Apple has announced notable changes for iOS developers who sell products via the company’s App Store. From now on, developers can inform customers about ways to pay for apps and services outside of the Apple ecosystem.
“To give developers even more flexibility to reach their customers, Apple is also clarifying that developers can use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS app,” reads Apple’s press release on the matter. “As always, developers will not pay Apple a commission on any purchases taking place outside of their app or the App Store. Users must consent to the communication and have the right to opt out.”
The change comes as part of a lawsuit settlement between Apple and a group of smaller developers; the latter insisted that Apple’s App Store practices, including its pricing schemes, were monopolistic. Apple also faces antitrust scrutiny from various governments, and a verdict in its high-profile court battle against Epic Games (the creator of the ultra-popular “Fortnite”) is reportedly imminent.
Apple has some additional changes for app developers. The company will maintain its App Store Small Business Program, which charges reduced commissions for developers earning less than $1 million annually, for at least the next three years. Apple will also keep its current App Store search system the same (i.e., based on “objective characteristics like downloads, star ratings, text relevance, and user behavior signals”). The App Store ecosystem will include additional price points for subscriptions, in-app purchases, and paid apps, along with more information on how the appeals process works for app rejections.
Last but certainly not least, Apple claims it will establish a fund to “assist” smaller developers. “Eligible developers must have earned $1 million or less through the U.S. storefront for all of their apps in every calendar year in which the developers had an account between June 4, 2015, and April 26, 2021 — encompassing 99 percent of developers in the US,” read that part of the press release. “Details will be available at a later date.” That payout, which will total $100 million, was one of the conditions of settling the small-developer lawsuit that sparked these changes.
Will these changes appease developers who feel that Apple has unfairly restricted their ability to sell their work? Considering all the potential lawsuits and antitrust actions flying around, that’s literally a multi-billion-dollar question. “This offer does nothing to address the structural, foundational problems facing all developers, large and small, undermining innovation and competition in the app ecosystem,” Meghan DiMuzio, executive director of the Coalition for App Fairness, wrote in a statement reprinted in The Washington Post. (The Coalition for App Fairness includes Epic, Spotify, and other companies that have regularly criticized Apple and Google for their respective app-store policies.)
For smaller iOS developers who felt Apple’s App Store policies were too restrictive, though, these changes could prove useful—especially if they want to give their customers an alternate way to purchase software.