What does FiftyThree know about a possible iPad Pro stylus? On Thursday, the company updated popular iOS drawing app Paper, making all of its tools available to anyone who downloads the free iPad app. Previously, several Paper tools, including the watercolor and sketching brushes, were $0.99 in-app purchases.
FiftyThree doesn’t consider this move to be a repudiation of its in-app purchase model, and said it could introduce new premium brushes in the future. The company told The Verge and others that “the in-app purchase model has worked really well.” The company seems to be making most of its revenue from its $50 Pencil stylus, which is currently Amazon’s best-selling stylus. Previously, a purchased Pencil unlocked all of Paper app’s tools, but the idea now is that the free app — complete with a full set of digital brushes — is the hook, and once people start using the app, it logically leads to a stylus purchase.
One potential reason that FiftyThree set its tools free is that Paper introduced a social aspect to its app called Mix last year. Another possibility is that removing the in-app purchases could help Paper break into the education market.
But another major reason why FiftyThree might want more users now at the expense of potential in-app revenue is because of the looming possibility of an Apple-made stylus. Although Paper appears to be a wildly successful iPad app, with 14 million total downloads, an Apple stylus would clearly be a huge issue for FiftyThree’s business model. For now, FiftyThree and Apple look like they’re on great terms — Pencil styluses are sold in Apple stores, and in 2012, Apple named Paper as its iPad app of the year. But that could all change come Apple’s next product announcement, and FiftyThree’s best defense is a big existing user base.