[Update: Decision reverted] Popular iOS app Notability paywalls features that users already paid for, prompting raised pitchforks

[Update: Decision reverted] Popular iOS app Notability paywalls features that users already paid for, prompting raised pitchforks

Update 1 (11/03/2021 @ 04:40 ET): Notability has decided to give initial buyers lifetime access to premium features, following online outrage. The article as published on November 2, 2021, is preserved below.

Notability — one of the most popular note-taking apps on iPhone, iPad, and Mac — has switched to the freemium business model. While we’ve seen this move happen with other apps before, this app is taking away features users had already paid for. So if you’ve purchased the app and any in-app purchases (IAPs) to unlock extra features in the past, you’re going to be treated like any other free user in a year.

Owned by Ginger Labs, Notability announced in a Medium blog post that it will be going free on the App Store. Users who had already bought the app will get a free subscription for a year. Afterward, they will be losing all premium features to a paywall, including ones bought separately as IAPs, such as handwriting recognition. This got users raging on online platforms such as Twitter and Reddit, according to MacRumors.

This move doesn’t seem fair to users who had to buy the app for $8.99, in addition to other IAPs. Usually, apps that are switching to freemium grandfather original users and give them extra perks. In this case, initial buyers are only getting a single year of premium. And that is clearly not enough, based on their online complaints.

It also arguably violates the Apple App Store guidelines. Taken from section 3.1.2:

If you are changing your existing app to a subscription-based business model, you should not take away the primary functionality existing users have already paid for. For example, let customers who have already purchased a “full game unlock” continue to access the full game after you introduce a subscription model for new customers.

Notability is currently in the top charts of productivity apps on the App Store, and it has the Editors’ Choice badge. It has grown throughout the years — thanks to paid users’ support — and become one of the most recommended apps for note-taking. As a result, users feel betrayed and disappointed by the way they’re getting treated, despite their loyalty in the past years.

Do you use Notability? If so, how do you feel about their new business model? Let us know in the comments section below.


Update 1: Notability has decided to give initial buyers lifetime access to premium features

Following online outrage on several platforms, it seems like Notability has decided to do the right thing, according to MacRumors. In a future 11.0.2 update, initial buyers of the app will get lifetime access to existing premium features. Notability warns, however, that they can’t guarantee that new features in the future will also remain free. It all depends on maintenance costs and other factors.

The announcement was made in a tweet linking to another Medium blog post by the company. While this move will definitely make some of the original users happy, it seems like a group of them still feel betrayed. It’s unclear if the company has reverted its decision to avoid further damages or if it actually cares about its users. Some users are even claiming that this move was done to avoid getting kicked out of the App Store for breaking Apple’s guidelines. Either way, there’s nothing more they can do at this point.

About author

Mahmoud Itani
Mahmoud Itani

Mahmoud is an Istanbul-based Beiruti who has always sought freedom through writing. His hobbies include keeping up with tech news, writing articles about Apple devices & services, crocheting, meditating, and composing poetry. You’ll likely find him jogging at a park, swimming in open water, brainstorming at a coffeehouse, or merely lost in nature. He can be reached via [email protected] or the provided social links.