Lifetime Subscriptions

I’m curious if the developers have thought about offering a lifetime subscription / one time cost option for the pro version of the app.

I think many people, like myself, don’t like the subscription business model because

  • Prices are subject to change
  • It’s burdensome to keep track of
  • It’s annoying how everything is a subscription

I realize that the nature of the service here is weather data, which has a continuous cost, but there are features of the app which have a one time development cost, such as the edit graph ability (can we have dew point on Starry Night pls) or the unlocking of 10 day forecast, which would be nice to have permanently.

My ideal situation would then be to pay a la carte for the data I wanted, for example if I was having a wedding I’d pay for the high res data during that time but I wouldn’t want it for a whole year.

Appreciate the development team and the app and good luck with the iOS development.

1 Like

Thanks for asking this question in a constructive way. I’ve wanted to write a blog post on this because users and developers have different perspectives.

TL;DR: I’ve tried one-off payments and it’s unlikely I’ll try it again. Subscriptions are the future.

First, there is no development team. I’m a solo developer.

A little history (Note, Flowx needs about $4000USD/month to cover costs):

  • 2012: started Flowx as a side project.
  • 2013: Released with ads. Revenue ~ $30/month
  • 2014: Added $2/yr subscription. Revenue ~$60/month
  • 2016: Flowx was earning about $100/month and my internet cost was $200/month. Not sustainable.
  • 2016/2017: I rewrote the app and released it with a $5 one-off purchase. Revenue increased to ~$600/month. Initially one-off payments was 80% of revenue but a year later it represented 60%.
  • 2017/2018: Added high-res data (HRRR), removed $5 one-off purchase, added Bronze/Silver/Gold ($5/yr, $10/yr, $20/yr) subscriptions. Revenue increased to $1800/month. Still not sustainable but there’s a glimmer of hope.
  • 2019: $2200/month
  • 2020: Dark Sky removed from Android. Flowx benefits. $3400/month
  • 2021: Goggle reduces their take from 30% to 15%. $4400/month Yay!!! Flowx is sustainable.

What are the Flowx costs
Servers (12 running today), hardware (5 laptops so far, ~10 phones), support software (code editors), education costs (online tutorials), services (map tiles, ip address to city look ups, search place, etc…), office rental, internet and my time. You will notice all these costs are on-going, even hardware needs replacement. In other words, all Flowx costs are like subscriptions.

What do I spend my time on

Support: I get emails every day for support. Over 90% of users are free users but they still require support.

Maintenance: on servers, updates to processing scripts if the weather data sources changes something or falls over, upgrading code to cope with Android releases (think widgets, background services, etc…new Google libraries), general maintenance to code, and bug fixing.

Development: features are a “one time development” cost but over time the app requires new ways of doing things so other features can happen. This means most previous features need to upgraded to cope with the new way of doing things. Many examples come to mind: 1. when we added regional models which fallback to GFS, for example, users want it to fall back to something else, like ICON. This requires a big redesign of how we set data sources. 2. the code architectures change over time, e.g., MVC, MVVM, MVI, MVP, and coding technologies change, e.g., Java to Kotlin, Objective-C to Swift, Jetpack Compose, Kotlin Multiplatform, and code/features have to be upgraded to these. 3. Designing a theme editor that is easy to use by flexible.

Why Subscriptions?
Now that I’ve outlined Flowx work, costs and revenue, I think you would agree this is an on-going venture where the costs are on-going. So it’s natural that the cost of the product is a subscription model. If revenue stopped coming in today and I completely stopped working on Flowx today, I think the app might work for a few years but the servers and data processing will fall over within a year.

Why Not One-Time Purchases?
The problem with one-time purchases became apparent when I released Flowx with the $5 one-time purchase. At first it looked great with the revenue coming in and then is dropped down to about 60% of total revenue. But then I realized that all these purchases won’t happen next year so I would have to actively search for new users to maintain that revenue. In other words, advertise which costs money which increases the total revenue required to sustain Flowx. In other words, you aren’t paying $5 towards Flowx development, you are paying for advertising too.

In contrast with subscriptions, I could predict future income based on the previous year. I can then plan how much contract work I have to do on the side to cover living costs.

In Summary
Subscriptions matched the on-going costs of Flowx, was predictable and much less stressful. One-time purchases did not match Flowx on-going costs and were unpredictable which means continuous search for new users and increased advertising costs and stress.

But here is the crux: Flowx has to be sustainable. If it’s not sustainable with one-time purchases it will die and no one uses Flowx. If it’s sustainable with subscriptions, then it survives and people have the choice to use Flowx.

Bonus Story
Just before releasing the 2017/2018 Bronze/Silver/Gold subscriptions I was thinking “If this release doesn’t make a big impact maybe I’ll have to give up on Flowx as a business and do something else. Maybe pull the free version and make it a friends and family app.” Then I decided 2-days before release that instead of $2/$5/$10 per year for Bronze/Silver/Gold, I’ll make it $5/$10/$20. I released, most people bought gold and revenue increased substantially. This was a turning point and the glimmer of hope I mentioned above.

10 Likes

Regarding Paying "a la carte for the data"

I decided to reply to this in a separate post.

Supporting multiple subscriptions in code is high maintenance. Also I don’t want to have a McDonald’s menu of purchases - this would be a support nightmare with users asking what each is and also changing there minds, etc… So I’ve decided to keep it simple.

I know I can’t satisfy everyone all the time (I learnt this from Flowx) so I’m developing Flowx to be a valuable tool for professionals and extreme sportsmen. There is much potential in these markets that are unmet. This is where I find the challenge.

4 Likes

I forgot to mention. The advantage of subscriptions from a users perspective is that if I wrong you guys, you can walk away with your money and I’ll know about it. The disadvantage with one-time payments is that if revenue dries up, the developer can give up on the app and you have nothing.

4 Likes

Thanks for the quick and thoughtful replies. /thread I guess!

2 Likes

Great that you put this information out there, really insightful so users can appreciate the costs of development, support and upkeep.

I too am always looking for lifetime purchases where they’re offered, but in this case totally understand your position and agree the subscription model makes most sense. I also feel your pricing is absolutely spot on.

Not wanting to harp back on to the Apple thread, but when Flowx is available on iOS that should in theory increase your user base and subscription income significantly in proportion to your costs.

I for one hope you succeed and keep the app alive for as long as possible, at some point employing another developer in case you get run over by a bus :wink:

5 Likes

Thanks for sharing your story, it’s impressive how patient you have been with it and I’m glad you made it this far because I love the app. As others have said here, I also prefer lifetime licenses when available, but I totally understand that subscription is a more viable model for you. Just as a side info, what made it easier for me to go Gold was the fact that the app already came with decent free features and no adds, plus a clear description of what is extra in each plan. Also an honest way to do trial period: full features for a fixed time + reminder before I get charged, it’s a rare thing and I very much appreciate it.

Now looking at your numbers, it seems like 4000 is a lot of money per month. Now of course I have no idea what the exact distribution of those expenses is, but I’m curious if you have already looked into cloud options instead of physical servers, I wonder if that can be cheaper and easier to maintain in the long run. It was the case for my employer at least, so I just thought I’d bring it up.

1 Like

I’ve been pondering an automatic trial feature. For example, if you use Flowx everyday for five days in a row, you get a token. You can accumulate a max of 3 token. A token gives you 24 hours of all pro features.

Regarding the $4000 per month. All my servers are cloud based. This 4000 is for running Flowx and me and my family. In other words, servers, laptops, internet, rent, petrol, clothes, food, lights, holidays, and keeping the beer cold. If I can’t cover all this through Flowx, then Flowx has to forfeit time to allow me to do other contact work. The ultimate goal is to work full time on Flowx.

7 Likes

Aren’t you also paying for some of the forecasts?

No but I would like to but it doesn’t make financial sense at the moment. UKMO data is $6000+ per year, Australia’s BOM data is $11,000+ per year and ECMWF is $150,000 Euro per year.

2 Likes

“Subscriptions are the future”

Says the seller confidently… What ever happened to the customer always being right???

I agree with the original OP here. Subscriptions are the scourge of consumerism and they are annoying as hell and they are impossible to unsubscribe from in my experience.

1 Like

You’ve read this out of context. The complete quote is that “Subscriptions are the future of Flowx”.

There are many ways to monetize apps. Ads, sell location data, one-off payments, and subscriptions are the main ones. I’ve tried ads - I don’t like them. Companies ask me all the time to add their tracking SDK - I like privacy. I’ve tried one-off payments - they don’t work for many reasons. This leaves subscriptions which have worked, i.e., the future of Flowx.

Without subscriptions, I doubt you’d be using Flowx right now. At one stage I was contemplating the case where Flowx failed. I planed to quit developing it for everyone and only make it available to friends and family.

I contemplate this quote a lot too. And either:

  • the quote is wrong and most people blindly think it right
  • or if someone suggests something that is rightly aligned with Flowx and then they are a customer.

Personally, I think this quote is wrong and does more damage than good. The quote is meant for business people to drive home the point to listen to the customer. It’s ridiculous to think all customers are right all the time - what BS. Unfortunately, customers found out and now they confidently think they are right all the time.

I can think of many examples, where someone has suggested something that is wrong for Flowx. I’ve had customers suggest things that conflict.

“Two men say they’re Jesus. One of them must be wrong.”

10 points to who can guess where this apt quote is from.

Consumerism, the excessive consumption, can be driven by different things, for example, making something very cheap or free, marketing, and influencers.

Subscriptions has nothing to do with consumerism. Subscriptions, just like one-off payments, ads, selling tracking data, are simply ways to exchange revenue for a product. This revenue goes into making the product. The servers that serve Flow data is a subscription. The code editor I use for Flowx is a subscription. Even the laptop is kind-of like a subscription - I have to upgrade it every few years.

Subscriptions have been around for ages, e.g. newspapers, when they were made of paper, did it. It’s a convenient way to make many one-off payments and they are easy to cancel. Just go to the Play Store > Subscriptions, select the subscription and cancel.

3 Likes

I got this yesterday. It’s an example of people wanting to add tracking code into Flowx.

I get several a month.

2 Likes

Oh no! Much too complicated.

It’s like going to a store where the sign says “20% off,” then you can compute your coupons and bonus points, then earn more points if you use your store credit card.

I just go next door to Walmart where the price on the tag is the price. And it’s usually less without all the game playing.

2 Likes

You might be seeing more complexity than there really is. This has nothing to do with sale prices or purchases.

Flowx will automatically allocate a token with frequent use, then one day when the user wants more detail, e.g., a storm is coming or planning a hike, they go into settings and redeem the token and they get 24 hour of pro data. It gives users a chance to try the pro data in valuable situations.

If the users gets the value in the pro data, they might buy pro.

3 Likes

But don’t you also run the risk that the user will think, “It’s there if I really need it,” and as a result hold off on upgrading?

1 Like

I have learnt that those who aren’t going to buy won’t buy. These tokens are for those who will buy but aren’t sure or on the fence. Testing pro data in real valuable situations might alleviate there doubt and they will buy.

Those who won’t buy but use the token will hopefully be good word-of-mouth advertisers to others who will buy. Over 90% of 100k+ users are free users - I hope these users will be great word-of-mouth marketers.

2 Likes

I think it’s a great idea. The aim of any product is to get that spread of “word of mouth” quickly. Rewarding users is a terrific strategy in my experience

2 Likes

I’ll be honest with your $20.00 for a year of FlowX is perfect. Having HRRR on my Lock Screen is invaluable, not to mention the meteogram like data view. I love flowx and appreciate that we have an interactive developer.

3 Likes

Flowx is invaluable to me. Been using it since 2013 and have been purchasing the highest tier for years.

That being said I only have one complaint: the old name was better :stuck_out_tongue:

4 Likes