The ‘Free’ version of Notability 11.0 is just a short free trial for potential users to get a feel of the app. We are relieved that Notability is no longer forcing its new subscription model on old users. Ginger Labs broke users’ trust and that is going to be very difficult to rebuild. Loyalty and good relationships are more valuable than money.
The best way forward
Our developers must accept that one app might not be enough for the financial stability they seek. Multiple sources of income always solve that problem, for all of us (developers are not exempted from this basic economic law). Apple could also help support our top developers to help us keep using our iPads at affordable prices. We can also support our developers as much as we can, each of us in our capacities. With all of us working together, we see a future for digital note-taking.
The Starter plan
New users trying out Notability get monthly edit limitations. According to their website, edits are any changes you make in a session; handwriting, erasing, adding text or media. They are just giving you enough to see how the app works, the allowance is not enough to write any useful notes. Handwriting experience is the most important feature of a note-taking app. For most people, it is the determining factor of whether or not they choose one app over another. If all note-taking apps could have a similar trial, newbies would have an easier time picking apps that suit their needs. New users can now try the full features in Notability before purchasing the app.
Notability is not free, it is now a subscription. For all the features the app has to offer, $14.99 a year is not much (when you know from the beginning that is the commitment you’re signing up for). At the moment, it does not support family sharing (which might be a reason to choose other alternatives). When choosing an app, price is a big determining factor. Users are most likely to go for a one-time purchase than a subscription.
No auto backup or sync
Since the Starter plan is just a trial version, it makes sense not to have auto-backup or iCloud syncing. Given the number of edits limitations, there won’t be much to backup or sync. Apple should consider putting an option for developers to tag their apps as trial versions. Listing Notability under free apps because it is not charging an upfront fee is inaccurate. There are apps that have free versions (which you can use without paying for Pro features for a lifetime). Then there are some apps, like Notability, that are not free but allow users to try them for a while.
The Classic plan
At the moment, this subscription doesn’t have much value for old users who are currently on the Classic plan. All the features in Notability 11.0 are free for us, including the new paper templates. Selling those wouldn’t make a lot of sense. We use our Paperless X digital notebooks anyway, so we won’t have bought those. Besides, page rotation is currently only working for PDF pages. Until we have it for native pages too, it’s better to use custom paper templates in the app.
Page rotation in Notability is also rotating the pages only, without rotating the ink. Be warned: rotate your page first before writing on it. It also disrupts the inking in the later pages of the document, the one you get when you add text to your pages directly. Page rotation still needs a bit of work in Notability 11.
If you love planners, it might be worth subscribing to Notability for the variety you can try out. The developers must bring in more creators to add content to this store though. They have turned down some digital content creators in the past. To make their subscription worth it, they will need to bring in more digital content creators as possible. If Apple Music had 3 albums for a monthly subscription, it wouldn’t be worth it.
Random thought: Paperless X is not affiliated with Notability or GoodNotes. Most of you have asked us about this in the past. Our reviews are user-centred, and we strive to keep them unbiased and reliable. A good update or app is worth applauding, a bad one is not. Developers that choose to sponsor us must accept those terms otherwise we just can’t work together.
Free for K-12 institutions
Notability+ is free for educational institutions that use the Apple School Manager. Ginger Labs wants to make the app accessible to as many K-12 institutions as possible. It wants to catch them while they are young, which might be a smart move (but it might not be). Only time will tell. Just know that if you use Notability in school right now, you’ll be paying a subscription for it in college.