Apple’s Vision Pro offers consumers a new way to interact with apps via spatial computing, but it also offers app developers a way to generate revenue without subscriptions. According to a recently released report from app intelligence firm Appfigures, over half of Vision Pro-only apps (52%) are paid downloads — a surprising percentage given that across the wider App Store, only 5% of apps monetize this way.
In addition to the large group of paid downloads, 35% of Vision-only apps didn’t monetize through the App Store, and 13% offered subscriptions.
The analysis examined all the apps optimized for the Vision Pro, including the more than 700 apps optimized for the new device, meaning those apps that are Vision Pro-only and others where the developer optimized an existing app to work on Apple’s VR/AR headset specifically. However, it did not include the roughly 1.2 million iOS apps that work on the Vision Pro, but weren’t modified by their developers.
Including iOS apps that were modified to include a native Vision experience, only 17% were paid downloads, and 58% were monetized with subscriptions.
Appfigures tells TechCrunch a further analysis of all apps made for the Vison Pro indicates the apps have an average price of $5.67, with the highest price at $98 (for an interactive periodic table of elements). Most apps are priced at $9.99 or below. And if you bought all the paid apps, it would cost you $1,089.07 — which is still less than the cost of the device itself, which starts at $3,499.
The takeaway here is that app developers who are embracing the Vision Pro with unique, native experiences built just for Apple’s AR/VR platform are returning to the paid download monetization model. That could have invited more opportunities for discovery as well, but unfortunately, Apple has now just removed all Vision Pro apps from the top charts on the App Store. That will make it more difficult to track developers’ success and for consumers to discover new apps since the Vision Pro’s App Store has no categories or top charts, as on other platforms.
Noted one Vision Pro developer, Michael Sayman, his News Ticker app for the new device quickly became the No. 3 app among all paid news apps for iPhone and Vision Pro in a matter of days, and then became No. 1 in the News category.
“The window of opportunity here is nuts,” he told TechCrunch shortly after the app’s launch, adding that the app has since seen thousands of downloads. But with Apple’s removal of Vision Pro apps from the Top Charts, Sayman says he’ll only return to Vision Pro development after Apple fixes search and adds more discovery options.
Meanwhile, Juno, a Vision-only YouTube client for the Vision Pro from Apollo developer Christian Selig also broke into the top 10 in the Photo & Video category shortly after the device’s launch.
Remarked Selig on X, “Juno has officially paid for the price of my Vision Pro, who said developing early on this platform wouldn’t be worth it?”
A return to paid apps could appeal to developers who want a new way to monetize without gouging customers with high-priced subscriptions.
Over the years, Apple pushed app developers to adopt monetization models involving free apps with in-app purchases and subscriptions as those models directly benefitted Apple, due to the 15% to 30% commission it takes on in-app sales. The shift was part of Apple’s broader strategy to become a services-driven business. That is, instead of simply encouraging consumers to buy new iPhones and Macs and other Apple devices, the company also wanted to generate ongoing revenue from those devices through services like AppleCare, Apple TV+, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, iCloud, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+, advertising, and, of course, App Store purchases, among other things.
These ongoing revenue streams help Apple weather changing market conditions around iPhone sales — like the 13% decline in sales in China the company reported in the first quarter, for example. At the same time as iPhone sales in that key market dropped, Apple’s services division grew 11% from the prior quarter to reach $23.11 billion.
However, for consumers, the growth of subscriptions has been a mixed bag.
It’s meant that even simpler apps now demand ongoing payments and previously free, ad-supported apps now charge. Plus, the subscription market opened the door to scammers who take advantage of the ease of in-app purchases to trick users into buying subscriptions by using confusing user interface designs and the promises of free trials which convert to paid after mere days, among other misleading tactics. The App Store soon filled with complaints about sneaky and overpriced subscriptions.
Given there seems to be an opportunity for developers to generate revenue through one-time purchases on the Vision Pro, it’s odd that Apple would have pulled these apps from its Top Charts, where they could have found new customers. How that will impact developer interest in the revenue model and device itself still remains to be seen.