Oct 1, 2018

NativeConnect Pricing

This product started as a weekend project. After developing it for a while though, I came up with many cool ideas, and the small utility grew into the mind-blowing feature set that needed a totally different approach. After I figured out how to wrap this all into Xcode-like interface, it became evident that this app is worth selling. Which price should it have however?

Option 1: Free Download

I considered to offer NativeConnect as a free open-source app, a nice GUI companion to fastlane. Felix Krause set unprecedented example with his successful project, so probably this might work. There is a problem however: growing open-source software is extremely hard and often slow. But everyone who heard the idea, demanded such an app as soon as possible.

So after some consideration, I asked my fantastic employer to let me go for a “workation”. And you know what, I got more than just permission, I got full support and encouragement. Moreover, the team wished me the best of luck, and now they are advising me. Thanks a lot guys!

Back to the free app. I have a Secret Whitepaper™, and I want this product to grow and survive. It looks like sustainable source of income is necessary here. You should agree, the totally free product is not an option. Let’s consider alternatives.

Option 2: Single In-App Purchase

This is the most popular pricing strategy in iOS world. You download a free app with limited features, then you make one “Premium” In-App Purchase to unlock full features. This path is quite standard, but only in the App Store. On Mac, there are not many successful titles using the same scheme.

As a nice example, I like Dash, a famous app for developers. Bogdan built such a strong reputation that people are never looking for alternatives. Customers are happy to pay for the great software to remove periodic timeouts.

A nice lesson here: the trial is not necessary. The app can remain totally functional even if some of its features are paid.

Option 3: Multiple In-App Purchases

Another possible approach is “hiding” multiple small features until you pay for them one by one. Apps with this scheme sell feature sets separately or by packages, and this could work here. For instance, we may remove the feature like “Reply to Review” and unlock it only after In-App Purchase. There is one gotcha however: customers miss so much joy while exploring such apps for the first time ever. Sending them to the Purchase Page from the start is just weird.

So in the end of the day, after many controversial UX adjustments and decisions, this would probably work for NativeConnect. But overall this strategy is more appropriate for iOS apps, and honestly I have not yet seen Mac titles with such pricing strategy.

Option 4: Monthly or Yearly Subscription

Many cloud products offer per-month and per-year subscriptions, where you can use the full-featured service and its apps only while paying. Recently some Mac developers, e.g. Ulysses, have tried to play on the same field. You use the full-featured app while the subscription is active. One of the selling points here is that at the same time you’re kind of “investing” into your favorite product.

There is a lot of criticism about this approach, but overall it apparently works for some successful titles. Potential problem with NativeConnect is our small customer base. We’re just beginning and still years away of hopefully deserved trust from loyal users. And if your product is so young, asking to already “invest” into it, monthly, is dangerous. Let’s keep this strategy in mind anyway.

Option 5: Pay for 1 Year of Updates

Interestingly, there is a nice way to soften subscription limitations. Some well-known apps e.g. Sketch and AppCode charge for one year of updates. So if you purchase a license 1 January, you get all updates until 31 December for free. After this, you keep using the app but cannot upgrade to the major version without paying for it. As a nice bonus, you usually get a discount for each following year.

This scheme is ideal for an IDE like AppCode. NativeConnect however, and Sketch too by the way, have a serious limitation here. They are document editors, and package formats change with time. It is very hard to guarantee full feature support and design the document format which would be compatible with all future updates.

Anyway, this approach is really innovative and humane. Let’s note it as well.

Option 6: Pay for 1 Year of Features

Just recently, the nice twist for subscriptions has been introduced. Makers of the great app Agenda came up with a new way to pay for software. When you purchase the license, you get all its features, and all new features to be added during the next year. What is really cool, this can be implemented even in the Mac App Store.

While considering this for NativeConnect however, I stumbled into an interesting problem: your app should be designed in a special way where the lack of features does not influent user experience. How to make it smooth and unobtrusive for App Store Connect client, no idea.

As an example, you have a library in Dropbox and someone edits it using a newer version of the app. Then you double-click the package to look into the changes but cannot make any corrections without purchasing that missed feature. No go.

Option 7: Universal Subscription

One of possible options is going with Setapp, and hopefully they would get me on board. But there is one problem introduced even before this platform existed. In general, apps purchased as part of a bundle are usually perceived by users differently. It is really hard to imagine that customers would appreciate all the work you do when they get your product as an addition to many others.

Setapp Team, if you are here, your solution is fantastic nevertheless, and your proposal is mind-blowing. Best wishes, and keep up the good work!

Option 8: Pay for Upgrades

The last option I could recall, is this old-school way when famous app developers work hard and polish their app for years, then release a new major version charging a full price for it, sometimes with a discount for existing customers.

We all know and love products like Things, Fantastical and Tweetbot. Even though their approach is not very popular, back in the days all indie developers were selling software this way, and seriously, I have never heard any bad word about this kind of marketing.

There is one gotcha however: you should already have an extremely trusted name in the community and hardcore fans to promote the app, or you will just not survive.

Option X: NativeConnect

Pricing is really hard, and you see how many options developers have when they release a new app. We considered all of them, even tried to mix this stuff. And after lots of thought and amazing feedback from friends, something really nice clicked, and we truly believe this should work for this product.

NativeConnect will be a free app. You will be able to create, download and edit any number of libraries, accounts, and versions. You can share documents with others, and they can make changes too. Eventually though, you will have to upload all edits back to App Store Connect. And yes, you can do this manually or using copy-paste. But NativeConnect will propose a subscription to automate this functionality and close the gap. So you will have to pay only for submitting metadata. Fair enough?

Please find more details on the Pricing page and consider to sign up for the waiting list if you want to join our early access program:

Request Early Access