How is Pixelmator making any money? Subscriptions vs. One-Time Purchase!

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 be subscription-based, sometimes with also a one-time purchase option, such as Halide or more increasingly those that only come with a subscription offering such as VSCO. Then there are limited free trials or freemium apps, where you get some basic features for free but have to pay to get more advanced features. You also get genuine free apps like Snapseed, admittedly which is bankrolled by Google, which probably helps.

Pixelmator Photo seems increasingly the outlier, it’s a low-cost one-time purchase, no subscriptions or add-ons, for now at least, which is incredibly well supported, with new features several times a year, as I’ll tell anyone who will listen, it’s probably one of the best bargains on the App Store, it even goes on sale every so often.

The question is why can Pixelmator have a quality app and the development cost that entails, that they can afford to sell it for under 10 pounds, euros or dollars while everyone else has to turn to subscriptions to keep going? To be clear that one-time cost means you can install the app on any iPhone or iPad device of yours and they even support Family Sharing too! Hopefully, you’ll agree that’s not a bad deal, generous even.

Editing a photo on iPad with Pixelmator Photo

Pixelmator obviously know what they are doing, they are currently No. 5 in the Photo & Video App Store chart in the UK, so it’s probably about the volume of sales and market share, that they can skip subscriptions entirely. They also have Pixelmator Pro on the Mac too which is their flagship product, also a one-time purchase, which is more an equivalent to Adobe Photoshop, whereas Pixelmator Photo is closer to Adobe Lightroom.

That’s a long way of saying, why are so many apps turning to subscriptions, when Pixelmator can do so well, without charging ongoing costs? Is it about growing a company quickly, increasing its valuation and attracting investment? There is a reason a few years back VSCO was valued at around $550 million, also Picsart’s valuation was said to be more than $1 billion last year. If it's about growing the userbase, Picsart is doing something right with reportedly 150 million monthly active users across 180 countries.

For reference Picsart costs £59.99 a year or £9.99 a month, VSCO is now £26 a year, though I paid £20 last year.

How much?

Both platforms have attracted seemingly a younger market, that happily, presumably for many years to come, will continue to pay for these apps. It's interesting as a side note, that VSCO back in 2019, withdrew from the desktop market with their VSCO Film packs for Lightroom, to focus solely on mobile photography, which seems to be working well for them. Perhaps it also helps that VSCO and Picsart are available on Android.

I don’t think this should skew everyone else though and Pixelmator is an example of how you can still be profitable if the product is compelling without using subscriptions. Affinity Photo, LumaFusion and FiLMiC Pro are other examples of successful apps exclusively sold via a one-time purchase. Long may Pixelmator stick to this model and if you haven’t seen any of their apps yet, please do check out the Pixelmator apps.

I have other posts, where I talk about photo and camera app costs if you found the above interesting:

I'll have more posts coming soon, I'm on a bit of a roll recently, with motivation to write more! Image credit for featured image: Pixelmator.