Reddit client Narwhal tries $4 monthly pricing to navigate API changes

The developer admits it’s an ‘experiment.’

Narwhal 2 / App Store

Third-party iOS Reddit app Narwhal introduced a $4-per-month subscription plan that will take effect in the next week or two. The developer announced the plans Tuesday on Reddit (via The Verge). The pricing is designed to allow the developer to cover Reddit’s widely disparaged API fee hikes, which led to mass online protests earlier this year and the shutdown of the beloved client Apollo.

The app’s developer, who uses the handle u/det0ur on Reddit, wrote that the pricing was “definitely an experiment” as they try to keep their app afloat. “If I absolutely have to, I will transition to some other plans,” Narwhal’s creator wrote. “But I want to try this first.”

The developer had previously announced tiered pricing based on users’ API calls, but u/det0ur scrapped that after realizing how cumbersome that would be for users. “[Let’s] be real, the 2003-esque cell phone plan with monitored usage just isn’t great,” the developer wrote in a separate post from last week. “Who wants to even worry about what an API Call is? Let alone how much it will cost.”

However, API calls are an inescapable financial reality for third-party developers hoping to offer users an alternative to the official Reddit client. Reddit revealed its maligned API changes this spring, which led Apollo developer Christian Selig to say the updated pricing would cost him $20 million to keep the app going “as-is.” More than 6,000 subreddits went dark to protest the changes, but (unlike Unity’s recent walkback) Reddit dug in its heels and weathered the storm, leading to Apollo’s closure and the forced reopening of communities that continued to protest.

Users switching to Narwhal sound pleased with the pricing and the app. “The customization options are great; I have been able to ‘rebuild’ Apollo as closely as possible,” wrote u/Neryuslu. “You’re the first developer ever to get a monthly sub from me. I have refused this model so far, but in this case it’s obviously different. Still sucks to indirectly pay Reddit like this. Fuck you, u/spez,” they wrote, referring to the handle of Reddit CEO Steve Huffman.