John Gruber: App Store subscription uncertainty

Tuesday, Phil Schiller had a sit-down to talk about major changes coming to the App Store. Jim Dalrymple wrote a nice overview of the changes in this post.

One of the three core topics Phil covered was the expansion of subscription pricing. From JimD’s post:

Currently the 70-30 revenue split for subscriptions is the same as regular purchased apps. However, under the new subscription rules, that revenue split will favor the developers more in the second year on individual subscriptions. Developers will get an 85-15 revenue share for all subscribers that have been customers for over a year. This will also affect all existing apps and subscribers, not just new apps.

Developers will be able to choose one of over 200 subscription price points, and they can create territory specific prices, making subscriptions even more flexible.

John Gruber dug into the details in this longer post, focusing on the uncertainty seemingly built into the system:

The problem with that is that developers don’t know whether they’re going to be approved or not. As it stands, they would need to do all the engineering (and design) work to support subscriptions, submit the app, and wait to see if it’s approved and perhaps appeal if it isn’t. That’s bad enough for an existing app whose developer wants to switch to subscription pricing. But this uncertainty is downright untenable for a new app whose developer sees subscription pricing as the only sustainable business model to justify the app’s development in the first place.

The dream for developers is to be able to make money doing what they love, building apps for the App Store. For most developers, that dream is simply unrealistic. The App Store economics just aren’t there any more. The possibility of subscription pricing can help balance the scales, make it more financially feasible to make a living building and maintaining apps.

But developers need a bit more guidance here. They need to know up front if an app they build is eligible for subscription pricing. If not, they can put there energies into building something else.

My guess is, this guidance is coming, either at next week’s WWDC or as subscription pricing gets closer to rollout. But sooner is better than later for these details.