Beware the Subscription Model

Apple is secretly encouraging paid app developers to switch to subscription – ldstephens

I’m disappointed to hear that Apple is encouraging developers to move to a subscription model. As I’ve written before, I think this will be the demise of many small developers.

Many users dislike subscriptions. If you don’t believe me just read the App Store reviews for some of the developers that have switched their app to a subscription. A good place to start would be Ulysses or Drafts 5.

Personally, I’m experiencing subscription fatigue. My subscriptions add up to around $1500 per year. Yes, this includes my Netflix, Hulu and Sling subscriptions. It also includes my internet subscription, the subscription for all that’s needed to operate this website, my email subscription at Fastmail, and the subscription to a few apps. I’m not interested in adding more subscriptions.

I love trying new apps. If all apps went to a subscription I would no longer be able to continue trying and writing about them.

For example, I have several writing apps. If they all went subscription I would have to select one and abandon the others. In this scenario, there will be one winner and several losers.

(Via ldstephens.net)

I already try to avoid any app that uses a subscription model. An app that solves specific problems in a way that works well for me and where I maintain control of my data is one for possible exception – but they are rare.

As mentioned I am pruning my subscriptions of all types. Drafts 5 will soon be another as I don’t use it enough to justify the expense. Google Drive, 1Password, The Atlantic (sadly, but I’m reconsidering), Audible (for DRM reasons), and Netflix (for timesuck reasons) all went on my financial chopping block. The two (!) Amazon Primes (Japan & US), Apple Music, LastPass, and the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers are up for review.

I don’t think I’ll ever want to get to a zero subscription point, but I will definitely keep them in check. As Google, Amazon, and Microsoft (among others, and to a lesser extent Apple) continue to push hard on the “digital assistant” front – something that interests me very little – jumping back into a F/OSS lifestyle seems not only wise but prudent.

To be clear, I want developers to be paid for their work. Even F/OSS developers will ask for donations of one kind or another. As I wrote I think commercial developers, independent or in the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) space, can work well without embracing the subscription model.

I’m no Luddite or neophyte, mind you. I simply value my freedom more than the ability to dim the house lights when I fire up a streamed movie from my couch.

On another tack, the rise of subscriptions should trigger more thought about data portability. Locking one’s data in a proprietary app requiring a subscription to access said data lacks foresight. However, application developers don’t often list how the data is stored or how one can get their data out if they chose to move.

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