Ulysses, the popular text editor and 2016 Apple Design Award winner, announced today that it has adopted a new subscription pricing model. A post on the Ulysses blog by Ulysses co-founder, Marcus Fehn, covers the details:
- Users can try Ulysses for free for 14 days before deciding whether to subscribe. After 14 days, Ulysses works in a read-only mode, but documents can still be exported.
- Ulysses subscriptions are $4.99/month or $39.99/year.
- Subscribing unlocks both the iOS and macOS versions of Ulysses.
- Students can subscribe for $10.99 for six-month periods.
- Existing users can take advantage of a limited-time lifetime discount equal to 50% off the monthly subscription price.
- Users who recently purchased Ulysses on macOS will be given a free-use period of up to 12 months depending on when they purchased the app. Users who bought Ulysses on iOS can receive up to an additional 6 months of free use.
Existing versions of Ulysses for iOS and macOS have been removed from the App Store and Mac App Store, but have been updated for iOS 11 and High Sierra, so they will continue to work for now if you decide to not subscribe. However, new features will be limited to the new versions of Ulysses that were released on the app stores today. I downloaded both versions and was impressed by the seamless transition, which explained the move to subscription pricing, the limited-time discount offer, and automatically gave me two free months of use even though I bought the apps nearly two years ago.
In addition to the announcement on the Ulysses blog, Max Seelemann, one of Ulysses’ founders, wrote a post on Medium explaining the company’s thinking behind moving to a subscription model that is worth reading. It’s a backstory that has become familiar. Pay-once pricing is not sufficient to sustain ongoing development of professional productivity apps like Ulysses. While Ulysses has enjoyed success, funding the kind of development that pro users expect through growing the app’s user base is not sustainable in the long-term. As Seelemann explains, several options were considered over a long period, but ultimately it’s subscription pricing that gives Ulysses the security and flexibility needed to maintain the app.
I’m glad to see Ulysses adopt subscription pricing. I can’t say that would be the case for every app I use, but I use Ulysses every day. I want it to be actively developed and available for a long time. The tricky part about subscriptions, as we’ve discussed in the past on AppStories, is that the value proposition for each person is different. One person’s mission-critical app might be another’s nice-to-have app and the success of a subscription model depends on picking price points that appeal to a sustainable segment of users. However, the flexibility that Ulysses has adopted with different monthly, yearly, and student pricing tiers in comparison to its pre-subscription pricing strikes me as an approach that is well-positioned to succeed.
Ulysses is available as a free download with a 14-day free trial on the App Store and the Mac App Store.
Equinux, maker of VPN Tracker, Mail Designer Pro, and other products has a fascinating look at the tech behind App Store gift and promo code cards that can be scanned and redeemed with an iPhone or Mac's camera. The company wanted to make scannable cards of its own to hand out at events, so they began investigating how the alphanumeric codes found on the back of the cards work. It turns out there’s quite a bit to it.
After poking around under the hood of iTunes, Equinux discovered that Apple uses a special font, a certain size rectangle surrounding the redemption code, and private framework to scan the codes:
When you look at some of the other folders inside iTunes, we found a tantalizing plugin called “CodeRedeemer.” It showed promise. But alas, no font files there either. The app binary does give a hint of where the heavy lifting is being done: “CoreRecognition.framework.”
Inside the CoreRecognition framework were two fonts, Scancardium and Spendcardium, which, along with the surrounding rectangle, are the keys to creating custom cards.
The entire story is an impressive bit of sleuthing and well worth a read. If you’re a developer and would like to make scannable codes of your own, Equinux’s post includes instructions for doing so, along with Sketch, Photoshop, FileMaker, and Mail Designer Pro templates.
PayPal announced that its payment service is coming to the App Store, Apple Music, iTunes, and iBooks on iOS devices and Macs today, starting in Canada and Mexico with the US and other countries to follow soon. Setting up PayPal works the same as adding a credit card:
Paying with PayPal is simple. Customers with a new or existing Apple ID can select “PayPal” as their payment method from their account settings in the App Store, Apple Music, iTunes [and iBooks] from their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac, or on iTunes from their PC.
After PayPal is enabled, purchases from the selected Apple ID will be made from the customer’s PayPal account.
Adding PayPal should expand the universe of customers making purchases from Apple’s stores by creating an alternative for people who don’t have or don’t want to use a credit card.
According to a Sensor Tower report, the total space required for the top 10 most installed iPhone apps has increased more than 1000% since May 2013, increasing from 164 MB to a whopping 1.8 GB. During that period, Apple has raised the maximum app size from 2 GB to 4 GB and the minimum storage capacity of iPhones to 32 GB, but the size of the most popular iPhone apps has far outstripped those increases. iOS 11 will address the issue in part, with a feature that can offload apps that aren’t used often, while saving settings and user data.
Sensor Tower explains that,
We see the often sudden growth in size exhibited by apps such as Facebook and Snapchat as directly tied to the intense competition between them, which necessitates a steady rollout of new and more space-intensive features. Of course, some apps have likely grown in size simply due to a reduced need (or perception of a need) for optimization.
I'm sure that competition and perception play a role in the increases noted by Sensor Tower, but it would also be interesting to see how deep this trend extends beyond the ten most popular iPhone apps. I suspect it runs deeper than many people realize. Scrolling through the Update tab of the App Store, I have many recent updates on my iPhone that exceed 100 MB, including Apple’s own Keynote, which is 675 MB.
Manton Reece’s assessment of the redesigned App Store coming to iOS 11 is spot on:
The old App Store was designed like a database. Databases are good at showing grids and lists from an algorithm. But the App Store should tell a story about new apps. A blog-like format is the best way to do that.
This plays to Apple’s strengths in design and taste. Where Google might hire more engineers to improve their store, Apple should hire more writers.
Three years ago, Reece argued that Apple should invest heavily in App Store curation, which is precisely what it appears to be doing. The depth and breadth of the new App Store content that Apple has planned is unclear, but during a WWDC session on the changes to the App Store, product manager Pedraum Pardehpoosh declared Apple’s intent to ‘double down’ on editorial curation. If the initial content included with the iOS 11 beta is any indication, Apple may be on track to make the App Store a regular destination for users instead of a place people go to only when they have a specific need.
In iOS 10.3 earlier this year, Apple introduced a new API for prompting users to give apps an App Store review. At the time, developers were allowed to continue using any custom review prompts they had previously implemented, with the warning that such permission would eventually be revoked. As reported by 9to5Mac, that day has already come.
App Store policy has been updated to mandate use of Apple's standardized rating API going forward, disallowing custom review prompts. The updated language in Apple's review guidelines reads:
Use the provided API to prompt users to review your app; this functionality allows customers to provide an App Store rating and review without the inconvenience of leaving your app, and we will disallow custom review prompts.
In the few months since its introduction, adoption of Apple's review prompt API has been slow. Perhaps it is due to that lack of adoption that the company wasted little time before requiring its use.
Apple's solution certainly provides a better user experience than custom alternatives, particularly since it allows rating an app without needing to visit the App Store. But the concern from developers may be the loss of control over when, or how often, that prompt is presented.
Josh Constine reports for TechCrunch about an updated App Store policy that will enable apps to allow tipping of content creators, provided 30% of that tip goes to Apple. The newly updated policy from Apple reads:
Apps may use in-app purchase currencies to enable customers to "tip" digital content providers in the app.
Constine explains that previously, tipping was a grey area, leading some developers to avoid implementing it for fear their apps would be rejected by the App Review team. But this new policy changes that, he writes:
This means developers can add tipping features without fearing repercussions from Apple, as long as they’re willing to give the giant 30 percent. The grey area had kept tipping out of some popular apps who sought to avoid any tension with Apple. Now app makers can offer and promote tipping features with confidence.
The developers will have to determine whether they themselves take a cut of the tips or pass the full 70 percent on to the content creators. Passing on 50 percent while taking a 20 percent cut could unlock paths to monetizing video where ads can be interruptive or tough to match with unpolished footage.
The App Store has been rife with changes since Phil Schiller adopted responsibility for it, and this particular change will impact certain people in different ways. Some developers may appreciate the clarity concerning what they can or can't do in the realm of tipping, but for any apps currently allowing tipping without the 30% tax, both developers and content providers will be harmed.
Apple announced today that since it launched in 2008, developers have earned over $70 billion from the App Store.
People everywhere love apps and our customers are downloading them in record numbers," said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Seventy billion dollars earned by developers is simply mind-blowing. We are amazed at all of the great new apps our developers create and can’t wait to see them again next week at our Worldwide Developers Conference.”
According to Apple’s press release, subscriptions saw a 58% increase year over year, fueled by their availability in all 25 app categories. Games and Entertainment are the App Store’s top grossing categories, Lifestyle and Health and Fitness apps have experienced 70% growth, and the Photo and Video category is up over 90%. Apple’s press release also highlights the addition of iMessage apps and stickers with iOS 10.
The timing of Apple’s press release is interesting coming just days before WWDC, its annual developer conference. Developer earnings have historically been covered as part of the WWDC opening-day keynote. One possibility is that this is a sign that the usual keynote updates are being compressed this year to make room for more product and operating system announcements than usual.
Last fall, Dash, a popular iOS and macOS developer documentation app by Kapeli, was pulled from Apple’s Mac and iOS App Stores amid allegations of fraudulent reviews and Kapeli’s Apple developer account was terminated. Since then, Kapeli has continued to sell Dash for macOS outside the Mac App Store. With no way to sell the iOS version of the app outside the iOS App Store, Kapelli open-sourced the code for the app.
According to Kapeli, open sourcing Dash for iOS has led to numerous people submitting it to the App Store in violation of its GNU GPL license. In an attempt to slow down the rate of copycat apps appearing to the App Store, Dash’s developer, Bogdan Popescu, announced in a blog post today that he created a personal developer account with Apple and submitted Dash for iOS to the App Store. The app was approved and is now available as a free download in the App Store.