FiftyThree Makes Popular Creativity App ‘Paper’ Free Of Charge


FiftyThree, maker of the Paper app and the accompanying Pencil stylus for the iPad, is shaking up its strategy by dropping the price of every feature in its app to zero.

Originally, FiftyThree let you get a taste of Paper’s smooth interface for free but charged money if you wanted access to more tools for doodling, making presentations, or early drafts of design work. You could pay for these tools individually, or all at once for $7.99. The price for this bundle of “essentials” eventually fell to $3.99, and with today’s update, every toll will be available as soon as you open the app.

Most startups with an app on 5-10% of iPads (according to FiftyThree’s estimate) would have a hard time giving up on in-app purchase revenue. The company is able to do it thanks to the success of its line of ‘Pencil’ styluses, which it originally introduced in late 2013.

These styluses go for $49 if you pick up the graphite model and $59 if you go for the Walnut or soon-to-launch Gold models. Between the smart features like palm rejection that come with pairing the stylus over Bluetooth and third-party app integration via the SDK FiftyThree introduced last summer, FiftyThree must be confident it can drive further adoption of its styluses. And now that customers are used to buying devices to take advantage of its free software platform, there’s the potential of expanding out into related device categories that further enhance the app’s usefulness.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that FiftyThree could add new in-app purchases or alternative streams, like paid pro-collaboration features or a function to get prints of items found on Mix, Paper’s social stream. With immediate access to all of the tools available, users are more likely to get hooked on Paper, which only gives FiftyThree more opportunities to upsell on the hardware and software fronts.