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Notability pisses off users with subscription model, but should they be angry? (Updated)

Pay $14.99 per year to unlock premium features

Notability pisses off users with subscription model, but should they be angry? (Updated)
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

Update (03/11/2021): In a new post, the company said that all the current subscribers will get access to all existing premium features:

Everyone who purchased Notability prior to our switch to subscription on November 1st, 2021 will have lifetime access to all existing features and any content previously purchased in the app.

It’s hard to find a good note-taking app that works across all your devices, but if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, Notability is one of them.

The good news is that the app is now free, but is it really? The app is switching to a subscription model which requires you to pay a yearly fee of $14.99 (currently $11.99) for its premium features.

First, the good news: the app (which used to be $8.99) is now free! Well, kinda. Notability is switching to a subscription model, which requires you to pay a yearly fee of $14.99 (currently $11.99) for its premium features.

Here’s a roundup of the features between the free and premium versions of the app:

Feature difference between free and premium version of Notability
Feature difference between free and premium version of Notability

The new change will make the app available to more customers, but what about existing users? People who already shelled out the $8.99?Well, Gingers Labs, the company behind Notability, says it’ll give you access to premium features for a year, but then you have to pay up. Here’s its statement:

You will be able to continue using Notability as you do now for the next year for free. You will continue to have access to any items or technology you previously purchased. If you would like access to more premium content or technology like MyScript’s Handwriting Recognition and Math Conversion, you may choose to subscribe at any point.

A lot of people who’ve paid up for premium features in the past, are irked by this new model. That’s if Twitter’s anything to go by:

A commenter on Reddit also noted that this change could break Apple’s app store subscription rules. Here’s the full comment:

Apple’s guidelines, 3.1.2(a) state:

If you are changing your existing app to a subscription-based business model, you should not take away the primary functionality existing users have already paid for. For example, let customers who have already purchased a “full game unlock” continue to access the full game after you introduce a subscription model for new customers.

I think this applies to Notability and if enough users put a spotlight on this issue, might allow us premium purchasers to keep using it without subscription.

We’ve asked the company to clarify if this change applies to the app, and we’ll update the story if we hear back.

Looking at this from the dev side

As a user, it’s valid to be frustrated when you have to pay for a product and features that you’ve already shelled out for in the past, but it’s important to look at this from the dev side too.

The nature of development and what people expect from apps has changed rapidly over the past few years. Users expect constant bug fixes, updates, and new features.

Combine this with the cost of things like hosting servers and you can see why the Ginger labs team made this decision.

Despite that, it’s a bitter pill to swallow to pay for a piece of software you already bought.

You can read more about Notability’s pricing change, and features of the new app here.

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