How Setapp’s Application Service Creates Value for Developers and Users


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MacPaw’s Setapp treats its developers well. This, in turn, spawns more software for the service as additional developers sign on – and that’s good for users. Here’s how Setapp works for everyone.

For users, Setapp is like a huge storefront where they have already purchased all the apps. Whether it’s an app they’ll use every minute of every day or a tool they need once a year, being a Setapp subscriber means they have access to it all.

With over 240 apps and counting, Setapp has an app for just about anything a Mac user might need – and now a growing number for iOS too. For subscribers, the whole experience is this frictionless way of trying an app on a whim or exploring apps without any trial requirements.

For developers, it’s just as easy, and with less fuss and far less hassle than setting up their own payment systems, Setapp brings them a whole community of users.

Setapp organizes over 230 Mac apps and presents them in lists and how-to guides

Create a market for app developers

“Setapp made it easy,” said David Dudok de Wit, product manager and co-founder of TripMode. AppleInsider. “They provided a turnkey solution: payment support, account management, content marketing, update mechanism, helpful support, and much more.”

Dudok de Wit says he was particularly happy to join Setapp because at the time, very soon after Setapp launched, App Store terms prevented him from offering TripMode for sale through Apple.

The same was true for Luke Oslizlo, developer and co-founder of CleanShot X. “Our apps aren’t in the Mac App Store primarily due to technical limitations,” Oslizlo says. “We would not be able to include all features in the App Store version.”

CleanShot X is a screenshot tool, where TripMode offers extensive control over a Mac’s data usage. To provide their functions, CleanShot X must be able to record everything on the screen, while TripMode must monitor all network traffic.

They do this to bring obvious benefits to users — TripMode buyers on low data plans can control that network traffic — but Apple was rejecting all that low-level monitoring.

This has now changed to some extent and TripMode is on the Mac App Store. For a time, however, this meant that CleanShot X and TripMode could only really be sold and promoted on their own websites. They could only be promoted by each company’s own efforts.

So MacPaw launching Setapp in 2017 was “perfect timing,” says Dudok de Wit, bringing TripMode to a wide audience. This included users who had never considered using data, as well as experienced Mac owners who were well aware of the need TripMode addressed.

TripMode on Setapp

TripMode on Setapp

“Best of all, it’s a premium platform that unlocks access for many power Mac users,” says Dudok de Wit.

The wide array of apps on Setapp obviously appeals to consumers, but it appeals to everyone from casual Mac users to powerhouses. It brought new users to TripMode and all of its app developers, and it also took over all the costly backend payment processing.

“For new developers who haven’t started selling their apps yet, this might be the easiest way to get started,” says Oslizlo.

“It was as easy as dragging and dropping,” says Dudok de Wit. “Experimenting with subscriptions ourselves at that time would have been difficult.”

How developers work with Setapp

Setapp doesn’t allow all apps, even if they technically comply with Apple policies or Mac standards. Applications must be of particular use, to meet clear needs.

Once they do, however, every app and every developer goes through the same steps to join the service – and every one of them gets the same deal from Setapp. They receive a portion of users’ Setapp subscription fees based solely on their app usage.

Some apps are going to be used all day, every day, while others might just fix a problem once a month, but this fix is ​​extremely important for the user. As long as an app is launched even once a month, the developer will earn revenue.

In practice, this means that developers can expect roughly consistent usage of their apps. This in turn means that developers can also count on regular income.

“Currently, Setapp represents a good stable share of our overall revenue (about 1/5th), in addition to Mac App Store and direct sales revenue,” says Dudok de Wit.

“In our case, Setapp provides steady and steadily growing recurring revenue,” agrees Oslizlo, “because the number of CleanShot users in the store also keeps growing.”

Setapp includes a growing number of iOS apps

Setapp includes a growing number of iOS apps

Removal of restrictions

Setapp does not restrict any developer from selling through other means. There is no exclusivity, no request for separate agreements, any developer can sell anywhere else, while being in Setapp.

“The thing we weren’t sure about before joining was whether it would cannibalize our sales,” says Dudok de Wit. “It’s not. We realized that providing choice benefits different users with different needs.”

It also means being able to offer users a choice on the developer’s website. Setapp pays affiliate fees for users who go through a developer’s site. So, in addition to presenting users with all the options, developers can also increase their revenue by promoting the fact that their apps are in Setapp.

“We also have a link to Setapp on our website,” says Oslizlo. “When you scroll down a bit on the purchase page, you’ll see there are discounts offered and a Setapp banner. We use our Setapp Partner link, which gives us additional income from referred customers.”

The result of Setapp developer promotion and Setapp promoting apps is that there is a community of users and a community of developers as well. In addition to being a constant source of revenue, the Setapp experience has taught developers like Dudok de Wit lessons that they then put into practice outside of the service.

“This idea helped us decide to launch TripMode subscriptions on the Mac App Store,” says Dudok de Wit.

The future of app stores

Apple is under pressure to open its App Store to alternatives, and if so, those alternatives would benefit from copying what Setapp is already doing. Currently, Setapp offers a collection of iOS apps alongside its Mac apps.

These apps must be in the Apple App Store, and they are not delivered to users through any type of sideloading. Instead, if a Setapp user chooses a Mac app that has an iOS equivalent, they can download it as usual, but also unlock it.

Rather than forcing users to pay separately for an iOS app, developers can give them full access, with no trials or additional in-app purchase requirements, through Setapp.

“Everyone wins: users, Setapp and us,” says Dudok de Wit of TripMode. “Setapp provides a great user experience and are great partners to work with. That’s something Apple could learn from.”

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