Notability Users Frustrated By Switch to Subscription Model Claim Violation of App Store Guidelines

Notability users have been left frustrated and annoyed after the developer of the popular Mac and iOS note-taking app revealed on Monday that it has switched to a subscription-based model, and that key features included in original app purchases will stop functioning after one year.

Notability Feature
Previously available as a one-off $8.99 purchase, Notability for iPhone, iPad, and Mac is now free to download on the App Store, but not all the features are available in the "freemium" version, and those that are included have editing limitations.

To get "the full Notability experience" offered by version 11.0 of the app now requires an annual $14.99 subscription, which includes unlimited note taking and access to additional features that are otherwise available as in-app purchases.

As far as it affects current users who purchased the full app, key features will become non-functional after one year, after which they will have to subscribe to retain the feature set they originally paid for. In other words, no grandfathering scheme is currently being offered. Addressed to those users, a Medium post from the Notability Blog explains:

Thank you for your support all these years. You will be able to continue using Notability as you do now for the next year for free. You will continue to have access to any items or technology you previously purchased. If you would like access to more premium content or technology like MyScript's Handwriting Recognition and Math Conversion, you may choose to subscribe at any point. After the year is up, you can choose to become an annual subscriber or use the free version of Notability.

Thousands of Notability users have taken to Twitter and Reddit to express their frustration with the unexpected change.


As many users have pointed out, on the face of it, the change appears to violate Apple's App Store Review Guidelines, which state "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." We've reached out to both Notability and Apple for comment.

Notability has garnered an Apple Editors' Choice spot and is regularly a top-ranked app worldwide on the App Store. The app has gained widespread popularity with students and teachers alike, as it includes a variety of note-taking, journaling, and drawing tools, and can be used to mark up imported documents.

The other popular note-taking app for iOS and Mac that Notability is often compared to is GoodNotes, which remains available as a one-off $7.99 purchase on the App Store.

Several popular apps have switched to subscription models in recent years as a way to stave off dwindling income after years of free updates, but some developers have taken a different and less divisive approach.

For example, just over a year ago the developers of popular paid-for camera app Halide released Halide Mark II as a whole new app, and gave it to all users of the original app for free, with all the new features and updates free for a year. After the year is up, the app continues to work, but to get additional features requires an optional subscription or a one-time purchase.

Top Rated Comments

Andy-V Avatar
4 weeks ago
You don't do that.

If you want to move to a subscription model, you launch a new version and leave the old one alone. You don't remove stuff people have paid for and demand more cash.
Score: 128 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TallGuyGT Avatar
4 weeks ago
If they want to transition to a subscription model, they should rename this version “Notability Classic” and freeze the feature set, while providing security updates and bug fixes. Going forward they can sell the new subscription based Notability. Grandfathering is the right thing to do.
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
furi0usbee Avatar
4 weeks ago

I dislike subscriptions as much as the next guy, but I can see why the developers need to have a source of income to keep up development. I personally prefer the system used in apps like Agenda where you only (voluntarily) pay for new features as they are released and get to keep any feature you've previously bought indefinitely.
We are not talking about liking/disliking subscriptions. We are talking about someone paying for an app with "features" and then having the rug pulled out from under them. Please do not conflate subscriptions with douchebaggery.
Score: 63 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Quu Avatar
4 weeks ago
Very clear case of them violating the app store guidelines. I hope Apple comes down on them over this.
Score: 60 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LuminousFX Avatar
4 weeks ago
Taken from subreddit here: [MEDIA=reddit]apple/comments/qkgt7g[/MEDIA]


Report them here: https://reportaproblem.apple.com/store/360593530/select/fraudulent

Copy/Paste if you want: As of the new update to Notability (version 11.0), the developer has stated those who purchased the app before it was free will only have the functionality they paid for, for the next year, and will then be downgraded to the free version. This is against App Store guidelines section 3.1.2(a) which states that an app switching to a subscription model cannot remove features for those who have previously purchased the app.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GumaRodak Avatar
4 weeks ago
Legal stealing
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

Notability Feature

Notability Changes App Subscription Policy, Promises Existing Users Lifetime Access to Purchased Features

Wednesday November 3, 2021 1:21 am PDT by
Following an outcry from its users, Notability says it is making changes to its controversial subscription policy to ensure that people who previously purchased the app retain lifetime access to all current features and content. The course correction was announced by the company on Tuesday in a Medium blog post, after the popular note-taking app received substantial blowback from users who...
Mac App Store General Feature

Apple's Arguments Against Sideloading on iOS: All Your Questions Answered

Thursday November 11, 2021 10:38 am PST by
Sideloading is a fancy word for downloading an app binary from non-official platforms or the open internet and installing it on a device like a normal app. The practice is allowed on Android, granting users the flexibility of downloading apps from official or non-official app stores and the open internet. The iPhone, on the other hand, is a polar opposite. Since the launch of the App Store...
app store blue banner

Apple Allegedly Buys Ads for Subscription-Based Apps to Collect More Commission [Updated]

Monday November 15, 2021 7:47 am PST by
Update: Apple has now said that the suggestion that it "secretly" or "quietly" buys ads for third-party apps is a mischaracterization. The company says that it regularly communicates with developers about the ads it runs on their behalf. See Apple's full clarification for more information. Apple allegedly buys Google ads for popular subscription-based third-party apps to bolster its collection ...
shazam banner

Shazam Updated With Ability to Find More Songs by Listening Longer

Wednesday November 24, 2021 10:29 am PST by
Shazam, the popular music recognition service that Apple acquired in 2018, updated its iPhone and iPad app today with the ability to find more songs by analyzing the audio that is playing for a longer period before offering a result. Shazam users can take advantage of the improved functionality by updating to version 15.0 of the app, which is available now on the App Store. Shazam is also...
app store blue banner

Apple Defends Its Ads for Third-Party Apps, Says It Regularly Communicates With Developers and Has Been Running Them for Five Years

Monday November 15, 2021 10:11 am PST by
Following allegations that Apple secretively buys ads for subscription-based apps to collect more commission, Apple has now said that this is a mischaracterization and developers are fully aware of the ads it runs on their behalf. Earlier today, we reported on an article by Forbes which claimed that the company "secretly" or "quietly" places ads for subscription-based apps without their...
Instagram Feature 2

Instagram Preparing to Launch Subscriptions to Let Users Pay for 'Exclusive Content' From Creators

Tuesday November 9, 2021 2:29 am PST by
Instagram is preparing to launch in-app subscriptions, allowing users to pay for exclusive content from their favorite creators as the platform looks to move away from conventional ads for monetization, recent App Store listings have suggested. In May of this year, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in an interview with The Information that the platform was exploring the idea of subscriptions, ...
play store google

Google Lowers Play Store Subscription Fee From 30% to 15%

Thursday October 21, 2021 9:31 am PDT by
After lowering its Play Store commission from 30 percent to 15 percent in March, Google today announced that it is making the same change to subscription fees, an update applicable to all app developers, reports The Verge. At the current time, Google's subscription policy works like Apple's. Google collects 30 percent from a subscription during the first year, and then drops that to 15...
Facebook Feature

Facebook Finds New Way to Avoid Apple's In-App Purchases With Creator Subscription Links

Wednesday November 3, 2021 11:52 am PDT by
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg today announced changes to Facebook's "Subscriptions" tool, which will see Facebook testing Apple's App Store guidelines in an effort to secure more money for content creators. With Subscriptions, content creators can allow their fans to sign up to pay them a monthly subscription fee, similar to Patreon. Going forward, Facebook is implementing a "promotional link" in ...
app store blue banner epic 1

Judge Says Apple Has Until December 9 to Make App Store Change Letting Developers Link to Alternate Payment Methods

Tuesday November 9, 2021 5:37 pm PST by
Following a virtual hearing earlier today, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has denied Apple's request to delay the implementation of a permanent injunction that will require Apple to make significant App Store changes. As part of the judgement in the Apple v. Epic lawsuit, Judge Gonzalez Rogers is requiring Apple to allow developers to add in-app links to outside websites, paving the way for...
app store blue banner

Developers Complain as App Store Feature Promotes Rip-Off Apps

Thursday August 5, 2021 6:12 am PDT by
Apple has featured a number of apps with disproportionately expensive subscriptions on the App Store, arousing the ire of some developers. The App Store feature on the Australian App Store, first highlighted by Beau Nouvelle on Twitter, is called "Slime relaxations" and reportedly features apps that are non-functional and seek to charge disproportionately costly in-app purchase...