This article was published on August 27, 2021

Apple’s App Store policy changes are hardly a win for iOS developers

Developers can only tell you about alternative payment methods through email

Apple’s App Store policy changes are hardly a win for iOS developers Image by: Laurenz Heymann/Unsplash

Apple’s App Store policy changes are hardly a win for iOS developers who release apps on the company’s app stores for Mac and iOS, Apple has agreed to let them communicate to customers about offers and alternative payment methods via email.

The proposed settlement, which also promised a $100 million fund for small developers, is now in court for final approval. As a part of this, Apple announced some other steps such as agreeing to publish a transparency report for the App Store review process.

The most noticeable change is letting developers inform their users that they can pay for digital goods or subscriptions through alternative methods — but only through email, and not via notifications or in-app promos. This at least gives a chance for developers and customers to avoid Apple‘s hefty commission on app purchases and subscriptions, which works out to 30% for most developers.

But this might not be straightforward. As FlightyApp CEO Ryan Jones highlighted on Twitter, developers will need to ask for customers’ emails and make them opt-in to receive offers via email. And the customer would only know that they have payment method options if they open that promotional email. That’s a lot of hoops to jump through.

For years, Apple has banned apps from communicating with customers to indicate that they can pay for subscriptions through an alternative method and not pay 30% commission to it. So this is just a minor win for developers, but they’re still not allowed to directly display options of purchases in the app.

Despite a lot of backlash from developers and companies, Apple hasn’t reduced its 30% fees collected from in-app purchases. Last year, it slashed the commission to 15% for developers earning less than $1 million annual revenue. Today, the firm said it will keep this structure intact for at least three years.

Notably, Google Play Store also charges a 30% commission from developers, but on Android, the app developers can use alternative app stores to distribute their apps

All this can change if authorities can legally force Apple (and Google) to give up their dominance over commissions. Earlier this week, a parliamentary committee in South Korea voted for such an amendment in the law.

You can read the full text of Apple’s announcement here.

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