App Subscriptions and Standalone Alternatives

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by MacDawg, Jul 19, 2019.

  1. MacDawg macrumors Core


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
    Based on several recent threads, it appears there is a huge aversion to paying subscriptions versus having a standalone app to purchase.

    I personally don't care for subscriptions either, but there are a few that I pay:
    • Dropbox
    • NordVPN
    • 1 Password
    But the sentiment appears to be that apps moving to subscriptions is rampant and unchecked (and forced on users). I don't notice it being that extreme, but I am interested in what others have to say about it, and alternatives.

    So here is the challenge:
    • List apps (macOS or iOS) that have moved or are moving to subscription based pricing
    • Then list an alternative app(s) to replace the subscription based app
      • Free apps preferably
      • Standalone apps for purchase are welcome too

    For example, in this thread 1Password's subscription based pricing takes a beating and several alternatives are listed such as:
    • LastPass
    • BitWarden
    Another example would be the thread about AirMail found here

    I'm interested in hearing all the apps that people are unhappy about that are moving to subscriptions and what their choices for alternatives are.

  2. QCassidy352 macrumors G4


    Mar 20, 2003
    Bay Area
    This is not exactly an answer to your question, but I always think of MS Office in these discussions because they have mostly moved Office to a subscription-based model. But, I actually don't mind it that much because 1) the price is pretty decent ($70/year for an individual or $100/year for a family), 2) you get a lot more (Skype minutes, 1TB OneDrive, support), and 3) they do still offer a one-time license ($150 for just Word/Excel/Powerpoint), which is why I said "mostly" above.

    To me, this is an example of how to do subscriptions correctly: price fairly, add extras that are actually useful (to many), and still offer the one-time license, even if its price/features make clear that it's not the preferred method anymore.

    All of that said, Office does have free and pretty decent alternatives, including OpenOffice, iWork (free with apple hardware), and Google docs.
  3. grmlin macrumors member


    Feb 16, 2015
    I think 1Password is worth it, simply because it works so ****ing great and I don't have to care for anything but my master password and the secret on new devices.
    I consider other options next year, when my subscription renews.

    I'm into photography, and used Lightroom since version 1. I HATE the adobe subscription model, I don't need that. I always bought the Lightroom update every now and then, and sticked to my old ass Photoshop license from my time as a student. They also move to a cloud based solution which I don't want, I just want to edit photos on my PC and have all my photos on my hard drives. I will switch next year, I think, I didn't yet because I didn't have the time to deal with the migration of my huge lightroom catalogue. :(

    Airmail? Yeah, uninstalled everywhere. I don't pay for that anymore.

    Oh, and I happily pay for a subscription of a weather app (WeatherPro) lol. My wife and I love that weather :D

    With the recent move of Airmail, it's getting problematic though. The AppStores need some clear rules there. It's pretty frightining, that every company could pull this off, even after paying premium prices in the past. The old days of: "I have a license key and can use that forever to activate the software I paid for" are clearly coming to an end.
  4. tigres macrumors 601


    Aug 31, 2007
    Land of the Free-Waiting for Term Limits
    Been a user of Dropbox for as long as I can remember. This year, last month actually I kicked them out. This last round of price increases was the final straw.

    I do use iCloud, 9.99/month. That said although not as good (yet), I could not justify another 120 annual for Dropbox as well, something had to give.

    I also have the early paid version of 1Password and use that along with Keychain. If they force me to a subscription model, I will drop that too.
  5. auxbuss macrumors regular


    Feb 18, 2014
    I've been defrauded by Ulysses and Airmail. I bought both on iOS and macOS and can no longer use either. Ulysses and Airmail used the same bait and switch tactic.

    I was already using Scrivener for large writing projects and hoped to use Ulysses for small pieces and odds and ends. Scrivener is not free, of course, but there are plenty of Ulysses-type apps around from free (e.g. typora, macdown) to, well, Scrivener. For odds and ends, I've tried Notes (which I find limited and clunky), Quiver (which I like, but the promised iOS version hasn't appeared; years now), and now FSNotes (which is free to install yourself, or very cheap via the App Store).

    For passwords I rely on the keychain, but also keep things in Enpass (macOS and iOS; non-subscription).

    I'm fine with subscriptions for services, but never for software. I'm also fine with annual fee for updates approach where there is significant development or backend costs.

    Hat tip to Spotify for doing things right. I often use Spotify for a couple of months, stop for a period, then jump back on. Spotify, so far, have made this easy. That's how a service should operate.
  6. T-Bob macrumors 6502a


    Oct 23, 2013
    Not an exact switch as I use it for notes as well now, but recently bought iA Writer which will be used for notes and the extremely rare longer form writing that I do. I was using Ulysses for occasional projects, but not notes some years ago until they switched to their new scheme.

    Was I annoyed at their new model? Yes I was. It happened after owning their product on Mac and iOS for well under a year, and felt like a punitive shift for casual users. I wouldn't have minded if I could have had the option to upgrade to a new platform, but didn't want to continue investing time in a moribund service so pulled out immediately.

    The X product is worth it to me posters are nearly as annoying as well. I doubt it'd be worth it if you were using it once a month during some times and even going multiple months without using it at all. And yes I could keep subbing and unsubbing, isn't that fun. Yeah if I used Word daily I'd find the subscription well worth it (actually am subscribed to 365 incidentally).
  7. dudeslife macrumors member


    Jul 25, 2011
    My subs:

    Drafts (worth every cent)
    DayOne (worth every cent)
    1password (awesome devs and worth it)
    TextExpander (if lazy ios developers would support it more I would even pay double)
    FieryFeeds (the most powerful rss reader easily)
    Apollo (if you wade thru the human waste of reddit, this is good)

    dead subs walking (won't be renewed):

    dead and buried:

    I am happy to support devs that actually work to make their apps better, but those dudes at Airmail have been coasting for years and have actually made their app worse. They can't even get their URL schemes working on iOS.
  8. MacDawg thread starter macrumors Core


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
    For me it is all about value. I have a lot of free software and iOS apps cluttering up my devices that I never use, but hey, they are free.
    I'm with you @T-Bob, if I use something once a month or go multiple months without using it, then I don't want to pay for it.

    I have access to Office365 through my Corporate account, so I haven't had to address that yet, but my old standalone license is outdated now.
    So when that time comes, I will likely opt for free alternatives due to my age and stage in life, and not needing all the extras it affords.

    I also have access to a corporate Adobe Creative account but have uninstalled most of it because I never use it.
    If I had to pay for it, I would certainly drop it and opt for free alternatives or some standalone apps, of which many are available.

    I dropped my Premium Evernote with price increases, etc. because I couldn't justify the cost for how I was using it, and the free version limited devices.
    Instead, I migrated everything to a free personal OneNote and never looked back.

    I dropped my Premium ToDoist even though I liked the product, because I couldn't justify paying for it just to get scheduled alerts.
    Instead, I just use Apple's Reminders now and it does everything I need.

    I dropped TextExpander when they went subscription and never looked for a true replacement (although my standalone still works on my Mac).
    It was a nice thing to have, but it wasn't worth the money for my needs.

    I have a Flickr paid account that just went up dramatically in price, and I will be dropping it since I rarely used it anyway.
    Not really looking for an alternative to it anyway.

    I have considered DayOne as a subscription, but I like the idea of writing in it more than I actually write in it, so it really wasn't worth it for me.
    Although I really like the product.

    Every time there is a thread about 1Password, there is a lot of discussion about the subscription v. standalone, and I understand that.
    I hesitated a long time before I moved to the subscription, and when I did, I went all in with long/strong passwords that are unique and not reused.
    I tried using LastPass before, but really didn't like the interface and never really clicked with it, although my wife uses a paid version of it for mobile access.
    Based on the current 1Password thread I have looked at BitWarden
    It does seem to be a good alternative, and I might consider switching, although the $3 for 1Password doesn't really gall me like it does some others.

    I pay for NordVPN after dropping PIA because I got a big discount up front and I researched the reviews at the time.
    Many feel a VPN isn't necessary, and in many/most cases it probably isn't, but I like having it even if it might be overkill.
    I don't think all VPNs are created equal, and I generally agree that you get what you pay for.

    I also pay for DropBox and have been a user for years.
    I have most everything stored there and shared between my 2 Macs, my iPhone and my 2 corporate Windows computers.
    I love having everything available everywhere and the safety net it affords me.
    I also use it for an Arq backup as well.
    I know that Google Drive, OneDrive and iCloud are alternatives, but I am used to DropBox and it just works for me.
    I would hate to try and move off DropBox at this point in my life.

    Ulysses is another that people often mention with subscriptions.
    I never used it, but I dabbled with Scrivener for a while. But I can see why people would be frustrated with a subscription based writing app.

    I realize some of these aren't really subscriptions, but Premiums (like ToDoist, Evernote, etc.) that offer free, but limited versions or a premium version.
    And that's where the rub comes for most I think, when *forced* to go to a subscription with no alternative to a free (albeit limited) version, or a standalone.

    So, my reason for the thread was to identify apps that have gone subscription that are frustrating people and to give alternatives.
    We have identified some, but surely there are others out there, right?
    All of the rage against the subscription model can't be just about the few we have talked about so far.

    And most of these are macOS primarily, but aren't there iOS apps as well?
  9. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Some people are annoyed with subscription pricing per se but they are a minority of users. Most of us just weigh the value we get vs the cost, no matter how we pay: perpetual license with various upgrade fees, perpetual license with free upgrades, subscription, site license, etc.

    And I note many of the applications you mention are integrally related to services, mostly cloud storage and synching. Even Apple charges for that over the free amount you get with your machine. I dropped Dropbox (heh) when they went to a more expensive model, and now use other services, and also pay 1Password and Day One for that service. Since I use them extensively. But Text Expander? no. Just not worth it since I have always preferred Typinator, even if it didn't have some of the features. People have been paying for such services for a long time via subscription so paying for just application updates via subscription isn't much of a change.

    So I don't think you're going to get much of a list. Anyone shopping for an application is just going to decide whether free, or paid in some way, is best for them versus similar apps with similar features. Not really much need for a list, sorry.
  10. Erehy Dobon macrumors regular

    Erehy Dobon

    Feb 16, 2018
    I ditched 1Password several years ago when they moved to a subscription model. I exported the data file and brought it into LastPass which I have been happily using since.

    I still have a copy of a 1Password app, just in case there's an old record that somehow got lost in the conversion process but I believe it has been well over a year since I opened up 1Password.

    I think the only other app subscription I have is MLB At Bat. The free Lite version of app provides all the basic info (as does a host of other free sports news apps like ESPN, Yahoo Sports, etc.) but I still feel that the value of the At Bat season subscription is worth it.

    The MLB season is long so the annual subscription ends up being about 15 cents per game.
  11. MacDawg thread starter macrumors Core


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
    Honestly, that is really my point and the intent of this thread.
    I wanted to challenge others to show us the pain points instead of just raging against the machine with no specifics.

    There are some vocal people out there who decry the vile and greedy practices of developers who are fleecing us with subscriptions, and honestly, I don't see it. I agree with you, it is all about the value, whether a one time purchase with paid upgrades later (VMware Fusion, which I usually skip a version or two before upgrading), or free alternatives (VirtualBox) or subscription (Parallels).

    I understand some see the "principle" of not paying a subscription, but will purchase and pay upgrades over time.
    I get that they have a choice to upgrade or keep using the older version, but many times older versions can be orphaned by the OS to no fault of the developer.

    In my mind, I just weigh each individual case based on its value to me without regard to the mechanism.
    If a subscription is worth it to me (1Password), then I don't really mind paying it. $3 a month isn't a deal breaker for me.
    If a subscription isn't worth it (Adobe), then I find an alternative.
  12. dwfaust, Jul 20, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019

    dwfaust macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2011
    I'm in the same boat. I have the free Dropbox account... they recently changed the terms to limit the number of devices that could connect... because I've had it so long, I have way more than they allowed. I can keep them connected, but if something happens and I lose the connection, I cannot re-add it because I am over the limit.

    As luck would have it, I had to restore the image to one of my main Macs, and, of course, lost access to my Dropbox on that device. I don't want to pay $120/year to get it back. #Grrrrr

    I am using the older version of 1Password (v6) which I upgraded several times over the years from the 'perpetual license' version that I started with (v3?).

    I also use TextExpander v4 which was 'perpetual license'... but they removed Dropbox as an option for the repository... and are pushing harder and harder to get me to upgrade to the subscription version. Would be open to an alternative app.

    I use Office a lot. I work for a non-profit, and we can get the "perpetual license" version for $29 through so if you are non-profit, check that out...
    --- Post Merged, Jul 20, 2019 ---
    I have absolutely no problem supporting developers who create, maintain and expand their software products... but I refuse to pay for subscription software just because the developer wants a steady income stream. You can find my rants on the subject in any of the various threads on the subject of subscription based software.
  13. dwfaust, Jul 20, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019

    dwfaust macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2011
    I dropped Flickr when SmugMug bought it and raised the price. No thanks.

    I have seriously considered a VPN, but never pulled the trigger.

    Exactly my take... see my post above... I use Dropbox a lot, but they pi$$ed me off when they (recently) added the 3 device limit on the free account. I understand restricting the amount of storage because that actually costs them something... but limiting the number of connected devices is just mean-spirited and serves no purpose except to drive people to the paid version (or completely away). It doesn't cost them any more to provide X GB of storage to 10 devices than it does to provide that same X GB to 3 devices.

    Like you, though, I've used Dropbox for so long and am so used to the way it works, I want to throw rocks at the other options (Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud).

    Great topic... and thanks for creating this thread... hopefully it will take off and become a good resource.

    BTW, I feel the same way about MS Office as I do Dropbox. Sure, there are alternatives, maybe even good ones... but I've used it so long, it's just what I prefer.[/QUOTE]

    --- Post Merged, Jul 20, 2019 ---
    I would question "they are a minority of users" statement.

    I don't mind paying for software... sometimes even a substantial amount... but what gets my panties in a wad is when the developer goes that route without giving us any added value in return. My preference will always be to purchase a perpetual license. When a new version is released, let ME evaluate the perceived value and decide to upgrade or not.

    And "it's only" $5/month or $10/month, but with enough products, it's easily $100 or more a month. As senator Everett Dirkson once said, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money".

    Given the choice with all things being equal, I will choose the perpetual license and a paid upgrade over the subscription model EVERY TIME.
  14. grmlin macrumors member


    Feb 16, 2015
    Dropbox is a really annoying example, too. I had to reinstall my Mac at work recently and was pretty amazed that I couldn’t connect it anymore.
    I would pay 1€/month for a low tier subscription, but I just don’t need that much cloud space, it’s way too expensive.
  15. MacDawg thread starter macrumors Core


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
    The way it seems to me, things can be broken down thusly:
    • Apps that are free (VirtualBox, etc.)
    • Apps that are free but have in-app purchases for other features
    • Apps that are one time purchase, with possible feature upgrades over time (VMware Fusion, etc.)
      • Some upgrades are free
      • Some upgrades are paid - and the consumer has the option to pay for upgrades based on features, etc.
    • Apps that are free (limited) but have a Premium version (Dropbox, Evernote, etc)
    • Apps that have a paid version (possibly limited) and a subscription version (1Password, Parallels, etc)
    • Apps that have moved to a subscription model completely giving no choice (Airmail)
    To add to the confusion, some apps have free trials while others don't
    Some apps are available on the App Store, others are not, or the App Store version is limited somehow or can't be upgraded

    I think sometimes people get angry and/or frustrated and lump it all together

    For me, having a free (limited version) and a Premium version is different from a Subscription model - at least there is a choice
    DropBox and Evernote for instance, their free versions limit the number of devices while their Premium does not
    It was worth for me with DropBox (I was already paying) but not for Evernote, so I moved to OneNote

    The rub comes when features that have been available in the free version are moved to the premium (number of connections)
    Or when purchased apps become obsolete and the only option is a subscription

    But even so, in this thread, there have only been a handful of real examples, not a whole host of them
    Excluding Office365 and Adobe
    • Ulysses
    • Airmail
    • 1Password
    • Dropbox
    So why do you suppose there is this vehement outcry against subscriptions and developers?
  16. dwfaust macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2011
    People are funny. I remember thinking back in 2009 when I got my first iPhone that I would never pay for an app. And I absolutely would not consider paying $4.99 (or more) for an app. I think people still cling to that thought process, by and large. I have Tweetbot on my Mac, on my iPhone and on my iPad ... that's over $20 for one app... Fantastical/2 is another... over $60 combined... so clearly that ship has sailed... but people still think that apps should be free, at least many that I talk to about this subject.

    So when you go from that mindset, to paying a decent price for apps, people balk... then you convert the "decent price" to a monthly subscription, people get incensed... and I realize that I am generalizing...

    For me, the real issue is that I get a sense of entitlement from many of the developers... those who just want to cash the check every month without earning it (fixing bugs and adding features to their software). For example, before I started working with the non-profit and got access to their Photoshop account, I used Photoshop Elements. It didn't matter (still doesn't) that I paid $60-120 for the software license EVERY YEAR for a number of years... but refused to pay $19 (or even $9) per month for the Photoshop subscription - despite getting access to more power and more tools. It's just the mindset that every time you open the app, you see the developer standing there with his hand out.

    There are also the software developers who, when one cancels the subscription, lose the ability to access to the data/documents/files that the user created using that software... and it just makes people mad.

    Ultimately, I don't mind paying a subscription for stuff that is of value to me, and for which the payment gets you something - like additional storage (Apple iCloud) or additional content (Netflix, etc). I just don't like the money grab.
  17. MacDawg thread starter macrumors Core


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
    I don't use that many apps these days consistently, but some I don't mind paying for and would pay again
    • CarbonCopyCloner
    • GraphicConverter
    I don't need a lot of apps and functionality, just the basics: email, text, phone, web browser

    But for every entitled developer, there are hundreds of entitled users who expect everything to be free, feature rich, without bugs and responsive support
    There are people on both sides and extremes
  18. Erehy Dobon, Jul 20, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019

    Erehy Dobon macrumors regular

    Erehy Dobon

    Feb 16, 2018
    The problem isn't that developers are charging for apps/services. The problem is when they reduce perceived value.

    Let's take webmail for example. For a while in the late Nineties, various companies were offering increasingly better services. There was a startup named Hotmail that provided a pretty good product and a lot of people signed up for it.

    Eventually they were acquired by Microsoft who moved the service from the reliable UNIX/Linux servers to horrifical poor Windows NT servers. At some point, the free webmail services started reducing storage space + other features (like POP3IMAP support) in the hopes of getting people to sign up for their premium services (I think Hotmail's was Hotmail Plus).

    Users were furious and started abandoning these services. At one point, pretty much all the major free webmail services had reduced storage caps to between 2-5 megabytes.

    Who was the beneficiary? An upstart named Google. Not only did they offer more storage, there was a storage meter whose maximum storage capacity grew frequently. They made it obvious that you were getting more than the competition and you would likely have more storage in a week/month.

    Today, Gmail is the gold standard of free webmail, at the expense of Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo, plus a bunch of others who are out of business or whose presence is stagnant.

    At one point, Hotmail's storage space for their free service level was 5 megabytes, nearly useless. All of Gmail's competitors eventually increased their storage space offerings, but it was too freakin' late.

    Similar thing with Flickr. This service went to a pay model at least twice, slashing the existing users' capabilities and charging money for what previously had been free. Today, what is Flickr's impact? Nearly zero. At one point, this was the de facto photo sharing service. Google had similar stumbles with their various photo services (including the defunct Picasa).

    Of recent services, I've seen Dropbox and Evernote reduce the number of client devices for the free service level. Guess what? That means I simply use their services less. They have competition. Microsoft OneNote will probably kill Evernote. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft has set up shop in an unmarked building within a few blocks of Evernote.

    Both Google and Microsoft have a strong chance of killing off Dropbox. SugarSync is a dead stick. Just being a cloud drive isn't much of a selling point these days, especially once you tell longtime users they have less devices/clients to connect to the service.

    I had no problem with 1Password charging money for their app. My beef was when my current usage would start incurring new fees.

    Let's say you buy a car from Brand T and you drive it 10,000 miles a year. Two years later, Brand T says, "Oh, in order to drive 10,000 miles a year, you need to start paying us $50/month."

    We have seen this time and time again in the Internet industry: THIS DOESN'T FLY WITH CONSUMERS.
  19. spacemnspiff macrumors 6502a


    Feb 11, 2009
    I too am in the same boat and I had to get a new PC at work and install Dropbox on it, so now I have to pick and choose which device gets to sync with DropBox. I would gladly pay $1/mo for a 1password only syncing need.

    I completely agree, let me evaluate the value. I am still on 1Password 4 on Windows and it works for me.
  20. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Why? some people like to skip versions and they perceive having a perpetual license as a way to do that and save money. Or they want free. Or that the value of the subscription just isn't there for them.

    Let's face it, "free" stuff has spoiled us...we ignored the fact we were paying with our personal data (gmail), or were not paying shareware fees so the developer gave up, or even pirated software.

    I have managed computers for organizations so the notion of paying for software more like a service is really familiar. We often didn't care as much as some of the software features as we did about deployment, upgrading, service, and so on.

    So I am never going to complain about subscriptions per se, anymore than I would about perpetual licenses and some of their restrictions. If it's worth it, I buy. If not, I don't. I can't see why anyone would care one way or another. I'm struggling to think of any subscription offering, even those heavy on say services like online storage, that don't have an alternative. And to return to the question, I think some want the software, but just don't want to pay the price for it. And it isn't always the subscription per se, but the way it's packaged. A Ps user was overjoyed at the Photo Plan price, WAY cheaper than Ps unless you skipped a couple versions. But the Lr only users? not so much. Like with Dropbox: the limit on number of devices, and the price structure for those (like me) that need lots of devices but not many GB of storage.

Share This Page

19 July 19, 2019