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Jamie Thomson

This is the blog of Jamie Thomson, a data mangler in London working for Dunnhumby

Why don’t app stores offer subscriptions?

Accepted wisdom when one purchases an app from a business store is that one gets free updates for life. This is, quite obviously, an unsustainable business model and I suspect is the main reason why so many apps use advertising to generate income.

There is though, in the enterprise world at least, a move to a subscription-based business model (i.e. renting software) the most obvious examples of which are Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud and I’m left wondering why app stores don’t offer a similar option.

Today I installed an app called Tweetium that offers a (paid for) premium option, here is why the premium option exists:


Again this strikes me as unsustainable. The customer pays once yet Tweetium has to pay TweetMarker every month. Forever. It doesn’t take an expert mathematician to realise that eventually Tweetium’s monthly outlay could exceed the income they have saved up from purchases.

It seems to me there is a simple solution to all this. App stores could offer an option for customers to rent apps rather than buy them. Its more sustainable for the app vendor and the app store provider gets a more predictable income stream (which CFOs seem to like). Why don’t app stores not do this? Seems like a no-brainer to me

Just a random thought for a Sunday morning.


UPDATE: Apparently iOS & Android app stores *do* offer subscription models, I just wasn't aware of it.
Published Sunday, February 23, 2014 9:59 AM by jamiet
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Greg Low said:

Hi Jamie,

I've been wondering exactly the same thing. Most of the apps also include free upgrades forever as well.

Maybe I'm missing something but if I'm offering an app that uses my backend servers, and that I'll upgrade forever for free, where is the business model?

The other interesting aspect is the pricing. There's a perception now that anything over $1.99 is outrageous. I saw an amazing audio processing program the other day. Previously that would have cost many hundreds of dollars on a PC. They were charging $9.99 and all the comments were not about the awesome program, they were about "how dare they charge $9.99 for an app".

So what does that also mean for the business model above?



February 23, 2014 9:25 PM

Brandon Paddock said:

Hi Jamie. The Tweetium Pro offering actually *is* a subscription. The base app is currently $2.99 which is a one-time fee. But the Pro add-on lasts 6 months for $4.99. While it doesn't *automatically* renew, the user has to pay again in 6 months to continue using the Pro features.

I'm curious, did you not notice that when reading the Tweetium Pro details in the app? I see from the screenshot that you found that part of the Settings pane. Was it unclear that this needs to be renewed every 6 months?

March 1, 2014 8:28 PM

jamiet said:

Hi Brandon,

Firstly, thanks for stopping by.

No, it wasn't clear to me that it needed to be renewed. Then again I'm terrible at reading the Ts & Cs, this is what Twitter has done to me - anything more than 140chars and I don't read it!

Out of interest, given your obvious interest, would you appreciate it if the Windows Store offered subscriptions?



March 2, 2014 3:30 PM

Brandon Paddock said:

Well, the button to buy Pro is labeled "Get 6 months of Tweetium Pro" so it's not exactly buried :-)

Subscription support would be cool. Though I actually like that the current implementation (using timed in-app purchases) doesn't auto-renew, and it's just one click for the user to renew when the 6 months is up. Maybe having auto-renew as an option for the user would be ideal.

March 3, 2014 9:40 PM

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