Google One Pass vs Apple Subscriptions: Who Wins?

Now that smartphones are the next big thing, a war is erupting between major players to grab a huge userbase and huge profits at the same time. As always, Apple wants a piece of everything, while Google plays dirty by undercutting Apple as and when it can. Their latest area of contention is subscription and in-app payments.

While Apple’s policy created a huge uproar in the digital universe, Google’s policy on subscriptions was welcomed a bit, but largely got eclipsed by the negative press Apple was getting. So how does this is going to affect us, the consumer?

Apple’s Subscriptions

Apple’s policy on subscriptions is pretty much the same as their App Store model. Apple will take a 30% cut on all subscriptions; publishers can set their own subscription durations (from weekly to annual); and users will be able buy subscriptions through the app store just like they buy apps. And just like in-app purchases, 30% of the proceeds will go to Apple’s (deep) pockets.

The second rule in their pricing policy is equally controversial. In addition to a 30% cut, Apple wants Pricing Parity. What this means is that publishers who charge for the same service outside the App Store have to charge the same or lower price in the App Store. They are not restricted from providing services on their website, but they cannot link to the same from within the app. Apple has later clarified that both their rules apply only for digital publishers and not for SaaS apps.

Impact

Well, Apple has long proven that, given the opportunity, they will milk the heck out of publishers. Case in point: the AT&T exclusivity of iPhones at the expense of user experience. Unless the Government intervenes with an Antitrust suit, nothing is going to stop them from being archaic and arrogant, but publishers are in no position to pull out from a platform that has a huge userbase with lots of disposable income. In the long run, traditional media outlets might slow down their investment in iOS, but nothing will change overnight for consumers.

Google’s One Pass

One Pass

One Pass

Google One Pass has a purchase-once, view-anywhere functionality. One Pass also allows publishers to grant access to existing subscribers through a coupon-based system. Publishers will have to pay only 10% to Google in return.

Impact

In my personal opinion, whoever does business alongside Apple will come out looking good. So Google, naturally known for promoting openness, took some points with a nicely thought out, symbiotic subscription plan. But the uproar against Apple was such that One Pass didn’t get the recognition it deserved. That should say something about the power of Apple in the marketplace.

Also, the absence of killer apps that could take advantage of the subscription plans (like News Corporation’s The Daily for iOS) immediately didn’t help either. Publishers should have got the message loud and clear though: Google isn’t very much interested in eating everyone’s lunch. Their idea is to gain more users, more searches and in turn more money from advertising. Every publishing house will take up Android as it has better ROI (Return On Investment), potentially ultimately benefiting us with more awesome apps and digital magazines.

Final Thoughts

It might not show results immediately, but One Pass does look great, at least on paper right now. There always is this lame argument of not getting people to pay with Android. If Google does not bungle up the payment system preferences, I don’t see why anyone will ignore quality apps and content. What do you think?