Pixelmator Photo mobile app coming to Mac & moving to a subscription pricing model

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Pixelmator Photo, a mobile photo editing app for iPhone and iPad that supports raw image files from more than 600 cameras and offers numerous desktop-class adjustments, has switched to subscription pricing and will also be coming to Mac.

In a blog post, the Pixelmator team explains its decision to ditch the $7.99 upfront cost for Pixelmator Photo to a $4.99 per month (or $23.99 per year) subscription cost. The primary reason for the switch is that one-time purchases occur primarily when Pixelmator releases major updates to its app. However, the rest of the time, the team still incurs significant development costs without major influxes of revenue. Pixelmator writes, ‘With a one-time purchase model, we rely on releasing major updates that create buzz in the media and with regular folks online to sell more copies of our apps than we usually do – i.e. we do our best to attract as many new users as possible. The rest of the time, the money we make isn’t actually enough to support development costs.’

Why doesn’t the team continually release major updates? This approach is okay when everything goes smoothly. If you face delays, it’s a big problem. Further, the paid upfront model incentivizes Pixelmator to hold big new features until a major release. In contrast, with a subscription model, the team can release updates as soon as they’re ready. This is a similar reason why Capture One has also shifted its focus toward a subscription model. With the paid upfront model, there’s a challenging balance between releasing updates that are so big and flashy that customers want to pay for an upgrade while not so drastic that users need to relearn how to use the software.

There are other issues with the paid upfront model. The App Store, where Pixelmator sells its software, doesn’t offer discounts for upgrades. There are also issues with value. If someone buys the software right after a major update, they will get more time with it while receiving minor updates. A customer who pays the same price later in the lifecycle of that version of the app will receive much less value for their money. Further, the development cycle is centered around attracting new customers, sometimes at the cost of existing users. There are only so many resources to go around, and they must be allocated to maximize revenue.

Pixelmator has many good reasons to switch to a subscription model. However, the company acknowledges that it’s not all good news. The primary issue with the switch is that it’s more expensive. ‘And the reason for that is one-time payment apps have a significant number of people who are occasional users – once a month or maybe even a few times a year. These people basically make an app cheaper for those who use it regularly,’ Pixelmator writes. ‘But with fewer paid users in a subscription model, the price becomes higher and you lose the users that use your app occasionally, instead focusing on the people who use your app the most.’

Pixelmator offered a sneak peek at its new Pixelmator Photo app for Mac. The app is being developed natively for Mac and will be available late this year or early next year.

There’s a major benefit for users who have already paid for Pixelmator Photo. If you have bought the app, you get unlimited access for free. If you haven’t paid before but want to subscribe now, you can lock into a lower monthly price, as the app subscription will become more expensive when the Mac version releases.

Concerning Pixelmator Photo for Mac, it will be a native app designed from the ground up for Mac. Pixelmator hopes to ship it late this year or early next year. If you subscribe to Pixelmator for mobile, you’ll receive Pixelmator Photo for Mac for free.

To learn more about the transition to a subscription model, visit the Pixelmator Blog. For more information on Pixelmator’s apps, including Pixelmator Photo and Pixelmator Pro, click here.

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