Day One Premium and the Future

July 01, 2017 by Gabe | [mmd] |

Day One Goes Premium:

Day One is evolving. We’re transitioning to a more stable subscription business model to ensure this app and these services always stick around.

Let me start this right. I think Day One Journal is an awesome app. Maybe the best journaling app around.1 The developer (Paul Mayne) has always seemed professional and nice when I've interacted with him. This is exactly what makes me sad. These are the reviews for Day One since the announcement.

Day One Reviews

Good apps and honest developers struggle to make a living on the Apple stores. They often must resort to undesirable business models to support what they love. I guess that's capitalism. You know what else is capitalism? Good apps leaving the platform because their developers and designers don't see a future for them.

This is my fear for iOS. Apple showed their customers what the bottom of the barrel looks like. It's free apps forever. 10 years after the iPhone, I think we are seeing where it's headed – Apple-made apps with an endless supply of third party coin-grubbing games. There was a time when a new, amazing, and high quality application was released on iOS almost every week. But today, the market grows fallow. What were once top-tier apps are either languishing un-updated or being kept alive by experimenting with new business models.

The June 28 change to the Dropbox API will reveal an entire class of sync-based apps that have been abandoned when they stop working. Even apps that were once bright new stars on iOS, cough, Editorial, cough, only updated to the new Dropbox API a couple of days before they lost sync capabilities.

So, the obvious question: Am I signing up for the new Day One service? The answer is "not right now."

Day One recently added end-to-end encryption, which was a major accomplishment. It was enough to make me seriously consider returning to the platform for journaling. I think the new business model is a fair exchange. I already purchased all of the apps and they will continue to work for what I might need. I think Day One will continue to innovate and keep its die-hard fans.

I have greater concerns about Day One's ability to survive as a business. My impression is that the subscription model is a move to stay profitable. I don't think this will be a magic bullet. Customers simply don't want to pay the price for top-tier self sustaining apps on iOS, especially when the full annual cost of $50 is spelled out in black and white. As the reviews for Day One show, this change will forever sink their ratings in the App Store. Ratings matter even when the reviews are nonsense (which all of the new Day One reviews are).

As a failed app developer, I feel their pain. It was a bitter pill to pull my own app, which I loved. These are hard decisions. It's a decision between bad and dead. No one creates an app as beautiful and thoughtful as Day One with these intentions in mind. But the invisible hand is usually just giving you the finger if you care about what you make.

  1. Hell, I wrote a damn love letter to the app five years ago.