The App Store’s Subscription 2.0 Always Felt Inevitable

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Despite the fact that subscription services have been around for awhile now, all over the place even, Apple’s making waves by expanding its own options for developers.

Apple makes waves by doing just about anything, but obviously when it has a direct connection to consumers, by way of developers, there’s always going to be that extra strength in there. This isn’t any different. Apple recently announced “Subscription 2.0,” which does quite a bit. First, for the developers, it means that for long-standing subscription holders the revenue split will be 85/15 in favor of the developers. That’s a change from the long-standing 70/30 split that’s been around from the start.

So, developers get more money from those subscriptions as long as those who are subscribing to the service stick around for a year and longer.

The other big part of the Subscription 2.0 initiative is the fact that Apple’s opening up the option for developers to provide a subscription option for basically any app that’s available in one of Apple’s app stores. There are caveats here, as is par for the course, and it stands to reason that Apple’s language in its official guidelines is as vague as ever because it wants to keep control over what’s available in its walled garden.

Basically, we’re probably not going to see a bunch of fart apps that want to serve you the best fart sounds — and can only do that with a subscription.

But there’s a real worry here that developers are going to go subscription happy, and we’ll be flooded with apps that serve it up to users without a second thought. Which is honestly a legitimate concern, because, as I mentioned earlier, subscription services have been around for a long time. And that’s not even including companies like Microsoft or Adobe, who are focusing so much on services that customers pay a monthly amount to access that regularly-updated content.

There’s been a steady growth, a boom, even, with iOS-based devices that developers have clung onto. So many new Apple device owners jump into the App Store connected to that device and buy apps, millions of them, that any kind of popularity can mean a ton of sales. But with the sales starting to slow down, because so many people out there already have smartphones, something has to change. But, even more than that, subscriptions are here to stay.

Consumers still want to own things, yes, but companies have made it pretty awesome to rent our content, from movies, to music, to sometimes even our word processors.

Netflix, Spotify, Apple Music, and any number of other services out there offer a bountiful amount of content for a specific amount of money each month. Food delivery services. People avoid buying cars because of services like Uber and Lyft. Someone out there wants to charge $50 per movie just so people can watch a movie at home when it launches in theaters. It’s obvious that people want services like this, so it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Apple is jumping into this.

For me, personally, I’m not worried just yet. I’ve completely switched over to subscription services for the majority of things that I use: Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, MoviePass, NHL, MLB, and probably other things that I don’t even regularly think about. When it comes to apps, though, we have to remember that there’s a constant cycle of work here for developers that have to keep their apps updated, and loaded with noteworthy features.

We’ve already established that app shoppers aren’t inherently happy to pay for new versions of an app. Even as they fight against it, knowing full well that developers have to hold back features in a current version of an app to sell the new one, most of them will usually succumb to the idea and pay anyway. Tweetbot is one app that has had customers pay for new versions. Twitterrific, too.

Twitterrific Tip Jar

What I find very interesting here relates to Twitterrific, actually. On June 1, the developers behind the popular third-party Twitter app, Iconfactory, launched a new version of the app –which has gone free since March of 2014– which launched something called a “Tip Jar.” This new addition meant that Twitterrific users could send money to the developers, as a tip, to support the work they put into the app.

And keep it free moving forward.

Basically, Iconfactory doesn’t want to launch another version of Twitterrific. They want to keep updating the version that’s available now, Version 5, with new features. That means a lot of work for Iconfactory’s developers, and they tried to think out of the box, especially for apps in the App Store, to make that dream a reality.

Customers will throw money at developers and their apps when they have the option, and don’t feel forced to do it. That’s why apps are relatively cheap, because people want a low barrier of entry. Moreover, that’s why so many of the biggest money earners are free-to-play titles, which allow for in-app purchases. So many people don’t want to pay $10, $20, or whatever the price may be up front, but will happily pay that in in-app purchases, whether that’s over time or in one sitting.

The same thing can be said about video games. Players are more than willing to spend a ton of money on in-game purchases, from costumes, to weapons, to whatever else, while also complaining about the cost of DLC packages.

In the end, I think this was inevitable. App subscriptions were always going to get here, one way or another, and now it’s up to the developers to not inundate us with ridiculous subscription pricing, or apps that don’t make any sense with a subscription. Then again, perhaps it’s up to us to determine which apps don’t work with a subscription. After all, if we want our apps to be supported with new features, our games to get new features, and everything else in between, should we keep paying for that to happen?

What do you think?