The Mac App Store is almost exactly 8 years old as I write this (it was first released to the public on January 6, 2011). When we first heard about the new store coming to our beloved Macs, we weren’t entirely surprised. It’s cousin The App Store (on iOS) had already been out for a couple of years. Nonetheless, we were excited that Apple was bringing this back to the Mac.
While the Mac App Store offers some great benefits like automatic updates, easy installations, and convenience when you buy a new Mac, it hasn’t come without its own frustrations. Top of the list for us was the lack of a free trial and a way to offer a discounted price to existing customers. Until recently, if you wanted to buy Banktivity on the Mac App Store, you had to pay full price even if it meant you could get upgrade pricing by buying from us.
This changed at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in 2018 when they announced that you could do free trials and get upgrade pricing on their App Stores. We were ecstatic when we heard this news! Finally, after years of having to try and explain why you couldn’t get upgrade pricing or try the app before buying, a solution now seemed within reach.
Seriously, our customers have been asking for upgrading pricing and free trials on the Mac App Store since our app was first available on the Mac App Store in 2011. And I can now say Banktivity does have a free trial and upgrade pricing on the Mac App Store. However, I want to explain why Apple’s solution leaves much to be desired. But before I dive-in on the big short-coming, let me explain how free trials and upgrade pricing now work on the App Store.
To offer a free trial Apple tells you to make your app free. Then include some sort of crippling feature after the trial period expires. For Banktivity 7, we allow a customer to use the full-featured app for thirty days, then after that, the document becomes read-only. That is, you can view and browse your transactions, but you can’t add any more, or use Cloud Sync, etc. When a customer decides they like the program enough to buy it, they make an in-app purchase to “unlock” the time restriction imposed by the free trial (or if the free trial already lapsed, then we make their document writable again). Make note that it is an “in-app purchase” that takes the app out of trial-mode, as this will be important for explaining things later.
To offer upgrade pricing, again Apple says make your app “free” and then use an in-app purchase to allow customers who can prove they deserve a discount to buy the app at the right price point. From the surface, this seems like a decent solution.
It all breaks with family sharing
The problem with both of these solutions has to do with family sharing. Technically our apps support “family sharing.” That is you can download the free trial across Apple IDs shared by the family, but the Family Share badge on our apps is misleading at best. The problem is, in-app purchases aren’t shared in Family Sharing. So if you, as family member one, download the free trial, then make an in-app purchase to unlock it, family member two can get the free trial, but it won’t be unlocked because the in-app purchase isn’t shared. This is something we cannot control; it is entirely in Apple’s hands.
We aren’t the only developer to come across this issue. OmniGroup a long time independent Mac developer describes this exact issue in this support article.
What makes the issue particularly painful, is that we can’t control the presence of the “Family Sharing” badge on our products’ App Store pages. So until Apple either removes the badge or preferably, allows sharing of in-app purchases through Family Sharing, our App Store presence leaves a little to be desired.
If you made an in-app purchase under the pretense that it would unlock the app for your family, let us know, we can give you a free code to use Banktivity as downloaded from us.
If you’d like in-app purchases shared with Family Sharing, you can let Apple know. I have.