Remember back when software was a one time purchase? You wanted a piece of software, you paid a price and boom – it was there for you to use as little or as much as you liked. If a big re-vamp came along for an app it would be released as another version and you would pay a few euro for that and it was still worth it. Those updates were basically new apps built from the ground up. Those were the good old days.

Adobe & Lightroom

The first taste I got of this was Adobe and that was back in 2013. Adobe decided to make its Creative Cloud the only way of getting new versions of its full software suite. It was a big shift but according to Adobe, customers were enthusiastic about it. I guess that is the luxury when you are so good at making that specific software, you know that you can dominate the market even with such as radical shift in the business model. Look around, most photographers are using Lightroom. I would love to be able to completely break away from it but Lightroom is without doubt the best photo editing tool out there.

After Adobe made their move, developers seemed to carry on as normal for the most part. There was no immediate change in the industry. Over the past 12-18 months however, app developers on iOS have been rolling out subscription only plans and subscription fatigue has become a real thing.

The Developers

I get it, developers need to make money. At one point the trend was release an app, charge a one off payment and then a year or two later release a completely new version and charge everyone again. Now that worked because you made a one off payment and it was done and dusted. You didn’t have to watch money trickle out of your account every month. One payment and it was done. Updates in between the major releases were free and everyone was pretty happy.

However, from a developers perspective this isn’t a sustainable model. The revenue stream would dry up after launch and become a trickle. Now we have flipped around and there is the ever rising trend of subscription models for apps. Its beneficial for the developers but it is hurting the customers.

The Customer

The problem with the rising number of subscriptions is that it is completely insane and it seems to be that nearly every developer wants to go down that route. Bottom line is that is hurts your pocket. Subscription models are not going to work for every single app under the sun. If you want to go down the route of offering subscription plans then you better make sure your app provides the value for it. For the developer it may be a few bucks a month, however the subscriptions start stacking up pretty fast.

Apple Music, Netflix, Dropbox, Adobe, Cloud Storage plans on top of the basic utility bills I have to pay at home such as insurance, rent, internet, TV…the list goes on. The point being that we already have money trickling out of our accounts and for many people, being subscribed to an app is just not a necessity. One of the more recent developers to launch a subscription based model is Flexibits who recently released Fantastical 3.

Fantastical Goes Subscription Route

I was a Fantastical user until recently. I loved Fantastical 2, it was a great app. It had a near perfect rating score on the App Store before Fantastical 3. Today their rating is sitting at 3.4 in the Irish App Store and is lower un the US App store at 2.7.

Fantastical is priced at €43.99/year or €5.49/month. Also we need to note that if you owned Fantastical 2 you will get an extra 3 months of Fantastical 3 for free. Also, something which Flexibits have really tried to hammer home is that you keep all of the Fantastical 2 features from before if you were a Fantastical 2 owner.

Here is the problem, its a calendar app. Bottom line, that is what it is. Now I will give Flexibits this credit, it is a really nice calendar app. But at the end of the day it is no more than that. Yes it integrates your reminders but it doesn’t do anything deal breaking. I know that people have written reviews saying that they feel Fantastical has massively changed their organisational aspect of their life – I don’t think it really does that much to be honest. It is a nice functional app which is nowhere near value of the quoted price.

They also don’t do much of a job of hiding these premium features, they are literally in your face all over the app. ‘Oh you want to access this feature? Its premium only.’ Imagine this – seeing a full screen day, week, month or year view is a premium feature…in a calendar app. They also worked hard to integrate weather data into the app which nobody asked for.

I know I’m bashing Flexibits here, there are plenty of other developers out there going down the subscription route for their apps and its just not going to work. Why would I pay for Fantastical when there is a stock calendar? Granted the stock app isn’t as pretty looking but it still does the same job at heart. When Flexibits released Fantastical 3 it made me stop and think, I looked at the subscriptions I had running for apps – cancelled most of them and decided to try going back to the stock apps instead.

Stock Apps

Guess what? I’m basically running stock apps across the board where possible. The stock notes app, stock weather, stock mail, stock calendar…if anyone is wondering what stock means it is basically the app which ships with the phone.

What I discovered is that they do just as good a job if not a better job in some cases. In some instances they are better integrated into the OS. So for the most part, I’m sticking with the stock app setup.

Does Subscription Work At All?

Yes! Of course it does, I know I have hated on Flexibits here but some people would disagree and say that for them Fantastical is worth every penny. Personally I think its madness paying for a calendar app but each to their own. I still do have app subscriptions to The Athletic and Day One. The Athletic for their incredible sports content and Day One for journaling which has been important to me this year.

That is all I have right now, every other subscription I had was cancelled. I have crossed the point of the straw that breaks the camels back. It quickly gets to a stage when you can easily be pissing away money on subscription models for apps which just do not hold their value.

What Flexibits have done is completely missed the mark in terms of where they value the app. I would have gladly made a one time payment for Fantastical 3. If the subscription price had been more reasonable I would have considered it around the €5 – €10 per year mark. That would have been more appealing to me and they would have kept me as a customer, they probably would have kept a lot of their customers. However, €43.99 per year for a calendar app is crazy, no matter how much it helps you organise your busy life. It’s not like many of use have a use for calendars in 2020 not anyway, is it?