The future of Niagara Launcher
[Edit · 16 February 2020] First Pro Features
Here’s a list of what you’ll already get when upgrading to Niagara Pro:
- You can subscribe to Niagara Pro and pay a small annual fee, or you can buy it once and own it forever. This is breaking the traditional monetization models on launchers; I’ll explain my reasoning below.
- You can still use Niagara like you are used to (without purchasing Niagara Pro). Almost all free features will remain free — forever.
- Niagara’s weeks of winter: A new feature every 7 days starting next week.
- Simplicity is still a top priority. Niagara Pro will make your phone even smarter, not more bloated.
Did you know that the Niagara Falls can freeze?
They did last year. Not completely, water was still flowing underneath, but the phenomenon looks stunning nevertheless! Something similar recently happened to Niagara Launcher’s development — but that’s about to change. Before I go into details, let me tell you first how it all began:
Two years ago, Niagara Launcher was Wave Launcher. Three years back, the app wasn’t even a launcher. In 2016, it was an app that let you open apps sequentially, ironically, without going back to your home screen so that you could go through your morning routine, for example. However, it wasn’t that useful, so I changed the app into a quick apps panel. After a few iterations, I thought: “Why not make a fully-fledged launcher?” The app list design resulted from past app ideas I reused for faster prototyping, but it felt so clean and refreshing that I kept it. My friends and family tested dozens of alpha builds. Thank you all, by the way, for your feedback and for answering my countless questions.
After two years of development, I released the app on August 31st, 2018, and got blown away by the huge response. Hundreds of people joined Niagara’s Telegram group, and the issue tracker exploded! That was probably one of the best days of my life. Thank you for letting me experience it :)
Recently, the launcher has hit two million downloads, which is an unbelievable number of people. The number of recent feature-packed updates, however, was somewhat low. I would love to even invest more time, not only in the semester breaks. Besides studying, I also worked as a tutor. The job wasn’t that tedious, but it takes away a lot of my free time. That’s why I decided to quit the job and invest my time into something exciting:
Making my passion, Niagara Launcher, my side job.
Similar to how you can support Captain Disillusion and Mark Brown, my favorite two guys on Patreon, you can help me with a small yearly payment. Their channels flourished wonderfully with the help of their fans¹.
On the other hand, in the mobile world, subscriptions are not that well-received, though — often, you get the feeling some developers just switch to a subscription model to rip you off. That’s why I find it especially important to explain my decision and to explain Niagara Launcher’s monetization model.
But first, let’s begin with going through the income sources of other apps:
Alternative monetization strategies
So, what about placing some funny and colorful ads in between apps? Also, you surely wouldn’t mind watching a short video before changing your app icons, would you? — No, just kidding, that won’t happen. Most of us, especially me, can’t stand advertisements. Ads just don’t fit into a clean launcher.
Besides, a lot of other apps have a so-called freemium model. You get the basic features for free and can purchase a pro version with additional features if you enjoy using it. But there is one big caveat with this model from a developer's standpoint: it is too unreliable, it doesn’t guarantee sustainable income compared to a normal job. One-time-purchases might return in higher revenue in the first months, but it will most certainly decrease over time. You need to acquire new users to keep it going, and the old users usually lose relevance. That’s not what Niagara Launcher is about; it’s no one-time product. The app is not even close to being finished yet, and I doubt it ever will be; it should and will keep flowing and evolving. With more than 100 submitted open issues and suggestions tracked on GitHub, it seems that we’re not running out of creative ideas any time soon.
There are many launchers out there, and almost all of their Pro versions can be unlocked by a one time purchase. As a result, the model seems sustainable at first glance, but this is a deceiving picture.
For example, Smart Launcher’s free version contains advertisements, and Action Launcher has a second in app purchase for further features. Chris lacy, the mind behind Action Launcher, also wrote about how he’s struggling with the monetization system:
Exploring a new Action Launcher business model
Action Web Search — exploring a new business model
Moreover, both launchers were “re-released”; you had to pay again to unlock all features. Furthermore, the developers of said Launchers have created additional apps to earn money (Action dash & Icon pack studio, for example).
One launcher that has gone too far is Apex Launcher, in my opinion. Lately, the app serves a pop-up ad every time you open your browser.
Nova Launcher is an exception, however. It is by far the most popular Android launcher out there. Nova’s pro version has more than one million downloads. They even got to partner with Razer; Nova Launcher Prime is pre-installed on every Razer phone. If you’re playing in that league, one-time purchases might be enough ;)
And I should also mention Microsoft launcher. It doesn’t even offer a pro version. Microsoft doesn’t want to generate revenue from the launcher itself. The launcher wants to bring you into their ecosystem instead with Office apps, Outlook, Cortana & Skype and by syncing your phone with your Windows PC.
I also recommend reading an article from the developer of Ulysses. He further states the differences between the freemium and monthly-support system and explains why he switched to the latter.
Why we’re switching Ulysses to Subscription
Today, we are switching Ulysses to a subscription model. The short story is this (tl;dr): Our users expect a…
All in all, the histories of several launchers show that a one-time purchase for just an independent launcher is not enough to support ongoing development costs, in my opinion. Okay, now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty:
When it comes to subscriptions, a lot of them seem overpriced in comparison to one-time-purchases. I took a quick look in the Play Store’s subscription tab and found out that their prices mostly range from five to fifteen dollars a month.
Niagara Pro will cost a lot less, only a couple of dollars a year. Additionally, in countries having low-income rates, even that price may be too high. Thus the price will be adapted there.
Even though subscriptions are way more sustainable, I also want to offer a one-time-purchase for those who just can’t stand subscriptions.
You can buy Niagara Pro once and own it forever.
Instead of releasing all Pro features at once, they’ll be distributed one by one, every seven days in the weeks of winter to ensure every single feature works well.
To guarantee a smooth launch, Niagara Pro will be available today, one week before releasing the first feature. If you want to be one of the first members and help me test Niagara Pro, you can purchase it by typing /pro into Niagara Launcher’s search. If something goes wrong, your purchase will be refunded automatically after three days.
Besides, I don’t want to spoil you and announce which upcoming features will be released soon, but it’s worth checking out Niagara Launcher’s GitHub issue repository; requests are separated into free and pro features.
This is a huge step for Niagara Launcher and me, so please share your thoughts, either here on Medium, on Twitter, Reddit, GitHub, or on Telegram. I am eager to get to know your standpoint. My goal with this is to create a fair and profitable system for as many people as possible.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
Of course, it’s totally fine if you don’t want to or cannot support me. You can still use Niagara like you are used to.
However, I would be very grateful if you considered gifting me the metaphorical “cup of coffee” every now and then. Maybe if Niagara Launcher has been your companion in daily life for quite some time and you think it’s worth it, but that’s up to you.
Thank you for taking the time to read through the article.
¹Due to Google’s terms of service, I cannot link to a Patreon page from Niagara Launcher. That’s why it will be using Google Play’s subscription system instead.