Why is Timebox no longer free?

Our Timebox Photo Journal app is now 5 years old and we just released the fifth version, Timebox 5.0. We’ve decided to charge $5 ($4.99 US) for it instead of offering it as a free app and we’d like to tell you why.

1. We are a small two-person indie software company and, at least at this point, Timebox is our only product so we need the app to make sufficient revenue to remain a viable business.

2. We originally thought we would make our revenue when people used the Timebox app to purchase physical versions of their Timebox photo stories: hardcover and softcover books, laser-engraved aluminum photo cubes and other photo gifts like phone cases. We’ve been running with this revenue model for the past few years and we've found that, at least in our app, we don’t get enough purchases to profitably run our small business.

3. We are philosophically opposed to adding advertising to your photos and stories. Our view is that these are your stories about your life and cluttering it up with irritating ads about stuff that is not yours is just wrong. Admittedly, the successful billion-user social networks show that’s not an issue for everyone, but we’d like our app to be an oasis in all that clutter.

4. We tried in-app purchases for additional features (e.g., cloud storage and making PDF ebooks) but the conversion rate was relatively small (a little less than 10%) and we became weary of people complaining about the up-charges. To solve the costs (to us) of cloud storage we moved to iCloud (no cost to the app developer) and made the other features free to everyone including the teacher who asked for free ebooks for all of her students. 

5.  Apple suggests app developers offer subscriptions as a way to earn revenue from mobile apps. Generally speaking, this seems to be a reasonable model for an app that is has either a well-known brand or has a well-known use, like a word processor, news or streaming media. Unfortunately, developers are facing a backlash as people are quickly becoming overwhelmed with the number of auto-renewing subscriptions, that continuously charge their credit cards, without knowing exactly what they're paying for.

So that essentially leaves us with charging upfront for our app. The same revenue model used for eons for physical goods.

Timebox is roughly a digital version of a physical paper photo journal that you can purchase at many shops and online sites. If you were to purchase a paper photo journal you’d find that even a modestly designed and manufactured one will cost you at least $10 (at Walmart). And naturally the paper version is limited in the number of pages you can have. So if you compare the $5 cost of the Timebox photo journal app with a paper one, we think the cost for Timebox is pretty reasonable.

What about the longevity of a Timebox photo journal versus the paper photo journal? Because we think it’s critical to the value of a photo journal, Timebox is specifically engineered for longevity. While it uses online services (iCloud) for sharing and syncing, it never requires them. All of your photo stories are safely stored on your iPhone or iPad at all times. Unlike the giant social network apps, Timebox runs just fine without an internet connection. In fact, it doesn’t require our little company to exist or provide any services, though of course Apple needs to stay in business. In addition, Timebox provides a way to create truly archival versions of your photo stories as PDF ebooks, MPEG movies and good old physical paper hardcover books.

We think $5 is a fair price for Timebox and hope you do too. We’re excited about Timebox 5.0, especially the new shared journals and collaboration features and think they fill a long-time need for our customers.

If you don’t already have Timebox, please purchase version 5.0 and let us know what you think.

Thank you.
Mary Ellen & Len

P.S. We’re already working of Timebox 5.1 so stay tuned for future updates!