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Fee Based Apps vs. Free Apps With Ads

Engaged ,
May 06, 2019

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I really value the opinions on this forum and wondered if you guys could give me a little advice from your personal experiences since I just launched my business based on AIR.

I recently started a small business and wrote three Adobe AIR mobile apps related to the business.  The apps are subscription-based and are not cheap at $29.99-$49.99/month.  As such, only users that absolutely must have the app are using it, even though a much larger group of people would LIKE to use it but can't justify the cost.  I know that if the app were free to users, the number of users to sign up would increase by a large factor.  But to support this, I would absolutely have to depend on ads to cover the bandwidth and data costs, as well as to make any sort of a profit.  But I have no idea how successful ad-based apps are, and if they can bring in as much money as fee-based apps and not simply more users.

Does anyone here have any experience with writing mobile apps based on both fees and ads, and could give me any insight on the advantages or disadvantages of both regarding profitability??

Thanks guys!

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Fee Based Apps vs. Free Apps With Ads

Engaged ,
May 06, 2019

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I really value the opinions on this forum and wondered if you guys could give me a little advice from your personal experiences since I just launched my business based on AIR.

I recently started a small business and wrote three Adobe AIR mobile apps related to the business.  The apps are subscription-based and are not cheap at $29.99-$49.99/month.  As such, only users that absolutely must have the app are using it, even though a much larger group of people would LIKE to use it but can't justify the cost.  I know that if the app were free to users, the number of users to sign up would increase by a large factor.  But to support this, I would absolutely have to depend on ads to cover the bandwidth and data costs, as well as to make any sort of a profit.  But I have no idea how successful ad-based apps are, and if they can bring in as much money as fee-based apps and not simply more users.

Does anyone here have any experience with writing mobile apps based on both fees and ads, and could give me any insight on the advantages or disadvantages of both regarding profitability??

Thanks guys!

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May 06, 2019 0
Advocate ,
May 07, 2019

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I can give you some tips about subscription based apps.

First, don't build a business on AIR, serious businesses have no choice but to move away from AIR. It is not reliable and will likely die soon. It's your call but if you manage to get a reliable business together and Adobe announces the end of AIR (which they will), you are gonna have to build new apps with new tech ASAP. No businesses can afford to wait for that so that's why AIR is abandoned by businesses now and you can't find any jobs in that tech anymore. Your business, your call, at least you have been warned.

Second, subscriptions based apps are fine if you got the market. The problem is with store policies toward subscriptions. The bottom line is that your apps can offer a login but NOTHING ELSE or else Apple will remove your apps from the store. That means no links as to where to can sign up, no advertising of any kind about your subscription system.

Of course you can provide subscriptions based on Apple store system, that will cost you 30% for a year per subscription, 15% after if subscription is renewed. If subscription is interrupted for 30 days, next time the user sign up again it will cost you 30% again for a year.

In our subscription based apps (free to download), we offer a free tour where people can use some functionality of the app but to get the whole thing they need subscription. Again as I said earlier you are forbidden to show in your app or store description where people can find and sign up for your subscription. This Apple policy (anti business) is going to the supreme court btw.

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May 07, 2019 0
Engaged ,
May 07, 2019

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We have several apps with different models, so my opinion would be based on that. We have the following categories:

1. Free apps with ads and "Remove Ads" IAP  - These apps are the best sellers. People download the app for free, use it and then if they like it they pay to remove the ads.
2. Free apps which have limited usage - These are the second best sellers but mostly used for business apps. People start with the basic/free app and then they will buy the subscription.

3. SaaS - Software as a Service - We have a few of these products. People basically buy a subscription in our service, via the product website, they get credentials and then they can download the app an use it. This is mostly done for business apps which make money for the users. This is the easiest to manage, as people do all transactions via our websites.

To sum things up, if you target businesses as your clients, I would go for 2 or 3. If it is for everyday users, I would go with ads (1). 

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May 07, 2019 0
Engaged ,
May 07, 2019

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Thanks for the replies ASWC and Leo. I have a couple of follow-up questions for you:

1) Your comments about Apple's subscription policies are interesting to me because they did not play out for me at all the way you describe.  I tried to submit my app with a Sign Up or a Login at first using Stripe as the payment, and Apple rejected the app.  I get it.  My next approach was to have users sign up on my website with a login button only in my app.  Knowing at this point that users had a subscription to use my app, Apple again rejected it saying that if I was unlocking content based on a subscription, it had to be done using in-app purchase.  I was infuriated because I didn't want to pay the Apple tax, but they insisted that my app would be rejected until there was a way for a user to sign up in the app using in-app purchase for the subscription.  Are you both telling me that I should be able to to have users sign up for a subscription on my website, and only log into the app after download, and Apple should accept this type of app???

2)  I am a single developer and business owner, I do not have a team of programmers.  So I HAVE to have a cross-platform solution to save development time which is why I chose AIR.  I am going to ride the AIR train as long as they will let me, and when they sunset the app, I will switch platforms, I just hope that they will give us plenty of time the way that they have with Flash.  Is Xamarin the only other cross-platform choice that will do iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac, or is there another option I should consider?  (I hate CSS/JS/HTML, so react native and cordova are out for me)

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May 07, 2019 0
Advocate ,
May 08, 2019

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1. Yes you can get your subscription based app accepted by apple, after 8 years on the store they started rejecting our apps for violation of policy, we had to go through the appeal and on the second appeal they gave us a phone number to call, we had many conversation with Apple team about what was wrong with our apps (they are never very clear on the phone about what's wrong so record everything and analyse later), then we started modifying the apps (remove any mention of subscription/website), modifying the store description (no mention of subscription/website), and modifying our WEBSITE (yeah that's as bad as it gets, they DO check your website) in order to not imply a competition with Apple subscription system. After a couple of months, back and forth, work, modifications, our apps were accepted again.

2. There are a few cross platform technologies that are pretty good and well supported (again AIR is not one of them).

. Xamarin

. HTML5 (WebGL) with cordova/ionic/phonegap with typescript (no javascript/css/html)

. the new google cross platform Flutter

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May 08, 2019 0
Engaged ,
May 08, 2019

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1) On our side, we never had such an issue. Apple never gave us any trouble about this. The app which i refer, needs credentials to login which the user gets from our website after buying the subscription. If the user doesn't have credentials, they are locked in the login page.

2) Although I agree that AIR is perfect for a one man show, it is far from perfect for Mobile. It can still be a viable option for Desktop, but mobile changes all the time. I would suggest Flutter which just reached v1.5, works perfect for Android & iOS, desktop just moved from experiment Chanel to stable and Web preview is coming. I consider this to be a new, modern replacement for the Flex SDK.

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May 08, 2019 0
Advocate ,
May 08, 2019

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They left our apps alone for years then they came after us in January, maybe you just escaped their radar so far .... Also our subscriptions business is a multi million dollars one so that could explain why they came after us.

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May 08, 2019 0
Engaged ,
May 08, 2019

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This makes a lot of sense. Our SaaS app is live since 2014 and also subscriptions are distributed via a leading Telekom. However we don't refer on how you buy the subscription. No web site links, no mentions to other platforms or anything.

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May 08, 2019 0