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New App Store Rules From Apple, Same Old Concerns For Developers

#App #Store #Rules #Apple #Concerns #Developers

Apple, famous for its tightly controlled App Store experience on iOS and iPadOS devices, recently implemented a series of last-minute policy changes that have generated a wave of mixed reactions from the developer community.

Apple, which has been under fire from the DMA, was recently required to introduce iOS sideloading changes and alternative app stores. Today, the tech giant has made some more changes to the App Store’s policy to comply with the DMA’s new rules.

While some developers see these updates as a positive step towards increased transparency and flexibility, others remain wary of the potential limitations and persisting concerns surrounding in-app purchase fees.

Apple App Store changes

Apple wants to increase the transparency surrounding how in-app purchase options work.

In response to this change, developers will be required to clearly explain what users will get when making in-app purchases. They must also show how those purchases might differ in pricing or functionality compared to buying directly from the developer’s website or alternative platforms.

Rules about how apps deal with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are now more clearly defined. Apps are permitted to allow users to view and browse their NFT collections. However, any transactions related to buying or selling NFTs within an app must continue to use Apple’s in-app purchase systems – and will, therefore, incur the associated commission fees.

New App Store rules and changes Apple
Apple recently implemented new App Store policy changes in response to regulatory pressure (Image credit)

Developers gain a new option with the ability to create ‘unlisted apps’. These apps cannot be found through standard searches on the App Store. Instead, users will need a direct link from the developer in order to access and install the app. This feature could potentially allow for more private or specialized app distribution models.

While not a direct change to the App Store itself, Apple appears to be relaxing longstanding restrictions on third-party browser engines. This change could have significant long-term impacts on how apps and web-based experiences can function and interact within the iOS ecosystem.

Where is the catch?

While some of these changes provide new opportunities, a significant sticking point remains—Apple’s in-app purchase commission. Developers who facilitate in-app transactions are subject to Apple’s commission, often up to 30% of the sale price.

This cut into revenue has been a consistent source of contention amongst developers, with some opting to either avoid in-app features or raise prices to offset the costs.

What are developers saying?

The response from the developer community to these changes has been varied.

Some developers express deep frustration with the continued obligation to utilize Apple’s in-app purchase systems. Many consider the commission fees exorbitant and an unnecessary burden on their businesses.

Others, while not thrilled about the commissions, understand Apple’s perspective. They recognize that Apple provides a valuable platform and marketplace for their apps.

Developers see the potential in ‘unlisted apps’ and possible future relaxation of browser engine rules. These changes could open doors for specialized app distribution and more unique web-based experiences within the iOS ecosystem.

New App Store rules and changes Apple
Developer responses to the App Store changes are mixed (Image credit)

DMA ‘rules’

Apple’s adjustments to App Store policies don’t occur in a vacuum. The company faces intense antitrust scrutiny and mounting legal pressure in numerous territories and DMA decisions on gatekeepers have led to lots of changes for tech giants.

As a matter of fact, all six designated gatekeepers, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and ByteDance, had to go through a series of changes.

Here is a quick rundown:

Alphabet (Google)

  • Customers will have upfront options to select their preferred search engine and web browser on their Android devices
  • Google Search will include more prominent links to comparison websites when customers look for things like flights or hotels
  • Customers will have clearer choices about how their data is shared across Google products like YouTube, Search, and their advertising network

Apple

  • While likely with restrictions, iOS will start allowing app installation from sources other than Apple’s App Store
  • Customers will be able to use web browsers not built on Apple’s WebKit technology and choose their default browser
  • Apps beyond Apple Pay will be able to use NFC technology for contactless payments

Meta

  • Customers might gain the option to pay a fee to get an ad-free Facebook and Instagram experience
  • Meta is gradually rolling out more options for customers to control how their data is used for things like targeted advertising
  • Meta is working to allow messaging between WhatsApp and other platforms, but the timeline is uncertain

Amazon

  • Customers will be explicitly asked for consent to use their data for personalized advertising
  • Advertisers will get more detailed reports about their ad placements and related fees
  • Advertisers will get a way to verify their campaigns’ success in a way that aims to prioritize customer privacy
New App Store rules and changes Apple
DMA’s recent decisions have big tech companies straightening their ties (Image credit)

Microsoft

  • Customers will be able to disable Bing search within Windows, uninstall Edge, and use other search tools
  • Companies can add their own content to the Windows Widget board

ByteDance (TikTok)

  • Customers will be able to move their TikTok data (like posts and followers) to other apps more easily
  • Customers will get a better tool for downloading their personal TikTok information in bulk

How the policy changes will continue to evolve is uncertain but one thing is clear: Pressure for greater flexibility and autonomy will persist.

It’s up to the mentioned gatekeepers to balance its desire for control with the increasing demands from developers, regulators, and ultimately, their users.


Featured image credit: Zhiyue/Unsplash.