention to their customer base.