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When the App Store launched in 2008, there was something simple and attractive about the business model for independent developers: create something of value, charge a fair price, and you will be rewarded handsomely. Marco Arment summed this up nicely in his appearance on Planet Money: “People always ask me what my business model is, and it’s very disappointingly simple to them. It’s ‘I sell something for money.’”

We love making apps. Prior to Studio Neat, Tom worked as a software engineer and I worked as a UI designer, so you could argue software is a more natural fit for us than all the hardware stuff. We had created two physical products, and Glif and the Cosmonaut, before we launched our first app, Frameographer, in early 2012. It was launched with much excitement, and we got some great press, but it became clear from the start that it would not bring in nearly the same revenue as our hardware products. It would be very challenging for Studio Neat to exist if we made only apps.

Regardless, we continued to make apps, including Simple Bracket and Slow Fast Slow, because we really enjoy making them. But it has become increasingly hard to justify the time we put in to them, with our current business model of charging an upfront cost.

In the App Store today, there are essentially four different business models: paid (a single upfront cost), paid subscription (recurring cost), free with in-app purchase, and free with ads. Many have argued that paid-up-front apps are becoming increasingly more difficult to sell, as the App Store is much more competitive than it was in 2008. There are exceptions, of course, but free with in-app purchase seems to be the way things are headed for most indie developers. Even Marco has evolved his stance as the App Store has shifted, stating in a recent episode of ATP: "If you can avoid making your app paid upfront, you should. [...] It's so obvious that Apple really wants people to just make the apps free upfront and figure out the monetization some other way." (Overcast, Marco's latest app, is offered free with a $4.99 in-app purchase to unlock advanced features).

Tom and I have been reading and thinking about these things for a while, and a few months ago we had a realization. Studio Neat is in a unique position. We are not just app developers, we also sell physical products. Products that are meant to work with the apps in a way that enhances both, as is the case with the Glif and Slow Fast Slow or Frameographer. What if we make apps that are free with "ads", but the ad is simply for our other products? You know, the products that actually make money?

It was an intriguing enough idea that we decided to try it, first with Slow Fast Slow. As of today, you can download Slow Fast Slow for free. If you are unaware, Slow Fast Slow is our app for manipulating the speed of videos with our interactive timeline. It works amazingly well with the new 240 fps videos on the iPhones 6.

When you launch Slow Fast Slow for the first time, you are presented with our “ad” for the Glif. It consists of five screens that you swipe through, showing off the features of the Glif with text and looping videos. A link to studioneat.com to learn more and hopefully consider purchasing the Glif is included towards the end.



This ad is only presented once, and we never bug you again (no modal pop-ups or anything like that). On the main navigation bar on the home screen, a subtle version of our logo is present; tapping this will bring up the ad, in case you wanted to see it again or forgot our website URL.

We have no idea if this experiment will work. At the previous price of $1.99, Slow Fast Slow was only making about $10 a day, if that. If we can generate only one sale of a Glif (or any of our products, really) per day as a result of this ad, it will be worth it. And if it is even more successful, we may have found a way to continue making apps.

There are other benefits to making the app free, as well. The app might not be generating sales, but by being free it is exposing many more people to “Studio Neat Design,” as it were. In a way, it can be thought of as a marketing tool.

Aside from the shift in business model for Slow Fast Slow, this is actually a huge update. The design has been updated to accommodate the larger screen sizes of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and you can now import any type of video, not just slo-mo videos (this is great if you need to speed up a time-lapse you shot in the built-in app). And, we added the ability to add and remove points on the timeline, one of the most requested features. Oh, and the icon is way better now!

Slow Fast Slow is available now, in the App Store, for free. We’d love to hear what you think.

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