Monday, April 8, 2024

Voice Dream Reader Switches to Subscriptions

Jonathan Mosen:

Unfortunately, the relationship between Voice Dream Reader’s new owners and its engaged user base got off to a rocky start. Members of the online blind community did not find out about the sale of Voice Dream Reader last year from either the buyer or the seller. Instead, they found out because an indie developer who offers a product that competes in some ways with Voice Dream Reader discovered a new subscription option in a just-released build of Voice Dream Reader. He, not anyone associated with the app, broke the news to the blind community that subscriptions were on the way.

When a developer moves from a one-off purchase model to a subscription-based model, it is always controversial, even if said company makes great efforts to communicate it thoroughly. When you add an unpopular change, the departure of a popular indie developer, and nonexistent communication together, those ingredients add up to an inevitable firestorm. In the absence of information to the contrary, existing customers were concerned that they were about to be charged.


When a developer publishes an app in the App Store, they must comply with Apple’s App Review Guidelines. […] There is no wiggle room here. By taking away primary functionality users already paid for, such as adding new material to the Library, Voice Dream Reader does not comply with the Guidelines. […] Voice Dream Reader’s release notes make no mention of the subscription being forced on people who paid for the app already if they want to retain the functionality they paid for, and I suspect this has simply flown under Apple’s radar.

Via Shelly Brisbin:

The move comes from the app’s new owner, Applause Group, which bought the app in 2023 from original developer Winston Chen. Part of the backlash results from the planned $79 per year price tag (discounted to $59 until at least May 1, when the subscription becomes mandatory), but a bigger issue for longtime users is that Applause Group will effectively disable the older version of the app.

Applause Group:

Your feedback, along with the impactful stories shared about Voice Dream being a pivotal part of your daily lives, has led us to reverse this change.


We will continue to provide access to the app’s existing features at no additional cost.


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I own at least one app that switched from onetime purchase to subscription, and the way they kept things cool for existing customers was to switch them to a (free) lifetime subscription.

Thankfully, more and more app developers seem to be adopting this - pricing apps at a few dollars a month, maybe twenty per year, and then letting you pay fifty of sixty to get a lifetime purchase. It's a good solution all round and does a bit to repair the broken economics of race-to-the-bottom pricing, while still letting people who just don't want to deal with subscriptions pay for the app when they know the have money to do so.

Voice Dream

Users that paid a one-time fee will still have access to the app. No functionality has changed for them.

Credit where it’s due for the reversal of the original plan. it’s the right move and I hope it’s the sustainable move too. Software development is a hard business to be in.

I think we need to go back to a version model of software. So every other year there's a new version you either buy completely new, or upgrade to at a third/quarter of the full price.

Subs worked when only a few companies did it, now when everyone wants you to cough up 9.99 a month forever and ever it quickly becomes unrealistic. Just like the "pay AMOUNT once and get a lifetime of free upgrades" model.

Subscription = deal breaker!

1. Pleased this got out. Thanks Shelly!

2. User of the app myself, love it for what it does, but genuinely disgruntled by the change and was not willing to pay for what, ultimately, is local-only software. Agree, we need to go back to software versions and perpetual licences, to be supported for as long as reasonably practical.

i don’t know about this particular app but I think most TTS apps are powered by third party SDKs which do cost money on an ongoing basis (unless using iOS TTS).

I don’t think there are too many TTS apps that work without a network connection

@ObjC4Life In this case, it's an old app that straightforwardly uses iOS TTS as well as (formerly, now bundled in subscription) purchasable third-party TTS engines (which were not exposed to the system globally, but in principle could be going forward now that iOS has the APIs for that). Contemporary apps and services using AI are, of course, a different story, but many users of this app are print-challenged (blind or dyslexic) and so are actually quite familiar with (and, often, prefer) the older synthesisers, because of their maturity, consistency, and high rates of speech. So it's actually quite difficult to see what more core functionality this app could offer, that is not already part of the system, even considering the Speak Screen accessibility feature built in to iOS that is already plenty sufficient for many folk, if they even know it's there (and can tolerate the stupid bugs, of course).

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