Adobe bundles mobile Photoshop, Illustrator, Spark and Fresco for $15 a month

The Design Mobile Bundle is for a new class of customer who's not interested in Adobe's PC apps, the company says in an exclusive interview.

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Stephen Shankland
3 min read
A sampling of Adobe Fresco art

A sampling of Adobe Fresco art


Adobe has a new way to sell you Photoshop for iPhones and iPads plus three other mobile apps. For a monthly cost of $15, the new Design Mobile Bundle that Adobe announced Tuesday combines the image editing app with Illustrator for design tasks, Fresco for drawing and Spark for short punchy videos.

Years ago, Adobe cemented its dominance by bundling its desktop software titles like Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat into its Creative Suite packages. Making a similar move with its mobile apps signals that the company considers them mature enough -- and appealing enough to a significant market -- to stand on their own. The mobile revolution is real, with mobile apps having been downloaded more than 450 million times so far, so now Adobe is pursuing the mobile business more earnestly.

"There is a net new customer that has come in using mobile only," Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky said in an exclusive interview. "We've seen this different cohort of customers who prefer the simpler interface of iPad."

The new Design Mobile Bundle likely will be followed by other packages. That could include bundles for tasks like 3D design or video creation, he said.

The bundle is half the price of getting the apps individually -- Photoshop, Spark and Illustrator each cost $10 per month, while Fresco is either free in a basic version or included with Photoshop in premium form. It also includes 100GB of online storage, Adobe's broad library of fonts and the ability to publish work at its Adobe Portfolio and Behance sites. Subscribers who pay for a full year get a $30 discount to $149 per year.

For those who don't want a mobile-only plan, the bundle's apps also are included in Adobe's full Creative Cloud subscription. That costs $53 per month and includes all of Adobe's desktop and mobile software, like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, InDesign, Acrobat and Lightroom.

Getting Adobe mobile apps into shape

It took a long time to get the apps and their Creative Cloud underpinnings into shape, Belsky acknowledged. Earlier incarnations of the mobile apps were "atomized islands," standalone tools that didn't dovetail with PC apps most customers also used.

"To really crack this code, every product needs to become a multisurface system," a tool that works on the screens of lots of different devices, Belsky said. "I can't tell you how many times I had to say that over the last three and a half years."

Adobe is a trusted player in the creative world, but its position is by no means unchallenged.

H.R. Brisard, a freelance developer who uses the mobile Photoshop Express app for quick edits to images for social network posts, said he picked Adobe's tool because "I pretty much trust the brand in the midst of the million apps out there." But he already pays for a Creative Cloud subscription, which includes the mobile version of Photoshop. If he had to pay for mobile Photoshop on its own, he'd probably look elsewhere. "There are some pretty competent free apps," he said.

Only for iPad and iPhone

The Design Mobile Bundle only works on Apple mobile devices, at least for now. Android versions of individual apps are available, though.

Although the bundled apps stand on their own, Adobe is happy to see people upgrade to the full Creative Cloud subscription. Some existing subscribers like using one version of the app while on the bus or at a photo shoot, then picking up with the PC version when they get back to their office, Belsky said.

Adobe has faced complaints that its mobile apps are a feebler alternative to their PC-based siblings. But Adobe has worked to improve them, with 24 updates to Photoshop on iPad since its initial release. Photoshop is rated 4.3 out of 5 stars on Apple's app store, with Spark at 4.5, Illustrator at 4.6 and Fresco at 4.7.

As an example of listening to customers, Adobe said it's added the ability to rotate the canvas that houses the work in progress in Illustrator and Photoshop. It'll bring that feature to Illustrator on PCs, too. Also coming soon will be an animation option for Fresco, the drawing app that works on iPads and Windows tablets.