Setapp for Mac Review, a Developer Perspective

I don’t usually write articles like this, but every so often something comes along that changes, or shifts the way things are done. Setapp from MacPaw is that something. I believe it has the potential to change the Mac app market in a big way, for better or worse.

So, what is Setapp? Basically, at its heart, Setapp is a Mac app subscription service. Very much like Netflix, but for apps. The twist here is that it’s based on quality, not quantity. For a fixed monthly fee you get access to over 60 Mac apps. Sounds pretty good, right? Let’s dig a little deeper and find out.

The Good and the Bad

I’ll start with the good first. One of the things I like about Setapp is that you get access to over 60 high-quality Mac apps, you never have to worry about upgrade fees, annoying ads, or in-app purchases. You also get automatic updates and access to new apps as they become available. This is all pretty nifty, as long as you don’t mind paying the subscription fee.

I also like how it creates a folder full of “placeholder” apps and gives you the chance to download only what you need (rather than cluttering up your drive with the apps you don’t). It’s much better than downloading everything regardless.

Now let’s take a look at the negatives. Perhaps one of the bigger downsides to Setapp is that it doesn’t have every app you’ll need, and let’s be honest, that’s probably unrealistic for a newly launched service. However, it is nice to think that in the future the average Mac user might only need to install Setapp to get up and running with everything they need.

I know more apps will be added in the coming months, and I can only imagine it’s one of MacPaws longer-term goals to make Setapp one of the very first things a Mac user installs on a new machine. Only time will tell if they can do it.

You might also be wondering what happens if a developer removes their app from Setapp as this has potential to be catastrophic from a users point of view. The good news is you get to keep the app installed at its current version. I think this is an extremely well thought out feature. It’s reassuring to know that an app you rely on won’t suddenly disappear from your Mac when you need it most.

As long as you’re happy with the subscription price, I honestly can’t think of any downsides that should stop you from using the service.

Peace of Mind

I believe MacPaw is really on to something with Setapp. I’ve personally found it very useful to have so many apps on hand that I may not have found or purchased otherwise.

For example, I needed to convert some audio files from WAV to MP3 last week and instead of turning to Google or the Mac App Store, I looked in the Setapp folder. Sure enough, I found an app called Permute, and because it was included in Setapp, I knew it would be a decent app that could do the job.

And just yesterday I had a .rar file I needed to uncompress, I found an app called Archiver in Setapp to uncompress it. This is just two of the many occasions Setapp has saved me time and hassle.

It’s reassuring to know that if I need to get something done on my Mac, there’s probably an app in Setapp that can do it.

Setapp Cost

Setapp costs $9.99 a month. You get the first month free so you can test out all the apps, and no you don’t need a credit card to sign-up. You can also cancel at any time (no long-term contracts).

I personally think the service is ridiculously cheap, especially when you consider there are over 60 high-quality apps included. If you purchased all of those apps outright It’d cost you over $2,000 (USD).

The service is invite-only for developers. This means MacPaw can make sure only top quality apps get added to the service. I think this will be key to its success in the long run. If the quality of apps decreases then the subscriber base will plummet. If Setapp was full of junk apps there’s no way I’d pay ten bucks a month for it.

Having fewer apps on the service means there’s less competition for developers, and in turn, this should result in developers getting a more respectable amount of the revenue (providing their app gets used). This is important because if developers aren’t receiving a fair share of revenue they’ll soon start to remove their apps. My experience so far suggests this shouldn’t be a problem, but again, only time will tell.

I’m not going to list out all 60+ apps here because you can head over to the Setapp website to see the full list. I will, however, list out a few of my favourites to give you an idea of the quality: CleanMyMac, Ulysses, Focused, Get Backup Pro, Screens, iStat Menus, Sip, NetSpot and many other great apps.

Oh, and of course, my own apps, RapidWeaver and Squash are included.

Developer Perspective

I’ve been asked by a lot of Mac developers what I think of Setapp. I honestly don’t know if it’ll make sense in the long run, or if it’s really got a shot at being one of the major platforms for app distribution. I do however know that I’m willing to give it a chance.

The main concern I’ve heard from developers is about revenue. They worry they’ll lose out as more and more of their users sign-up for Setapp instead of buying directly. I personally don’t think it’ll affect direct sales or Mac App Store sales in a negative way. For example, RapidWeaver and Squash sales have stayed the same, but we’ve picked up more users via Setapp. That sounds like a win to me.

Making your apps available in multiple places works just like selling products in the real world. If you put your product in front of more people, you’ll sell more units (providing it’s a half-decent product).

It’s also good to give customers choice. Some customers don’t like subscriptions and that’s fine, they can still buy directly from you. However, if people are okay with subscriptions they can use Setapp. Either way, they are using your app, and that’s what really counts.

It’s highly likely that a lot of users will find out about your app through Setapp. They might cancel their subscription and purchase your app directly because it’s now one they rely on.

The only real downside from a developer perspective is that every release has to go through a review process, just like the Mac App Store. Thankfully the difference here is that it’s incredibly fast, often just a matter of hours. If there is a problem with your submission you get an email detailing exactly what needs to be fixed or changed (you can also chat to the review team via Slack). This is in contrast with the Mac App Store where you usually get told what rule you’re breaking, not exactly how to fix it.

Final Thoughts

Setapp has been allowed to seemingly spring up overnight because Apple appears to be leaving the Mac App Store to languish. I think Setapp is going to be a very popular service, especially as more high-quality developers get on board. I know for sure that Apple will be watching very closely to see how customers on the Mac react to it.

As a user and developer, I’ve been very happy with Setapp and would recommend it to anyone. Maybe this will change if things don’t work out, but right now, Setapp appears to have a very bright future ahead of it.

If you’re interested, you can sign up for Setapp here and get your first month free.

Further Reading

Here are a few other articles that cover the launch of Setapp. I’ll add more to the list over time as I notice them.

Dan Counsell @dancounsell