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读书|新知|生活禅

Rethinking the meaning of paid overseas apps for me

Whose Problem

With the implementation of the app filing policy by our regulatory authorities in China, I finally have to consider whether I need to migrate some of my subscriptions on the App Store. Fortunately, there are not many, only Fastmail and Readwise are the ones I care about.

I first emailed the Fastmail support team to inquire if there was any way to seamlessly migrate my subscription. I quickly received a reply, and they upgraded my ticket to be handled by their responsible person. This was unexpected for me. However, I later learned that before I sent them this email, although they had already heard about the new policy in my country, they had not discussed how to deal with it.

After waiting for more than a day, I received another reply. The person in charge of the Fastmail support team told me that after a more detailed understanding and discussions with multiple departments, they have decided not to continue providing services in the Chinese App Store. In response to my inquiry, the solution they provided was to first cancel the subscription, and then they would migrate my subscription method to their official website in the background 24 hours after I cancel the subscription. I also need to quickly re-download Fastmail from the App Store in another region.

The reply from Readwise was similar to Fastmail, except that they do not provide subscription migration. After my subscription in the Chinese region expires, I can either subscribe again in the US App Store or subscribe through their official website.

I mentioned in the 28th issue of the newsletter:

Subscribing to services on the App Store has always been my preference. Even if an app or service can be subscribed through the App Store, even if the price is higher than subscribing on the official website, I will still choose to subscribe through the App Store. There are three reasons for this: normal payment methods are not easily flagged for risk control, payments are more convenient, and managing subscriptions is also more convenient.

Now, I have to reconsider whether subscribing on the App Store is the best option.

Regarding the compliance of app filing, there is no problem with the regulatory authorities. They need to implement certain policies and manage them. Apple also has no problem. According to the news, they have made efforts, but ultimately have to comply with the regulations. App developers also have no problem. They need to weigh the most favorable options. So where is the problem? Is it the app users?

Through this matter, I am also thinking about what the significance of the apps I am currently subscribed to is to me.

Fastmail

Fastmail is my main email service. I value its privacy protection, lack of ads, and the ability to customize domain email addresses. It can also be linked with Bitwarden to create anonymous email addresses and can manage other email accounts in one place. If you are a heavy email user, you should understand why these five points are so important.

Privacy protection and no ads are the biggest selling points of Fastmail. It does not collect user information for commercial purposes, but instead generates revenue through subscriptions. This is crucial for communication apps and services. If user privacy is not prioritized, it is not trustworthy. So far, no domestic address book app or service in China has been able to achieve this, and even Gmail from abroad has not achieved it (although Google has always claimed to be committed to privacy protection).

The custom domain email feature is mainly for more formal occasions. For example, when my newsletter readers send me emails, they are sent to my domain email address, which gives them a different impression. I also need to use a domain email address for work to make myself look more professional.

Creating anonymous email addresses is a feature that I can't go back from once I've used it. Not only because my password manager software Bitwarden can directly create anonymous email addresses through Fastmail's API. Every time I register an account on a website, I create a new anonymous email address so that I can know which website sent me an email (sometimes it's hard to tell just by looking at the content of the email); if I suddenly receive spam, I can also know which website leaked it. I also use anonymous email addresses to subscribe to several important paid newsletters, and it is intuitive and convenient to manage them in different categories.

The ability to manage other email accounts in one place is the most difficult feature for me to give up on Fastmail. I can import most email accounts and receive them in Fastmail, and I can also set them up to send emails using other email accounts. For example, if I receive an email from Gmail in Fastmail, I can simply choose to reply using my Gmail address. This way, I don't have to open other email accounts and can read and reply to emails directly in Fastmail.

These five points are the key reasons why I subscribe to and use Fastmail.

Readwise

Although I have been using it for a long time, I didn't start subscribing to Readwise until August last year. If it was just this app, I probably wouldn't pay for it. The important thing is the Reader feature it introduced, which I couldn't resist, and I haven't found a truly viable alternative product.

Readwise and Reader have become integrated into my workflow and have become a crucial part of it.

Firstly, Readwise can aggregate all my highlights, whether it's browsing web pages, reading PDF documents, or reading e-books in iBooks. I habitually highlight some text or write simple notes. Later, these highlights are directly synced to Heptabase, waiting for me to further organize them. In the knowledge base of my column, I also sync Readwise to Obsidian for readers to browse. Currently, neither open-source omnivore nor domestic apps like Cubox and Xin Zhi can achieve these three points.

Secondly, Reader is truly the best reader. I use it for in-depth reading of web pages, reading later, RSS, PDFs, ePubs, Twitter, and YouTube. There is no such app in China, and there is only one in the world. Previously, I would use DEVONthink to clip some reading content locally, but now I can just store it in Reader, and only keep the most important ones locally.

Therefore, Readwise is also of great significance to me. To some extent, if I had to choose between Fastmail and Readwise, I would definitely choose the latter.

Heptabase

Since last year, Heptabase has been my main note-taking software, and it is getting better and better, and I love it more and more.

Heptabase does not offer App Store subscriptions, which made it much easier for me to migrate subscriptions.

The first time I clearly felt that notes can blossom was when I started using Heptabase. Before that, whether I was using Evernote, Notion, or Obsidian, I didn't have that clear feeling. Now, whether it's writing blogs, columns, newsletters, or working, I basically start by organizing cards on the whiteboard in Heptabase to sort out my thoughts. Using a whiteboard is different from the maps in Obsidian. Maps can discover subtle connections between cards, especially those that are overlooked. But the whiteboard is a medium-scale perspective, focusing on the current project to discover and create.

Poe and Raycast

The reason I put these two apps together is that they both have AI features and are subscribed through their official websites.

Since my ChatGPT account was deleted, I haven't thought about subscribing again and have replaced it with Poe. Now, Poe has been integrated into my workflow very well, and I have also recommended it to many friends.

In the AI era, there should always be one or two handy tools at hand. I don't need those AI tools that are tailored to a specific profession or industry yet, Poe is enough for me. To be honest, I can't even use up the quota every month, and I always feel like it's a waste.

Raycast, as a launcher, is an essential app for macOS. After the AI feature was launched, I directly subscribed to Raycast Pro and also purchased the additional package for GPT-4. Because it is deeply integrated with the system, I frequently use Raycast AI to create several AI comments to complete various types of tasks. My three computers at home are all logged in to my account and used together with Zeze, so the price doesn't seem that high.

Now, some functions on Poe are not yet available on Raycast AI, such as uploading files and supporting long texts. So I have to keep both of them. Once Raycast AI can also read files and support long texts, I can unsubscribe from Poe.

Inoreader

I have been using this RSS tool for many years. I bought it through their official website for a year when there was a discount last year. It's very useful, but I won't renew it anymore.

Because the significance of Inoreader to me is decreasing. RSS subscriptions and reading can be achieved through Readwise Reader, Reeder, and the Telegram RSS bot I built.

There are two advantages of Inoreader that prompted me to purchase it last year: integration with Readwise, and highlighting and filters. However, the former only saves me a few steps, and I don't use the latter much. So it's not worth wasting money anymore.

Spotify

I have been using Spotify for over ten years. I used to subscribe to it alone, but now I share the subscription with others.

The reason why it is difficult for me to switch to another music app is that there is no other app that understands me like Spotify does. Perhaps it's because I have been using it for a long time. But no matter if it's NetEase Cloud Music, QQ Music, or Apple Music, no matter how I use them, they are not as good as Spotify. The six daily recommended playlists updated every day and the weekly new discovery playlist often bring me surprises.

Music is of great significance to me. I listen to music when I'm sad, anxious, and when I want to relax. Although I don't spend a lot of time on music apps every day like many of my friends, I listen to music for several hours every week.

Perhaps, with the adjustment of Spotify's pricing, the shared subscription price may also increase. I will consider stopping the subscription and switching to Apple Music. But so far, I choose to maintain the status quo.

Bear and Notion

I stopped using Bear for a long time, and I paid for another year before the Bear 2.0 update this year. At that time, Apple Notes was not as good as it is in iOS 17. Now, it doesn't have much meaning to me. Whether Bear continues to be available in the Chinese region or not, I won't pay for it anymore.

Notion has been serving as my "housekeeper" for a long time. I record many aspects of my life in Notion, such as diaries, reading progress, and shopping records. I also used Notion to build my blog for over a year. Honestly, no other note-taking app has an editing experience that surpasses Notion.

I purchased Notion AI, but I basically only use it to write summaries of blog articles, and I rarely use it. This is also my biggest regret this year.

Now, Notion and Notion AI can be replaced by other apps, and there is no need to pay for them anymore.

What is the significance?

After all the rambling, I want to say that the overseas paid apps I use are either because there are no domestic apps that can replace them in terms of functionality, or I need multiple domestic apps to achieve the same effect as one overseas paid app.

It's not that I must use apps developed by overseas teams. There are also very useful domestic apps, such as those developed by Tula Ding, Baye, and Caiyun. Unfortunately, the apps they develop cannot fully integrate into my current workflow or are not enough to support a part of my workflow.

In addition, I also want to say that why are users willing to pay, willing to subscribe year after year? It's because the app brings continuous value to users, so users will also continuously give feedback value to the app and developers. At least, that's how I feel.

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