Today, Rohit Nadhani – the founder and CEO of popular Android app Newton Mail – announced that the app will be discontinued on September 25, 2018. It will be removed from the Google Play Store permanently on or around that date.
Although Newton received rave reviews from critics, the pricing structure for the app was – to be blunt – absolutely idiotic. Therefore, it is not too surprising at all that Newton is shutting down.
Newton started as an email app called CloudMagic, so-called because of its utilization of cloud services to deliver your email faster and more efficiently. The app was totally free on the Google Play Store with full functionality.
Eventually, the CloudMagic team introduced a “Pro” subscription at a cost of $10 per month or $100 per year. Going pro enabled you to add more than five email accounts as well as sync your preferences in the cloud.
The pro subscription didn’t last long – less than four months, actually. CloudMagic went back to being totally free for another year-and-a-half.
Then, on September 14, 2016, the developers changed CloudMagic’s name to Newton and introduced a mandatory subscription plan: $50 per year. Now you could only use the app for two weeks before you had to cough up for a subscription.
CloudMagic broke the cardinal rule of app development: don't offer something for free at first and then try to charge for it later.
Many of the core users balked and fled the app for competitors (myself included), leaving angry one-star reviews on Newton’s Google Play Store listing in their wake. Even Newton’s too-little-too-late promise to give the first year free to current users couldn’t stop the mass exodus.
Unbelievably, Newton then doubled-down: in July of this year, it brought back the incredibly ill-advised original “Pro” subscription pricing: $10 per month, which more-than-doubled a user’s financial commitment to the app.
Now, only weeks after that pricing change announcement, we have a blog entry from the CEO announcing the demise of the app.
Gee, who could have seen this coming?
I don’t mean to be so harsh, honestly. It’s admirable that the team behind Newton tried to create and maintain an app without any venture capital funding. It’s also admirable that the team considered Newton’s features to have a higher value than many of the free email apps available for both Android and iOS.
But $120 per year to get email on your smartphone? What the hell did the team think would happen?
Newton is a great app, there's no question. But its monetization strategy was just untenable.
I remember when I moved from CloudMagic to my current email app – Blue Mail, which I can’t recommend enough. I sent an email to the CloudMagic team saying I would gladly pay for its app, and I said that $2.99 per month would be a totally reasonable fee for the service. I still stand by that idea. If Blue Mail decided to charge that for its app right now, I would pay it, no question.
But the bottom line is that the email app market is oversaturated at this point, and almost all the functionality you need is offered for free from multiple apps (some of which even come pre-installed on your smartphone). It was pure hubris that Newton thought it could survive long-term by charging a ridiculous price for its service – even if Newton is a great email app.
If you were one of the few who subscribed to Newton, Nadhani’s blog post states that all renewals will be canceled. If you are currently under an annual subscription, you will be able to claim a pro-rated refund for the amount of time you have left. That option will only be open until September 18, 2018 — but instructions are not yet available for how that process will work.
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