Notability subscriptions break the rules of the App Store, and developers do a U-turn after a backlash
This week's Notability subscription announcement sparked a backlash, forcing the makers of the popular note-taking app to do a U-turn on the way they treat existing users. Some existing owners have pointed out that the developer violated App Store rules.
The company announced it would switch to a subscription model, a change that rarely succeeds, but the bigger controversy is over those who have already bought the app.
The company announced that existing users -- those who have already purchased the app and its optional advanced features -- will retain access for only one year. After that, they will have to start paying subscriptions like everyone else.
Users who have already paid for the app are not interested. Some pointed out that this was a violation of App Store Review Guidelines 3.1.2(a) and said they had reported it to Apple. Here's apple's guide:
If you're going to convert your existing app to a subscription-based business model, you shouldn't deprive existing users of key features they've already paid for. For example, after you introduce a subscription model for new users, let users who have already purchased a "full game unlock" continue to access the full game.
App owners reacted angrily to the move.
"I bought the app on the assumption that the current features would last forever. I haven't rented this app in two years. I would be very angry if my access was taken away. I don't subscribe to apps like Notability. I have too much information to take that kind of risk. If that's what they want to do, I think it's time to start migrating away from Notability. It wasn't the money, it was that I wasn't reliable and all my notes were suddenly locked up."
"It would be wrong to downgrade paying customers who have been using the app for years."
"I'm 99 percent sure it's a violation, but I don't know the details. This is a clear violation and we all need to keep complaining to Apple about it. They either follow the rules of the game or they remove the app from the store."
"This is nonsense. I pay for every feature I currently have, including a few extras (math and writing). These are permanent permits. If Notability wants to switch to SaaS for new customers, fine. If they want to create a brand new app, that's fine. But don't take what I bought and say I got it 'for free for a year, after which I'm forced to pay more."
The company has now reversed course, saying existing users can now use the advanced features they bought for life without paying a Notability subscription fee.
"Yesterday, we made a big announcement that we are moving to a free app with optional subscriptions. We've heard frustration from existing customers and we want to change our practices.
Today, we have made some changes (to be released in Notability 11.0.2). Users who purchased Notability before our conversion to subscription on November 1, 2021, will have lifetime access to all existing features and any content previously purchased in the app.
This includes the core Notability experience that users know and love, including unlimited editing, iCloud syncing, and any features or content previously purchased through Notability Shop."
The company said it "sincerely apologized" for the error. Reactions to the change have been mixed.