Setapp is a software subscription service that allows users to access a library of Mac applications for a monthly fee. The service has been praised for its selection of high-quality apps and its low price point. This Setapp review will take a look at the pros and cons of the service to help you decide if it's right for you.
- EASE OF USE
What is Setapp and is it worth it?
I remember a time before app stores were a feature that people utilized to find their software. Finding apps that were both functional and secure was a tricky process. You used to have to use a browser’s search engine and hope that the software package you were downloading was the correct application you were looking for.
Fortunately, Apple normalized the process of seeking out new software into a centralized system called an “app store” in 2008 with the release of iPhone OS 2.0. There were precursors to this type of software system but they weren’t really made popular until smartphones flooded the market.
Since that time, app stores have made it possible for users to feel certain about their purchases and downloads. While I truly appreciate the app store as a system, I also find myself getting frustrated with paywalls that act as barriers to certain applications.
Using the Mac App Store as an example, some apps will allow you to download them for free (GET) but they have In-App Purchases that block your entry to the main features of the apps. This is where the subscription-model app store comes in handy and why Setapp by MacPaw has become one of my all-time favorite services to use.
Setapp was created in 2016 (official launch February 2017) by the development team at MacPaw (CleanMyMac X). MacPaw focuses on creating incredible software for macOS and so their app store platform is focused on that operating system. In 2020, they added iOS apps to the system.
In the first year of Setapp’s launch, the system had over 100 apps on the platform and more than 300,000 users. To date, it has more than 230 apps for macOS and iOS and more than 1 million users worldwide (as of November 2019).
The business model of Setapp is different from that of a traditional app store. It’s set up more like a media streaming service. Users pay one monthly fee and they have access to all the content — or in this case, apps — on that platform.
The philosophy behind the initiative was to give users preselected, ready-to-use software that covers both generic and job-specific tasks. Applications on Setapp are automatically updated and contain no in-app purchases or advertisements.Setapp. (2022, October 16). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setapp
The service is designed to provide a system for macOS and iOS users to find apps that will work for their daily workflow. The platform is set up for users to be able to search by task rather than by app. For example, if you search for ‘note-taking’, then a list of note-taking apps will be shown.
Setapp also has several curated lists included with the most popular tasks being highlighted. As of writing this article, the top three collections shown are Venture upgrade toolkit, Get things done, and Boost security. The apps are curated and delivered in an easy-to-use interface so that users can save time searching and spend more time working.
The system is built using Swift, Objective-C, Kotlin, and Java. Apps that are submitted for the Setapp system have different programming requirements. Read more about the individual app requirements and the framework on github.com.
MacPaw is a software development company that focuses on iOS and macOS application creation. The company was founded in Kyiv, Ukraine, and has headquarters in both Kyiv and Cyprus. The company’s core values include: create experience, stay human, and make impact. MacPaw was founded in 2008 by Oleksandr Kosovan.
The SAAS company has more than 30,000,000 users worldwide and it’s estimated that every 5th Mac on Earth has at least 1 app by MacPaw on it. MacPaw’s first commercial release, CleanMyMac is the company’s most popular app and it has more than 5 million users. One of the more unique facts about this company is that they have an in-house vintage Apple Tech Museum with 70 historical MacBooks and a number of relics such as the first iPhones and Apple design books.
- Payments Information – stored and processed by third-party payment service providers as designated by Setapp
- Usage Information – certain data about the devices you use to connect with Setapp such as location information, log data, Services and Sites Specific data, and device information
- Third-party data
- Additional information provided to Setapp – if you participate in a focus group, contest, activity, or event, apply for a job, request support, interact with our social media accounts, or otherwise communicate with Setapp
As mentioned, Setapp is a subscription-based system with monthly/annual costs incurred (outlined in the Pricing and Availability section). With a membership, users get:
- All-access pass to curated Mac and iOS apps
- No limit to the number of apps you install
- Access to one cross-platform suite with quality apps for any task
- New app additions with no change to the membership fee
- Free updates
- No ads
- Free trial available
- An easy-to-use desktop app for app discovery
- Apps searchable by task (i.e. ‘edit PDF’, etc.)
- Team plans available
- Easy cancellation/renewal
Users’ systems must meet the following requirements in order to use Setapp.
- High Sierra 10.13 (minimum)
- Catalina 10.15 and later (recommended)
- Free Disk Space: around 300 Mb for the Setapp app
- Internet Connection
NOTE: If your Mac uses macOS 10.13-10.14, an optimized version of Setapp is downloaded for you automatically. These versions receive only security updates and might differ from the latest Setapp in their look & feel, features, and workflows. Apps in Setapp may have different system requirements than the Setapp application.
Pricing and Availability
Setapp is available for macOS and iOS platforms. There are two pricing tiers — personal and teams. The personal tier is meant for single users while the team tier is designed for multiple users in the same organization.
Personal Tier: Users can purchase a single macOS subscription or a combo subscription that includes the iOS platforms, too. If you have more than one Mac machine, a Power User subscription is also an option. A 10% discount can be applied if users pay annually rather than monthly.
- Mac (1 Mac) → $9.99/mo
- Mac + iOS (1 Mac, Available on iOS devices) → $12.49/mo
- Power Users (4 Mac, Available on iOS devices) → $14.99/mo
Teams Tier: Setapp also offers a team subscription model. These options are good for one device per user per month with each extra device costing $2.49 per month.
- Monthly → $9.99/mo
- Annual → $8.99/mo
A custom pricing model can be designed by the Setapp sales team for large multinational or nonprofit organizations, too.
Free trials are available for 7 days (personal) or 14 days (teams) so that you can try the system before committing to it. At the end of the trial period, if you decide not to move forward with a paid membership, you can simply cancel the subscription.
Payment details do not have to be entered when you start your free trial — only at the conclusion of the trial period if you decide to keep the service. For more information on the free trial period, review the details on Setapp’s support page.
Education Plan: There is also an education plan/pricing available for students and teachers. If you signup with an email that ends with ‘edu’ or the email belongs to a domain of your educational institution, a 50% discount is applied to your plan pricing.
Getting started with Setapp is pretty standard. You will want to go to setapp.com to download the desktop application and set up your account. I do recommend taking advantage of the free trial option — even if you know you want to proceed with a paid subscription. You are sort of pushed to do so because any option you select for downloading or registering your account takes you to the free trial.
You’re asked to enter your email or sign in with Facebook or Google. You’ll be asked to create a password and once you click ‘continue,’ the Setapp installer will automatically start downloading. If you are required to sign in again, you will click on “Sign in to use apps” and enter your credentials.
The main application window looks a lot like the Mac App Store dashboard. I thought this was a smart design choice as it is a format that macOS users are already accustomed to using. In this main explorer view, you will see a slider with suggested content and news items and then the following headings:
- Recommended for you
- Staff Picks
- New Arrivals
- Recently Updated
In addition to the search field where users can enter any criteria they wish, the sidebar of the application window also has the following options for navigation:
- On This Mac
- All Apps
- Developer Tools
- Mac Hacks
- Writing & Blogging
- Task Management
- Personal Finance
- Available on iOS
The Setapp desktop application needs to be running in order for any apps installed through Setapp to operate. The nice thing about the function of Setapp is that you can close the main window and the app will continue running from the menu bar. From the menu bar icon, you can do a simple search or open the full explorer window.
After the installation is completed, installing apps is pretty much the same process as it is with the Mac App Store. One of the big differences is that applications installed with Setapp are placed into a Setapp folder within the Applications folder on your Mac hard drive.
There are far fewer apps in the Setapp store than in the Mac App Store. A big reason for this is that Setapp is very careful about which apps are admitted to the collection. You will usually not find two apps that have a similar function in the same category available for download. For example, there is only one VPN available through Setapp.
Is it worth it?
In my experience thus far, yes. I would consider the subscription price ‘worth it.’ I have been actively using 10 different apps through Setapp. Their total combined cost is $282.92. Some of those app costs are one-time fees, but that one-time fee doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of upgrades. The Setapp subscription affords that feature to its members.
One of those apps alone was $80 and another one has an annual subscription fee of $65. By subscribing to Setapp, I am saving 58% off of the list prices of those 10 apps alone and if I were to pay annually (rather than monthly), I would be saving 62%.
If you’re looking for a new way to manage your Mac applications, you may want to check out Setapp. This subscription model may not work well for everyone, but if you are like me and want to have full access to a fully functional app rather than a lite version, then give Setapp a try. There have been many apps I’ve wanted to use for years that I am now making use of daily thanks to Setapp.