Archive for January 25, 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Requiem for the Thunderbolt Display

Nick Heer:

For me, that one special thing is my Apple Thunderbolt Display. I know: it’s crazy to spend a thousand bucks on a 27-inch display, even back when I bought it in 2012. […] Yet, it remains the thing on my desk that I would fight the hardest to keep.


Unfortunately, the best reason to buy a Thunderbolt Display over its competitors hasn’t been carried over to the UltraFine 5K: it is no longer the amazing docking station that the Thunderbolt Display once was.

I think I’ve only ever had three external Apple displays: the 12-inch CRT for the Apple IIGS and a pair of 22-inch LCD Apple Cinema Displays attached to a PowerPC tower. The LCDs used the unfortunate Apple Display Connector, which meant using an adapter because the my Mac had one ADC port and one DVI port. These were my first CRT and first LCD displays respectively. Subsequent to each, other manufacturers seemed to offer better products and/or much better prices. Apple displays have their fans, but I haven’t even considered them lately. The 30-inch Cinema Display was way too expensive, and since then I’ve been using 30-inch Dell displays, while Apple only offered 27 inches. The extra height is very useful, and I don’t think I would want to give it up, even for Retina.

Previously: LG Ultrafine 5k Reviews.

App Store Review Replies and Prompting API

Apple (Hacker News, MacRumors):

iOS 10.3 introduces a new way to ask customers to provide App Store ratings and reviews for your app. Using the SKStoreReviewController API, you can ask users to rate or review your app while they’re using it, without sending them to the App Store. You determine the points in the user experience at which it makes sense to call the API and the system takes care of the rest.

When iOS 10.3 ships to customers, you will be able to respond to customer reviews on the App Store in a way that is available for all customers to see. (This feature will also be available on the Mac App Store.)

Jim Dalrymple (via Pedraum Pardehpoosh):

There is no doubt that developers want feedback on their apps. Positive feedback could lead to more downloads and purchases of the app. However, the process for leaving a review was a bit clunky. Often times you would get a pop-up notice in the app asking for a rating or review—if you decided to do it, you were taken out of the app and into the App Store.

That’s been fixed now.

When you are prompted to leave a review, customers will stay inside the app, where the rating or review can be left for the developer. It’s easier for customers and the developers still get their reviews.

John Gruber:

The replies that developers will be able to leave on App Store reviews will be attached to the user review to which they’re replying. It’s not a thread, per se, because users can only leave one review, and developers can only leave one response to each review, but they will be connected visually. Users can then edit their review, and developers can then edit their reply.


An individual app can prompt three times for a review per year, period.


The new APIs will be eventually be the only sanctioned way for an iOS app to prompt for an App Store review, but Apple has no timeline for when they’ll start enforcing it.

Benjamin Mayo:

There is a high probability that the reviews section in the App Store becomes the de-facto customer support channel because that’s what users will see first. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

David Barnard:

Apple creates problem, Apple puts a bandaid on without addressing the underlying incentives.

Mike Rundle:

Exactly right. The entire “review reset” system discourages bug fix releases. Hostile to developers and users.

There are definitely issues with both of these new features, but overall I think they will improve things.

Previously: App Store Reviews, Responding to App Reviews on Google Play.

Setapp Goes Live


Setapp gives you a growing suite of hand-picked apps in one signup. There’s no store — just a folder on your Mac, and no hidden costs — just a flat monthly fee.


There’s no need to dig through hundreds of App Store listings, search for reviews, and compare prices: with Setapp, you always have the best app for the job. It’s like getting all the apples, while someone else does the picking.


Setapp gives you access to shiny new software versions without charging any extra for upgrades. Every app you see on Setapp is yours — and we do mean the app, not just the current version.

As a developer, I’ve declined to participate so far, for a number of different reasons, but it will be interesting to see how this goes. Revenue based on usage could work very well for some types of apps and very poorly for others. As a customer, I already own a few of these apps, and it doesn’t seem to make sense to subscribe on the chance that I’ll need others in the future. I’d also be a little worried about developers pulling out right before an upgrade.

John Voorhees:

For a flat subscription fee of $9.99 per month, customers can download any of the 61 apps and use them as long as they continue to make monthly payments. After MacPaw receives a 30% cut of customers’ subscription fees, developers who participate in Setapp are paid based on a formula that accounts for the price their apps are sold for outside the service and whether customers use the apps each month, which MacPaw tracks.


If Setapp helps developers build sustainable businesses by attracting new users, I’m all for it, but I’m skeptical. There’s a tension here. Customers are being offered an all-you-can-eat buffet of apps. The more apps that are used, the better the value for customers. At the same time, the more apps a customer uses, the less each developer of those apps gets paid. That might be fine if these are customers the developers wouldn’t attract without Setapp, but what if each Setapp user means one less full price app sale? […] Setapp feels like a short-term solution to a long-term problem that I’m afraid will hurt developers in the end by driving average app prices down even further.

Juli Clover:

Using one of the Setapp apps does require a subscription, so access is revoked if a subscription is canceled. An online connection is required for updates, but all software can be used offline.

Marcus Fehn:

We see Setapp as an interesting opportunity for a certain kind of user, and we want to be part of that opportunity. […] For us, Setapp is just another way to get Ulysses into the hands of users. It’s an option.

Update (2017-01-26): Adam C. Engst:

So let’s take the sample set of apps I mentioned above and see how that breaks out (with round numbers). Of a single user’s $10, $7 goes to the developers and $3 goes to MacPaw. That $7 is distributed among five apps that cost $291 proportionally by list price, broken out into 17 price tiers with individual multipliers. Assuming I’ve understood MacPaw’s documentation right, each app in this example would earn about 30 percent of its list price in a year. The more apps you use, though, the less each developer will earn.

Update (2017-02-09): Dan Counsell:

You might also be wondering what happens if a developer removes their app from Setapp as this has potential to be catastrophic from a users point of view. The good news is you get to keep the app installed at its current version. I think this is an extremely well thought out feature. It’s reassuring to know that an app you rely on won’t suddenly disappear from your Mac when you need it most.


The only real downside from a developer perspective is that every release has to go through a review process, just like the Mac App Store.

Update (2017-06-29): Adam C. Engst:

Nearly halfway through Setapp’s first year, it’s time to take a look and see how it’s doing. Most notably, the number of apps available to subscribers has grown from 60 to 77 (from 69 developers), providing users with lots more functionality without sacrificing quality or providing many nearly identical apps.


Setapp now has 10,000 paying users and another 200,000 people who are using it in the free 30-day trial mode, which can be extended by encouraging a friend to sign up. Those aren’t Apple-level numbers, of course, but they’re respectable for just a few months.

I polled a few developers who are participating in Setapp, and although all of them remain optimistic about Setapp’s potential, Setapp hasn’t contributed significantly to the bottom line for any of them.

Update (2018-02-01): Setapp:

Nevertheless, one year later we have 107 apps on the platform with over 300,000 users and $1.5M in ARR. And we are growing fast.