A Review of Setapp

I was recently given early access to Setapp, a new subscription based marketplace for macOS applications. As someone that remembers going to Apple’s webpage to find downloads in early versions of OS X (and being excited about it!), it’s safe to say I’ve seen a few attempts to make curating and downloading Mac software come and go. I’ll try to keep this review brief, and too the point.

The Current Situation
You’re probably quite familiar with the Mac App Store. For all intents and purposes, it allowed someone like me the ability to pay $99/yr to have Apple cover the cost of hosting my applications (note: I don’t have any there) for download. While this model was a runaway success with the iOS App Store, it hasn’t been so lucky on Mac. Developers have been begging for ways to allow users to demo their apps, and have paid upgrade paths, just to name a few things.

What is Setapp?
Setapp is stepping in and, hopefully, solving the many problems mentioned over the past few years. Instead of buying each application, you have access to an entire library of applications. Need to upgrade? No problem, you’re covered. Want that “unlocked,” “pro” experience? No need, as you have the full version of the application from the moment you get started.

Instead of having thousands of applications to pick from, Setapp is seeking to curate only the best applications for their users. This can be seen as a blessing for anyone who has downloaded, or at least found in their searching, a dead/crap app in the Mac App Store. On the flip side, if you’re a developer with an unknown app, I’m not sure how easy it’ll be for you to get in their store.

Cost For Users
Since Setapp is in beta, it is currently free through January. However, if you sign up now, their website is promising an extra month for free. After that, Setapp is trying to fit nicely in that $9.99/month model.

Cost For Developers
I couldn’t find any specific price for developers. You will, though, get a “revenue stream that never dries up.” Of course, this only is beneficial to all involved if people flock to this subscription based app store. And you can get your app listed.

How It Works
Once you install Setapp, you’ll see a new folder in your Applications directory, and a new favorite folder in Finder. Here, you’ll find all the applications you can install.

This is where I have a bit of an issue with Setapp. I initially really liked this, and thought it was cool that it just seemed like I had every app already installed (which I technically don’t). If you want to find out information about the application, you have to “open” the app. The first time you do, you’ll be presented with some information about the app, screen shots, and the option to actually install the application.

Once you install the app, it doesn’t actually move to your Applications directory, but stays in the Setapp folder found in /Applications.

While it seems pretty simple, I actually became very annoyed after trying learn about the third or fourth app I opened. I didn’t want to keep opening and closing windows just to see if the application is something I wanted. You could use the website to browse, but I think this defeats the purpose. I would have preferred something a little easier to browse what was actually available. You don’t have any way to sort by category and there are no user ratings.

As of this writing, there are 59 applications available to you, and I’m sure they’ll have more in the future. It’ll be hard to find that perfect application without something a bit easier for the user, though.

As I said, there are 59 applications for you to peruse and download. I’m actually writing this review in Blogo (excellent app, btw), which I got from Setapp. There were several apps I could see myself using on a regular basis: Sip, which I already use, WiFi Explorer, Base, etc. I downloaded a few apps that I wouldn’t normally, just because I could. Turns out I really like Blogo, and never would have tried it otherwise. I also really wanted a home inventory app, and sure enough Home Inventory is there. It was really exciting to just be able to download an app without having to specifically pay for it.

There did seem to be several note taking apps, or minimalistic writing apps. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but I’m not a huge writer, so several apps already didn’t apply to me, or my potential $9.99.

Is It Worth It?
I think we all go through a mini crisis when we have to think about spending a recurring $10/month (right everyone?). I resisted Netflix for a long time, but I couldn’t live without it, now. Apple Music: same deal. Amazon Prime, Hulu+(ugh… I should stop there). Yes, you may be adverse to YAMF (yet another monthly fee), but I can see this being worth it if the application selection is on point. Right now, you’ll want to see if the current list is worth spending $120/year on for you. If something like Netflix or Apple Music works for you because you consume more than the value of the individual content, it’s an easy answer.

I think Setapp is filling in a hole that needs to be filled, and I can see this being a runaway success. I don’t think they’ve painted themselves in a corner with the limitations on discovery (UIs can always change), and this was my only negative experience with the whole process. Will I sign up? Ask me in March — I’m hoping some more applications come through that I would use more regularly.

Right now, Setapp is in beta, which you can request yourself at setapp.com.

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