Dark Sky Weather App Arrives On Android, Dev Q&A Included

Android / Mobile
Dark Sky

One of the most popular and touted apps on iOS has finally arrived on Android, the Dark Sky weather app. Dark Sky has enjoyed a very nice following on iOS where the app can be had for a one time price of $3.99. It’s a different story over on Android though. While Dark Sky is free on Android, functionality is limited unless you pay a yearly subscription fee of $2.99 (you do get a 2 week trial before you have to pay). More on pricing in just a bit.

Dark Sky has been popular on iOS due to some of its premium features including daily summaries, to-the-minute notifications and precise precipitation notifications. Of course there are Android widgets in the Android version and a few other things that are more suited to Android than iOS. Overall the app is very nice and minimal in design. It’s easy on the eyes and has some very nice features indeed. Right now Dark Sky doesn’t work in the notification shade but the company says that is coming.

You would think most Android users would love to have this app but that hasn’t been the case according to many of the incoming Google Playstore reviews. Most of the feedback from the reviews has to do with the subscription model Dark Sky has chosen to go with on Android as opposed to the one time up front fee on iOS. I had a chance to chat via email with Adam Grossman from Dark Sky and here’s a bit of what he had to say concerning the subscription model on Android.

Dark Sky Q&A

Techaeris(TA): Do you have any comment on the initial reviews and people’s concern over your subscription model?

Adam Grossman (AG): As for subscription pricing: we could easily do away with subscriptions by not offering down-to-the-minute notifications, adding ads, and selling user data like the other weather apps do. We get that some people won’t be willing to pay recurring money for a recurring service, but you end up with a crummier app, and one that isn’t sustainable.

TA: Why is there only a one time $3.99 fee on iOS and $2.99 yearly fee on Android? It seems users will pay more on Android in the long-term.

AG: The reason we can’t do a subscription on iOS right now is that iOS doesn’t allow free trials, which is crucial for the subscription model. So on iOS there’s a larger upfront cost and no free version, while on Android there’s a lower yearly cost and a free trial so you can make sure it’s worth the price.

TA: Why use a subscription model at all? Why not a flat fee?

AG: But why is a subscription necessary at all? The answer is because it’s the only way to make sure we’re sustainable and here for the long haul. Things like down-to-the-minute rain notifications are very expensive (each user has their own private “robot” on one of our servers that is constantly checking the weather just for them), and the only other way to make that sustainable would be to put ads in the app and/or sell our user’s personal data. Those aren’t things we’re willing to do.

TA: How have you been able to sustain yourself with an iOS app for this long without a subscription model on that platform?

AG: Really, a one-off price is not sustainable by definition. We’ve been extremely lucky in that we’ve been able to convince a lot of iOS users to pay the upfront cost, but there isn’t an endless supply of iOS users. And the days of counting on astronomical user growth in the handset market are over, so we won’t be able to count on new iPhone users entering the market nearly as much as we could in the past. We still probably have years of sales ahead of us, regardless, but we’re thinking about the long term.

One more thing on iOS pricing: can we change to a subscription model? Sure! It’ll be harder because of the lack of free trial, but really we’ll need to wait to see how the Android experiment goes first.

And I’m not too concerned with bad reviews. Subscription pricing isn’t for everyone. And if people don’t mind ads, or won’t use notifications, there are plenty of free options. (We’ve recommended Arcus in the past).

Dark Sky is available now in the Google Play Store, I recommend signing up for the two week trial and see how you like it. Like Adam said, not everyone is going to want to work with that model but you might like the app enough to give them a shot.

  Source: Google Play Store
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