I have written about Pixelmator Photo before and how it was an example of a successful one-time purchase app model but no longer, subscriptions have been introduced today and can anyone blame them?

How is Pixelmator making any money? Subscriptions vs. One-Time Purchase!
Photo related apps on the iPhone and iPad aren’t always cheap, they can besubscription-based, sometimes with also a one-time purchase option, such asHalide or more increasingly those that only come with a subscription offeringsuch as VSCO. Then there are limited free trials or freemium apps, wher…

Before getting into the details, Pixelmator Photo is one of my favourite photo editors, which works great on iPhones and iPad. The app has some brilliant features like ML Enhance, ML Super Resolution, and Denoise as well as some useful fine-tuning controls, plus support for Apple ProRAW and many other RAW formats. Pixelmator Photo is an app you can grow with as you develop your style, discover more features as you go, just use the auto enhance or presets, to begin with, and then take greater control with your edits when you are ready.

"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."

In their blog post, Why Pixelmator Photo is switching to subscription pricing (and a sneak peek at Pixelmator Photo for Mac), Pixelmator explains the stop-start revenue they get with a one-time purchase scheme, which depends on attracting new users linked to when they release big new updates and the corresponding attention this gets in the media. This doesn’t sustain the product development except during these spikes in sales, which is ultimately detrimental overall for the product.

Should some of the blame go to Apple? Pixelmator discusses some limitations with the App Store, especially around paid upgrades, which could have been an alternative source of revenue. Correct me if I am wrong but there isn’t a paid upgrade model in the App Store, that’s why you saw separate versions of an app were sometimes released like Camera+ 2, which has also since switched to subscriptions, as a way to increase revenue but it has all sorts of issues not to mention is off-putting for customers.

How about options for developers to offer upgrade discounts to existing users or providing a trial to new users? As Pixelmator discuss, neither of these are possible. Of course, it doesn’t take much to think that this isn’t an accident, subscriptions are far more profitable for Apple because of the reoccurring nature and their encouraging developers down this path rather than offering improved purchase options.

Pixelmator Photo subscription costs - Existing Pixelmator Photo users prior to today, 18th August 2022, get grandfathered in, in other words, people like me who bought the app in the past, have unlimited access to the app on iPhone and iPad going forward without having to subscribe. New users, downloading the app today will get a free trial (I assume) and then there is either a monthly or annual subscription, priced £4.49/$4.99 or £23.49/$23.99 respectively. There is a Lifetime option, to pay outright and that is £47.99/$54.99. This compares similarly to Darkroom, though their subscriptions are slightly cheaper and what Darkroom calls the Unlock Everything Forever option is actually quite a bit more expensive at £64.99/$74.99 as a comparison.

"If you’ve already bought Pixelmator Photo, you get unlimited access without having to subscribe."

Whether the grandfathered unlimited access remains for years to come, is something Pixelmator haven’t worked out themselves. It wouldn’t be unexpected though if in time, for Darkroom, it was two years, when grandfathered users didn't get new features after a certain time, starting with masks but with Pixelmator Photo this is just speculation for now, though I will add this from the comments in Pixelmator blog:

Q: For existing users is this free forever or for x years? Darkroom did something similar and at the time said existing users who had purchased would continue to receive updates forever. Earlier this year they changed this to 2 years since subscriptions were introduced and put the lifetime price up significantly at the same time.
A: We haven't made any decisions regarding this, so there's really not much I can say here. We've always strived to be as fair as possible as far as our users go and that's not going to change.

Anything but subscriptions - For those diametrically opposed to subscriptions, get over it, blame Apple if anything, developers are just trying to make a living and ensure an app is sustainable, one that can be invested in, improved and maintained. Subscriptions provide more predictable income that helps the developer grow. No one wants to spend more money than they have to but at least there is a Lifetime option, which if your going to use the app for more than a couple of years, is reasonably priced, this is what I ended up doing with Darkroom.

Those people that see this as a betrayal, cash grab, greedy, or a rip off, yes I have read the comments on a few sites today, it’s hard not to see that as a sense of misplaced entitlement. I do get it for those that use an app just a few times a year, subscriptions can seem crazy but if this is your hobby or you’re an enthusiast, these costs are not unfair for well-supported photography-related apps and otherwise, there is always Snapseed, which is a good allrounder and is entirely free.

So what app will go next to subscription, Procreate, LumaFusion, FiLMiC Pro or Affinity Photo, also what about Pixelmator Pro on Mac, which remains, for now, a one-time purchase? Check back soon for new articles, an iPhone 13 Pro one-year review will be coming up in the next few weeks!

Thanks for reading, I actually managed to get a post out the same day some news dropped. Please consider subscribing to the site, if you have an interest in iPhone and mobile photography, you'll get new posts sent straight to your inbox, it's free, just check your spam/junk folder in case the emails end up there.