Toronto cinemagraph company Flixel has engaged one of the major issues surrounding the rise of mobile devices as they increasingly carry the burden of everyday computing tasks, namely how to determine the appropriate price for an app, given that there is basically no significant performance difference anymore between a desktop or laptop computer and mobile devices.
Making the case for what it calls “pricing parity”, Flixel has announced a rise in what it had been charging for its mobile app from $49.99 U.S. to its equivalent iOS app price of $249.99.
In doing so, the company takes a risk by doubling down on the idea that its paying clientele will swallow the increase knowing that they’re working with a quality product, while most casual users will likely balk at the price.
“Today, with products like the iPad Pro and iPhone 6s, mobile devices are as powerful as the MacBook Pro, yet there’s still a disparity between iOS and Mac apps – both in features and in price – and we’ve decided to address both,” writes Flixel co-founder and CTO Mark Pavlidis on the company blog.
It may have made sense just a few years ago that there would be a significant price gap between mobile apps and desktop software, but with 30,000 paying customers and over 1.2 million app downloads, Flixel definitely runs a risk when it asks its users to pay what it considers its product to be worth.
“Our software has come a long way since Flixel 1.0, which was the precursor to Cinemagraph Pro for iOS – back then we continuously ran into hardware limitations, but now the combination of the power in Apple’s new devices combined with iOS 9’s performance enhancements means feature parity is finally a possibility,” writes Pavlidis, adding, “we know that while the price point might deter casual retail consumers, our professional audience is happy to pay for the tool knowing it saves them time in the long run.”
With the release earlier this year of version 4.0 of Flixel’s Cinemagraph Pro app for iOS, which adds support for Apple’s 3D Touch and Live Photos features, the Apple Pencil, and 4K video, the qualitative difference between a desktop suite and a comparably featured app for iPhone or iPad has basically disappeared.
Users of the free version of the app can create watermarked images, which is no longer present in the paid app.
Flixel’s subscription model offers a Cloud Web+Apps plan for $199.99 U.S. annually, which provides access to both versions as well as Flixel’s hosting and streaming service.
Almost a sub-narrative in the history of app development has been to watch companies wrestle with business models ranging from “free” to “freemium” to simply charging what the product is actually worth, each of which have their own particular drawbacks and risks.
How those models play themselves out among the various app verticals, from game developers to cloud-based collaboration platforms of various kinds to professional quality imaging services like Flixel, will be one of the more interesting narratives to keep an eye on in the coming year.
For app developers, “the easy money is gone” according to a recent Verge article, which points out that the paid app population fell in Apple’s App Store from 63% of apps in 2011 to 27% last year, with the average price for an app plummeting during that time from $3.64 to $1.27.
By 2014, the average American was downloading zero apps per month, with ComScore finding that the average person spends 80% of their smartphone time regularly using at most three apps.
For app developers, this has meant the hollowing out of what once seemed like a brand new, essentially limitless market frontier.
The effective disappearance of that market has made the practice of how to price an app crucial to a company’s survival.
“There should be no difference in price between iOS and Mac apps if there is no difference in features, regardless if your product is for consumers or professionals,” writes Pavlidis. “We’re hoping to spark a trend of mobile developers leveraging the professional quality of new mobile devices, and charging a price that reflects it.”
Founded in March 2012, Moncton, New Brunswick native Philippe Leblanc established Flixel as an app for creating cinemagraphs, photos with isolated looped movement inside an otherwise still photograph, which the company calls “living photographs”.
Leblanc earned early notice for Flixel from America’s Next Top Model, which featured the app in its show, with host Tyra Banks going so far as to invest in the company herself, since which time Flixel has been used by the Emmys, Mercedes-Benz, Facebook and Kraft.
With $2.2 million in seed funding, and a fundraising total of over $4 million, Leblanc’s longer-term goal is to turn Flixel into the dominant platform for creating, sharing and licensing cinemagraphs.
This past December, Flixel struck a licensing deal with New York stock photography Shutterstock, by which advertisers or publishers can browse through a library of cinemagraphs for publication, which they can purchase, with a cut of the sale going to the cinemagraph’s creator.