A note about SignalScope X’s auto-renewable subscriptions
SignalScope for iOS was fortunate enough to be one of the relatively few apps that could be found in the iPhone App Store on its opening day in 2008. Since then we have received tremendous feedback and support from SignalScope users. This note is in part addressed to those long-time (and not-so-long-time users) who we would like to keep on board with us as we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in acoustics-related analysis and measurement on iOS devices.
I thought it would be worth taking some time to present some of the benefits of adapting a subscription-based software business model, at least in our case. In discussing these benefits, some of the challenges we have faced with iOS App Store distribution may become apparent, as well as some of the trade-offs that must be made in any case from both our perspective as well as that of the end user.
I am aware that not everyone is a fan of software subscriptions, and that some, in fact, strongly dislike them. The decision to embrace subscriptions with SignalScope X was not one made lightly.
With the App Store as it is, we cannot offer an elegant solution to continue to fully monetize our development efforts otherwise (i.e. there is no proper way to offer paid upgrades for existing products). This is a decision 10 years in the making and Apple has now given clear signals that subscriptions are the preferred model going forward.
So, what follows are some benefits of subscriptions, at least as we see it.
- Subscriptions make a better SignalScope. With subscriptions, it makes sense to consolidate all our analysis tools into a single app. App consolidation allows us to put a powerful set of tools in a single app and focus our efforts on that one app, instead of five in this case. This means new tools and features can be delivered more quickly and robustness of the app can be more easily assured.
- Subscriptions make it simpler for the user to be sure they have the latest and greatest that SignalScope X has to offer. We have used in-app purchases in other products to effectively charge for upgraded tools or features. However, it becomes a hassle, both for the user and for us, to keep track of multiple in-app purchases.
- Subscriptions help us stay focused on what matters most. If we were to continue to add new in-app purchases to monetize our ongoing development efforts, the apps would continue to become more cluttered over time. The clutter adds a burden to the user and dulls the quality experience we prefer to provide in our products. To one degree or another, this would also increase our support and project maintenance burden and ultimately diminish our ability to focus on providing the best tools available.
- Subscriptions help us stay in business. Subscriptions cover the costs of continually updating our software to account for new versions of iOS (which sometimes unexpectedly change audio input/output behavior) and new hardware from Apple and others. We are pleased to ship our software with built-in nominal sensitivities for each of Apple’s iOS devices, to facilitate reasonably accurate acoustical measurements “out of the box,” but this comes at a significant cost in hardware and time (e.g. we have to measure actual iPhone and iPad microphone sensitivities).
- Subscriptions help us serve our current customers better. Subscriptions provide greater monetary incentive to meet the needs of our current (subscribing) customers. With the previous arrangement (i.e. no paid upgrades), once an app (or in-app purchase) is paid for, there may be no expectation of future monetization of ongoing development efforts from that customer. We’re pleased with the upgrades we’ve been able to offer, particularly in SignalScope and SignalScope Pro, over the last 9+ years, but we’ve effectively been giving away major upgrades for free for many app users during that time. Generosity is laudable but not inexhaustible. We need and want to be able to continue to generate a profit as well as a sense of pleasure in serving our customers.
- Subscriptions make powerful tool sets more accessible. With a single subscription (the Pro Tool Set), SignalScope X replaces everything previously found in SignalScope, SignalScope Pro, SignalSuite, IOScope, and RoomScope. That means software tools previously costing $300 (plus several powerful new tools and features) are now accessible for $20 for 1 month. It should be noted that for all 3 subscription levels in SignalScope X, an annual subscription offers a 25% savings versus a 1-month subscription over a 12-month period. Specific pricing information can be found on SignalScope X’s product page.
- Subscriptions offer a free trial. This is the first time we’ve been able to offer a proper trial of our iOS software tools to prospective customers before they make a monetary commitment.
For those who have purchased any of the apps now being replaced by SignalScope X, you will be able to keep using those apps as long as you run them on a device with a compatible version of iOS (currently iOS 8 through 11). They will continue to receive maintenance updates and be listed for sale on the App Store for a limited time.
We have big plans and high hopes for the future of SignalScope X. Thank you for taking time to read this and give it your consideration.
I am using other tools which are enough and will not buy a subscription based software tool as long as a one time fee tool is available.
Not even trying the 7 day free trial
if it was worth it at one time fee i might use your software but not subscription. No Never
You do realize that there are tools for all of these functions available for incredibly low cost already right?
Thank you for taking the time to let us know how you feel about subscriptions.
We are aware of alternatives available on the App Store, although there are undoubtedly some of which we are not. How familiar are you with what SignalScope X has to offer compared with other apps?
Perhaps, we need to do more to communicate the value in SignalScope X, but I’m not sure what beats a free trial for giving potential subscribers an opportunity to see for themselves.
To put it mildly, I’m not a fan of this subscription model. When you would rely on these tools on daily basis, it may make sense, but I use the tool on occasional basis (say max once to twice per quarter) for octave measurements on DIY loudspeakers. I’m happy to pay a 20 or 30 euro one-time and again for a substantial upgrade, and to support you, but given my usage a $72/yr is not representative for my use cases. None of the above advantages apply to me. This means I will stick to the old version of the tool, and if it starts to malfunction on a new iOS release, I will have to search for an alternative. Too bad, as I like and would love to support your efforts, but it is simply becoming to expensive.
I understand your concern. Unfortunately, we have no proper way to charge for upgrades to existing software on the App Store. Once you purchase an app, or an in-app upgrade, that app, or that upgrade, has to be maintained, which cannot be done indefinitely without additional cost. The only way to upgrade it for a fee is to replace it and charge for the new version. The subscription model is currently the only way to do that in the App Store without charging full price for the new version of the app each time it is upgraded (i.e. replaced).
Regarding cost, and your stated needs, your 20-30 euro amount is closest to purchasing SignalScope plus the Octave upgrade (without the data acquisition upgrade). SignalScope Pro costs $75. With the subscription model, you could pay $8 for one month and disable auto-renew for the subscription. So, if you pay $8 once per quarter, that’s $32 per year, which is comparable to your 20-30 example.
Thank you for taking the time to let us know your thoughts.
I guess I’m super late to the party… just downloaded my updates and got the message about the move to the subscription model.
Like the two writers above, I’m very against software subscriptions… I completely recognize the need for the company to stay afloat *and* the limitations of the Apple Store, but there is another option.
For those of us who would prefer to pay for our product *once*, how about adding an option for lifetime upgrades at some *realistic* amount? Frank Rieff (http://www.publicspace.net) offered this for his products and I happily paid for the lifetime option… despite the fact that I only use the products once or twice per year. It gives the hobbiest access to fantastic tools *and* gives you some income.
Short version: I will never pay for a software subscription for a tool like this one… but given the option, I would pay for a lifetime upgrade package.
Of course, this doesn’t even touch the chunk of money that we already have invested in your software that is now abandonware. This almost works for something like 1Password that is $10, but for a product that cost me $300, this is outrageous…
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this.
Unfortunately, a “lifetime upgrade” is not a sustainable business model for us. That’s not a model we have ever adopted, and, although we have been giving SignalScope and SoundMeter users free upgrades (major upgrades, not just updates) for nearly 10 years, we have never promised free upgrades forever.
Before publishing apps on the App Store, we would occasionally release major upgrades to our Mac software and charge upgrade fees for the new versions. Users of older versions then had the option to upgrade, or not. Unfortunately, that’s not a model supported by the App Store, even today. We’ve been waiting, hoping that Apple would add support for a traditional upgrade model. In the last 2 years, Apple has made it clear that subscriptions are the preferred model for ongoing monetization efforts for apps with significant longevity (like SignalScope or SoundMeter).
We are dedicated to developing a growing suite of professional-grade precision measurement and analysis tools. Such tools, by nature, are relatively expensive to maintain, particularly with the pace with which Apple makes changes to the iOS operating system and their iPhone and iPad hardware. In industry and academia, annual maintenance contracts for professional software have been around for decades (not strictly identical to subscriptions, but similar). It’s now becoming common for newer versions of professional software to move to a true subscription model (consider the more obvious examples of Adobe and Autodesk), which actually makes the software more affordable to more people.
If you only use the software once or twice per year, you might consider purchasing 1-month access to the lowest subscription level you need once or twice per year. That’s a less-expensive option that wasn’t available previously.
Whether you choose to give the new apps a try, or not, you can still use the software you’ve paid for. I can only hope that you’ll stay on board with us, but regardless of how you choose to deal with the changes, I wish you the best in your endeavors.
In any case, we mean no disrespect to our former, current, or future customers. We appreciate everyone who has helped us bring our software to where it’s at, and we look forward to producing more world-class measurement and analysis tools in the years ahead.
We use several software subscription systems including Xero and Current and some that we’ve dropped because of poor development. The key to software subscriptions is regular development and rolling value. Once it becomes clear that a provider has taken their attention off a product and is happy to harvest money they will lose their business. My feeling is that Faber are taking on a major challenge and might find it very hard work keeping the interest of subscribers paying big money on a regular basis. We will have to see how they cope. If my annual subscription comes around and I’m using the same old app I will feel cheated and will close my account, irrespective of the usefulness of the product. I sincerely hope they blow us away.
Thank you for your comments. Once it became clear that subscriptions would be the best approach for us going forward, despite the significant challenges associated with the change, we made the decision to go all in. We too, have high hopes for the future of SignalScope and SoundMeter, and plans to ensure that those hopes are realized.
Like other users I am disappointed that I invested heavily in Sound Meter and its optional add ons at a considerable price to find it is no longer supported and you are introducing a subscription model.
Unfortunately you operate in a niche market, charging highly for your products. I haven’t seen any other apps so highly priced.
You have a good product but judging by the comments already made your sustainable business model may prove to be unsustainable in the long term. Only time will tell.
I wish you well but I certainly won’t be taking on the subscription model and have learnt never to pay so much for niche apps again when you may be significantly let down those creating and managing them.
I think the word is “shafted”.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
I’m very sorry that you feel shafted–we certainly mean no disrespect to our customers who chose our products before the recent changes. We’re doing the best we can with a difficult set of circumstances within an App Store environment that does not cater to niche products, like ours.
How long have you been using SoundMeter? In your opinion, how long should a developer be expected to maintain a product before replacing it with a new one?
Again, we appreciate your comments.
Hi Ben. Thank you for writing up the above. I think it demonstrates that at least you have looked at the business model.
Ben, if I looke at your software i would place it in the test & measurement area but it is written to perform like a lab device.
Have you considered making it more aligned to specific industries or activities? Ie work place safety. I think if you did that and provided specific capabilities for that you could absolutely apply a subscription model as the expense is a business expense.
Create a simple to use free app for those who have simpler requirements. Note these can all be variants within the one source /build environments without adding significant cost to development.
Just a few thoughts.
First time we are so upset… we paid a lot for SignalScope Pro while we use it in fact just a few time per year (but then we want it’s functions), upgraded it over time… to discover today (!) that it stops working under iOS 13 and requires a subscription that we will never ever accept.
We abandoned Adobe for the same reason…. and no, it is not the only viable way… many other compagnies stayed with paid upgrades under iOS 13, or at least had the decency to offer the choice.
Sorry to tell you, but just analyzing what Adobe does today, why do you think thousands left the boat and called their business model a racket? Because they make enormous profits and don’t give much in exchange. So this model is far from having convinced. Even if we trust you, the concept itself is refused by many. Like so many others, we would have continued to pay for upgrades, even if we had to do it through yoru own website (a solution adopted by quite a lot). So we paid, paid again… and lost… a shame, sorry to say.
I’m sorry Pascal, but we’re doing the best we can, as discussed in this article.
Unfortunately, since all app sales and distribution must go through the App Store, and the App Store does not allow paid upgrades to new versions of an app, this is not possible. Perhaps, you know something we don’t?
I have paid cash for the use of Signalscope
And i have absolutely no intentions paying a subsciption fee in order to be able to use the app.
I will find other products instead, and I will stop recommending Faber products to collegues.
We’re sorry to see you go.
Please understand that the apps you purchased still work just fine on the versions of iOS they were developed for and you can continue to run them on compatible devices.
If you have a device running iOS 12 or earlier, you can re-download the original app you purchased from your App Store account.
Also, since some prefer to avoid subscriptions, we still offer new perpetual license versions of our products for those who need them (with the understanding that they will also be retired and replaced at some point, as the old apps were).
Like many others have said before – one would expect that baying an app for lifetime, it should be working for lifetime. But your lifetime is very short! I have an old Bryel & Kjer sound level meter which is some 40 years old but still working. Such an instrument is worth paying for.
Your app lasted for a few years only and today that spent money is lost. And to say that it will still work under the old operating system is bullshit. It feels like spending more money on a new app that will last for “eternity” is not a good bargin. And your offer to “rent” the app is far too expensive.
I understand your frustration. Unfortunately, Apple’s App Store policies painted us into a corner that we could not escape without potentially disappointing someone.
Regarding product lifetime, the original SignalScope was in the App Store for 10 years, which is a very long time for a software product, especially one that had been upgraded regularly, for free, during that entire time. And that’s just the lifetime of the active development of the software. It still works just fine on compatible iOS devices, and will continue to work on compatible devices for as long as they exist!
The B&K meter is a dedicated hardware device. If you dedicated an iOS device to run iOS 12 or earlier, you could continue to use it for a very long time, just like the B&K meter (and it would be a LOT less expensive!).
My name is Dave Tenney. I am an alumnus of the University of Cincinnati, Structural Dynamics Research Laboratory. I want to comment on the concerns about a subscription-based software pricing model. Let me begin be saying I was not a fan, initially, to these types of pricing models. I had similar concerns as you.
However, I have developed a better understanding now of the advantages for everyone involved. For the customer, it allows a lower cost of entry to try it for a while to decide if it works for them. Does it have the right features and capabilities and give me the insight that I need. For the company, Faber Acoustical in this case, it allows them a more consistent revenue stream to continue developing the software. Add features and capabilities to better test and analyze sound and vibration problems. This is complex math.
Much of the world is moving or has already moved to a subscription-based model. Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Spotify, Apple Music all use a subscription-based model. So does Microsoft and Google.
I would like to add one more thought here. SignalScope is the most professional and feature intensive dynamic signal analysis product I have encountered with smart device apps. Many of the the so-called similar apps for smartphones are not very professional or accurate. Do you really trust free or $9.99 apps to do serious engineering work? These apps require significant math and engineering knowledge.
These types of products cost thousands of dollars from companies like Audio Precision, LMS, Bruel & Kjaer, etc.
I am an ex-professional sound engineer, electro acoustic engineer, and acoustical ID designer. While I rarely use your apps, I was more than willing to pay the high price you asked for them, to have them available for my occasional personal use. I was shocked to find out that I would now have to pay a subscription fee to continue to do so.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand your justification for transitioning to this model. I too, have now owned and operated a software development business for many years, and we transitioned to a subscription model years ago, for the same reasons. I don’t criticize you for making this transition, but for the clumsy way you have handled it.
You have an impressive business and need to evolve to sustain it, but you got here based on a loyal customer base, and no matter how many times you state that you meant no disrespect to them, your handling of this transition has done exactly that!
Most any business trying to successfully make this transition would offer SOMETHING to their existing customer base. You “grandfather” them in to your new model. This could be a free first year subscription, credit for what they’ve previously paid toward future subscription fees … whatever.
Your excuses for doing this are understandable, but repeating them to one customer after another without asking yourself what you can do for them, or what they are worth to your business, is a blatant case of not seeing the forest through the trees. Good luck!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
I don’t disagree with your ideas. However, your assumptions are not all correct. Apple’s policies have effectively forced us into a situation which undermines our relationship with previous customers–particularly those who expected to receive free updates forever, and even those who were accustomed to having the option to upgrade at a discount.
We’ve done the best we could with a very difficult set of circumstances. Trying to more fully explain the rationale for why things have gone the way they have seems to only further convince some people that we’re simply making excuses for crooked behavior. It’s essentially a no-win situation.
At least we’re surviving and looking forward to a better future with better products, services, and solutions for our past, present, and future customers.
Thank you for your prompt response. I don’t want to make assumptions about the challenges you face with Apple’s App Store policies, but I don’t understand why you couldn’t work within them to provide the type of solution I am suggesting to help transition your previous customer base to a subscription based model.
This is copied from Apple’s developer support site:
“ Offer Types
There are three types of subscription offers you can give to customers: introductory, promotional, and offer codes. You can provide all three offer types at once, depending on your business goals. To determine which type might be best for a particular use case, consider each offer’s intended use, customer eligibility, redemption limits, and other criteria. All offers are set up in App Store Connect, where you’ll choose the offer type, duration, pricing, and more. For details about offer types and available durations, see Pricing and Availability.
Comparing Subscription Offers
Introductory Offers Promotional Offers Offer Codes
Primary Use Acquiring new subscribers Retaining and winning back subscribers Acquiring, retaining, and winning back subscribers”
What am I missing?
Apple’s App Store promotional tools are very limited in how, when, and to whom they may be applied. None of them adequately compensates for the loss of our traditional (pre-App Store) sales model in which we allowed previous customers to purchase major upgrades at a discount.
I posted in the forum as well. I bought both of your products in 2008 and only use them once or twice a year. It’s a shock to now find out I am subsidizing current buyers. I will never purchase any software by subscription. It was difficult for me to move from Adobe Suite to Affinity and Final Cut, but I did it and now own my software and have already saved more than $1000. Subscriptions are a slap in the face to customers and every customer and dev knows that. I have multiple apps in the app store and I am completely familiar with the pricing limitations — that’s part of the game unfortunately.
Thank you for sharing your perspective. We recognize that subscriptions aren’t for everyone. That is why we continue to offer perpetual license versions of our apps, as an alternative.
It should also be noted that there are many people who do not consider them a “slap in the face” in the least.
Additionally, subscriptions do not have to be automatically renewed. If you purchase a monthly subscription and then cancel it immediately, you will have access to the features of that subscription for a month and you will only be charged for that one month.
appreciate your patience. your idea for occasional users to subscribe for a month only when one wants to use the product is impressive. so, if one wants to use the Basic tools twice a year, that would be $1.98/year for a program that is always up to date. of course, the user needs to remember to cancel the subscription, though forgetting will simply cost less than $12/year.
That’s right, Tom.
My main concern with the subscription model is feature creep. In order to deal with the complaints listed above, many developers feel the need to constantly “improve “ the product by the addition of obscure features and random changes to the UI. Any long time Word user knows what I am talking about.
Unlike many denizens of the internet, I don’t expect developers to work for free, and have no complaints about your prices. I don’t need the high end functions as I merely use the program to make illustrations for books. All I need is a scope and fft, but I do need to adjust the display colors and scaling. So I’m shopping for apps that do that. (So far I’m not finding that here.) If I go with your competition, it will be for that reason, not how I pay.