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Update: The developer reached out to share some context, explaining the need for a new model:

We’ve run MP for nearly five years on our own nickel — we do not received funding from the government, and despite our best efforts, the airlines never stepped up to cover our costs (although one carrier may do so shortly). We don’t sell data, and we don’t do targeted ads. Keeping the app up and running and ensuring the security is bulletproof costs real money. The approach we took is designed to let the casual user still have a free experience (either type in data or use the 7-day free trial) while implicitly asking our frequent users to buy us three lattes a year. We think that MP still offers a much more convenient and sometimes faster alternative to GE. Thanks for all of your past support, and I hope that you will reflect on the approach that we have taken as perhaps the fairest solution to a difficult dilemma. Cheers, Hans Miller, CEO Airside Mobile, Inc.

Mobile Passport Version 3.3.0 is the one to avoid — if you open up your phone today and see an option to “update” your app to take advantage of “bug fixes and improvements,” do not do it.

We’ve been huge proponents of Mobile Passport in the past. Even as a Global Entry member, I’ve found that utilizing the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s “authorized” app saved time at immigration, since a couple of major US airports offer dedicated Mobile Passport lanes — a few taps in the app, a QR-code scan, and I’m on my way in a minute or two.

Tuesday, things got considerably more complicated. This week, the app moved to a “freemium” model, as Jason Rabinowitz pointed out on Twitter this morning:

As a result, functionality that had previously been included free of charge — which makes sense for a app created in partnership with the US government — now costs $14.99 per year. Moving forward, you’ll need to pay for access to “Mobile Passport plus” if you’re hoping to utilize passport scanning and saving profiles within the app.

The free version requires that you enter details such as your passport number and expiration date manually every time you need to use the app, which is just annoying enough to make the $15 upgrade worthwhile for frequent travelers. Note that previous versions of the app still offer this functionality for free — you’re only prompted to pay if you update to 3.3.0.

As Jason points out, Mobile Passport isn’t nearly as compelling with a $15/year fee. That works out to $75 over five years, which isn’t far off from Global Entry, which costs $100 for the same period and is valid at many more ports of entry. A handful of credit cards will even cover application costs, including the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and United Explorer Card, both of which carry a reasonable $95 annual fee.

Featured photo by Greg Blomberg / EyeEm / Getty Images.

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