The demise of Transmit and the future of pro level iOS apps

From the Panic blog, announcing the suspension of the iOS version of the very popular Transmit app:

Transmit iOS made about $35k in revenue in the last year, representing a minuscule fraction of our overall 2017 app revenue. That’s not enough to cover even a half-time developer working on the app. And the app needs full-time work — we’d love to be adding all of the new protocols we added in Transmit 5, as well as some dream features, but the low revenue would render that effort a guaranteed money-loser.

David Sparks from his blog:

Panic has made public statements about how little income they’re making off their pro-level iOS apps, and I really can’t blame them for pulling Transmit if it is losing them money.

What is even more upsetting is that an app of the calibre of Transmit for iOS is a financial failure and none of us are much surprised.


I use Transmit both on my Mac and iOS devices. I don’t recall what I originally paid for Transmit, but I believe it was in the neighborhood of $50. Since then I’ve upgraded twice so let’s say I’ve now given Panic $100 for the privilege of having their app on my Mac.

When I bought Transmit for my iOS devices, I paid $10. That is it. I’ve been using the app for years and all the money Panic ever got out of me was $10, less than I’m going to spend today on lunch.

That’s the issue. Somehow, consoles like Nintendo Switch and the Xbox, as well as the Mac, have avoided the race to the bottom that makes iOS apps want to be free, or dependent on in app purchases. While in-app-purchases make sense for a game, it is a harder sell for a pro-level app.

Panic is pulling Transmit for iOS but keeping the Mac version. Part of the issue is the massive size of the iOS App Store compared to the Mac App Store. The iOS App Store is large enough that it attracts people willing to build something for free just for the experience. And once there’s a free alternative, it becomes exponentially harder to get people to pay for an alternative, even if it is a better experience.

  • The Cappy

    The lack of upgrade pricing has killed many a good app. How many apps never even get made because their devs don’t see a long-term model?

    • Person McPersonson

      I’m ok lack of upgrade pricing, but there needs to be at least a trial. People need to know an app is a good quality app before shelling out a good amount of money.

  • David Stewart

    This was a file transfer utility on a device that until very recently didn’t really support file-based workflows. Panic didn’t help themselves by not creating a good syncing experience between the macOS and iOS versions of their apps (my primary workflow in Transmit into BBEdit on macOS, but the only iOS app I used consistently has been Prompt).

  • Apple likes to publicize how much money has been earned by iOS developers. I’ve read that they’ve split the App Store between games and non-games (I don’t know first-hand because I’ve never found the App Store to be useful). I’d love to see Apple split that money-earned number between games and non-games as well. I’m guessing it would be very telling. But I know they’ll never do it for just that reason.

  • JimCracky

    There is a dearth of quality web building tools for iOS. And, Panic, which may be the best of them, has this functionality built in.

  • rick gregory

    Most of the issue boils down to two points:

    1) Until iOS11 most people couldn’t do serious work on an iPad. Some could, yes, but most couldn’t. Serious here means ‘do all of your work on iOS’ not “I can take it on trips and live with it.”

    2) Even now, iOS is not useful as a development environment or for other niches where serious file transfer tools are needed.

    I have and love transmit on the Mac. But given that I can’t do web development on an iPad, why would I want Transmit? Before someone mentions Coda… it has built in file transfer.

  • Mo

    I was sad to see this blog post. David Sparks is right.

  • Plenty of other FTP apps in the iOS store – most also have the bonus feature of not syncing info with the MacOS version of Transmit too!! So pretty much the same functionality built in!

    Transmit for Mac is about as Mac-unfriendly as you can get for the modern day Apple experience. Cant get it on the Mac App Store (cos they’re greedy), doesn’t sync over iCloud (cos they’re lazy).

    And it’s really not that great an FTP client either. It’s good – but it’s a fricken FTP client which is about a mature app as you could think of. We were using FTP clients before we were using browsers – think about that.

    Panic make a couple of niche apps for a very niche market for a niche computer OS. Most of which don’t sync with each other even though they really should. And any minor feature upgrade is saved up for a major version upgrade which might be 6 months or 6 years away. Hardly a great business model.

    • Person McPersonson

      Panic is by far the best file transfer client on the Mac. We were using FTP clients before browsers, but we weren’t using AWS, SFTP, mounting remote servers as drives, etc. before browsers.

      Not syncing server credentials over iCloud is excusable as solid iCloud keychain sync has only recently become available and I wouldn’t want server credentials synced over regular iCloud sync.

      Panic is also trustworthy. I wouldn’t input my server credentials in just any app. Trust is an issue here.

      As for Mac-unfriendly, that’s a matter of opinion, I guess, but I can’t think of another file transfer app I’d rather use.

  • I love Transmit on Mac. But I never bought it on iOS. It was partly not needing it, but mostly it was because I don’t trust Panic’s iOS apps to work. Prompt and Prompt 2 never worked for me, and their support never replied to my email asking for help.

    (It’s entirely possible that email wasn’t received, of course, but the nature of the problem and not having a built-in way to solve it suggested they really didn’t care about the product.)

  • I think the reality is that Transmit is just not a good fit for iOS. It’s an application that has home on a traditional computer. On an iOS device with it’s full screen apps, sandboxing, and full screen apps well it just does not fit in.

    It’s not surprising that it doesn’t generate more revenue because I don’t see many people doing the kind of work that would require an FTP client.

    Then you should also consider all the other tools that can eat into use cases for an FTP client. Your Dropbox, WeTransfer, or just things like cloud syncing in other applications.

    I don’t know. I really like Panic. I bought Transmit both on the Mac and on iOS. However on iOS I just don’t see a bright future for FTP clients. I think FTP transfer get’s relegated to being a feature inside another app. Like a code editor for example.

  • Adam

    Can’t say I’m surprised. FTP on iOS is a bit out of place and FTP on desktop is fading into obscurity. Can’t remember the last time I used or needed FTP