New shortcut proves Apple is serious about subscriptions [Opinion] | Cult of Mac

New shortcut proves Apple is serious about subscriptions [Opinion]

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The inevitable visual ‘sub’ pun.
The inevitable visual ‘sub’ pun.
Photo: Marion Doss/Flickr CC

Apple has added a shortcut to the latest versions of iOS 12 to make managing app subscriptions easier. Previously, you had to dig deep into your Apple ID settings to find the control panel for your subs. Now, it’s just a couple of taps away. On the surface, this looks like a simple tweak to make things easier for the user, but it’s more than that.

By making subscriptions easier for the user to cancel, it’s also making it more likely that people will sign up for them in the first place. That’s good for users, for developers, and for quality apps in general.

Subscriptions mean better apps

The previous situation was a shame, because subscriptions are great. Ever since they became more popular in the App Store, subs have let developers provide free trials for their apps. You subscribe to a monthly or yearly plan, and you usually get a couple of weeks of free trial before the subscription bills you. It’s a fantastic way to test out an app, without having to resort to a lite or ad-supported version.

It’s also good for developers, because they can charge a proper price. I’m never going to drop $30 on an app I can’t even try. But if I can test it first, then I’m happy to spend $30 per year on a pro-level app. That’s a bargain — but only if you know what you’re getting first.

People are wary of ongoing subscriptions, because they add up. But in the App Store, people are also unwilling to pay more than a few bucks for an app. Customers also expect the app to receive regular updates, pretty much forever.

For a developer, that means constantly adding new users to support the existing ones. That sounds a lot like a pyramid scheme, and those never work out well. Subscriptions fix this, by letting existing customers pay to support their favorite apps.

App subscription pricing

The trouble is — as always in the App Store — price. I pay 30 euros per year for Ulysses, which is a bargain for an app I use every day for my job. But I don’t want to pay that for a utility that, say, adds cool titles to photos. Perhaps if I was an Instagram addict, I might be happy to do that.

The answer is to find a balance, and to make a yearly subscription offer. An annual payment is easy to swallow, especially for up to, say, $20 or $30. Monthly payments feel like they’re adding up, so I never know how much I’m paying.

Subscription settings are in the App Store

To find the new shortcut, open up the App Store app, tap your avatar icon in the top right corner of the page, and then tap the new Manage Subscriptions button. Here it is:

Manage Subscriptions is the first blue link.

Just tap that, and you’ll see a list of all your subs. From there, you can easily edit them. To learn about everything you can do with subscriptions, check out our how-to on the subject. The link was added in the latest version of iOS 12 — 12.1.4. Or the 12.2 beta.

Previously, finding this subscription-management page was a real pain. It was so well buried that any normal person would give up long before they found it. Apple provided a link that, when clicked in the browser, would take you direct to that settings pages. But that was no real solution, as it required finding the link first. Here it is:

Manage your subscriptions.

App subscriptions are the future

Like them or not, subscriptions seem to be Apple’s answer to making sure developers can have a sustainable business in future. And although this new sub-management shortcut seems like a tiny change, it’s a big deal. If subs are easy to use, then they will get much more popular.