Why Keep It for iPad and iPhone uses subscriptions

Keep It for iPad and iPhone (aka Keep It Mobile) offers a choice of subscriptions. Prices vary for each region’s App Store, but are based on the US App Store’s prices of $0.99/month or $7.99/year.

In 2016, Apple opened up auto-renewable subscriptions to all app categories. Their guidelines include examples of appropriate uses for subscriptions:

While the following list is not exhaustive, examples of appropriate subscriptions include: new game levels; episodic content; multi-player support; apps that offer consistent, substantive updates; access to large collections of, or continually updated, media content; software as a service (“SAAS”); and cloud support.

Through this change, Apple is encouraging the use of subscriptions instead of the traditional full price / upgrade discount model that has been used by software developers for many years.

Like its predecessor Together, Keep It aims to provide substantive updates, and although it uses iCloud for its cloud storage, there is an ongoing and significant support overhead that comes with providing that.

I based Keep It’s pricing on my experience with Together. As a one-off payment of $9.99 (reduced to $4.99 for its final months on sale), Together for iPad and iPhone only managed to recoup a third of its development costs over the three years it was on sale. Few people will pay $30 for an iOS app, even when that app provides most of the functionality its Mac counterpart offers. Meanwhile, at $49.99, Together for Mac just about covered its own costs, including the two apps’ shared foundation; its own sales did not change after the iOS app was released, and only about half of Together for Mac users purchased the iOS app, and so it would not be fair for the Mac app to subsidize the iOS app further.

As an independent developer, I cannot afford to spend time on an app that cannot, at the very least, break even. Rather than abandon the idea of offering an iOS app altogether, I decided to try subscriptions with Keep It. These bring the additional benefit of allowing the subscription to be priced lower than one-off payments or regular in-app purchases (IAP). That’s because, while developers get 70% of the proceeds from a one-off sale or IAP on the App Store, with auto-renewable subscriptions that only applies to the first year; for subsequent years they receive 85%. At $7.99/year with a subscription, Keep It Mobile should cover its costs over a typical 3 to 4 year release period.

It is my hope that this move will allow the development of Keep It for iPad and iPhone to become profitable in the long-term and continue for many years to come.

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