Padpodphone application licensing

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I was just recently asked to sketch out some ideas for an iPad version of a magazine. I’m still trying to decide if HTML5 is the way to go. This all got me wondering how foundries go about licensing fonts for @font-face used in iPad/iPhone/iPod apps. What determines the pricing? A magazine app would typically be free, but with paid subscriptions and/or paid single issues. And what about free previews?
I’ve been experimenting with a website using SVG fonts, which currently seems to be the only supported format for the iPad. Unfortunately, it leaves a lot to be desired. I’m not sure how much effect any hinting would have in my case, but the lack of kerning and next-to-nill support for OT features is far from impressive.

Jackson's picture

This is all new and it seems like different foundries are all trying out different approaches. This has been my approach:
Technically, the specs I've seen for ipad app development recommend using .otf files. This isn't always the case, depends on the develop. Hinting-wise, it's a rotating screen with Apple rendering, so there's not much you can do anway. For OT features, I've had to build custom non-opentype, subset (to mac roman) versions.
Licensing-wise, it depends on the method the developer is using. For otf method, I've been approaching it similar to how I would for font encapsulation for software or video games. To keep things simple and fair, I try not think too hard about how the is going to distribute/sell the app. Those numbers are almost always complete guesses and it's not worth my time to try to parse their business model (sku/month x price + views/month x ad_rate) / the imaginary value the use of the fonts add. Instead I go with a flat rate with a discount for licensing multiple styles/weights.

aluminum's picture

"What determines the pricing?"

I think you do.

There's likely no real correlation to existing models so it's kind of a wild-west area for licensing.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I’m not asking from a type designers perspective (at least not yet), so I’m probably not the one to decide. I think the fact that the iPad/Pod/Phone is a closed system should have something to say. The fonts are not available in the same way they would be if they were embedded inside an application on a regular computer, although I guess that never stopped pirates.

@Jackson:
I take it OT fonts are only used in native apps? Or does Safari support OT? You can design applications as a website in HTML5/CSS/JS packed inside a custom shell that is really no more than a webkit browser.

Jackson's picture

I was talking specifically about developing native apps. For me, it all depends on how they are using the fonts. If it's a raw font or a web format, bundled into the app (in the library or package contents), and being redistributed (as opposed to downloaded and cached) I consider it encapsulating.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Is it possible to download a webfont to the cache in an app?

aluminum's picture

There are various ways to build the apps. I can't speak for native Objective-C apps, but (at least in theory) one could use @font-face when writing an app via HTML/CSS/JS that then gets compiled via xcode.

One can also build a web app based on HTML5 browser caching where you can tell the iOS (or, more precisely, I suppose, mobile Safari) what elements should be cached for local use on the device. I'm not sure if that can include font files or not.

Some info here:

http://www.thecssninja.com/javascript/how-to-create-offline-webapps-on-t...

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Darrel, that is a very helpful article. Thanks a lot!

Since this is new terrain, I guess it's a good thing I got the discussion started.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I got in touch with the foundry in question for my project, but the price exceed the planned retail price ($5) by far. Even if we reduce the number of fonts to an absolute minimum (three) native embedding appears to be totally unfeasible.

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