Apple has announced that it will let developers of “reader” apps like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon’s Kindle app link their customers to their own sign-up website so that customers can potentially skirt Apple’s in-app payment system and its 30 percent cut.
Apple announced this in a press release where it also claimed that the move will close an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC). JFTC has confirmed the agreement in a press release of its own. JFTC said the move will “eliminate the suspected violation of the Antimonopoly Act.” Note that JFTC is the commission who has been investigating Apple since 2016.
Currently, Netflix and Spotify apps on iOS are useless if you don’t have a subscription. Both of them only offer a sign-in page without any link redirecting to their website. If someone tries to get into it, an apology message pops saying “You can’t sign up for Netflix in the app. We know it’s a hassle.” On contrary, the Amazon Kindle app offers a basic “Create a new Amazon account” page inside the app itself.
However, it does not let users buy books from there or redirect to the app. If someone still wants to buy a book, they would have to go to the mobile browser to complete the purchase.
Note that the rule change has an extremely limited scope. With it, Apple only agreed to let developers of so-called reader apps to “share a single link to their website to help users set up and manage their account.” Apple said it will “help developers of reader apps protect users when they link them to an external website to make purchases.” This suggests it will have specific guidelines on how these links will appear.
It seems Apple may slightly redefine “reader” app means. The company’s App Review Guidelines suggest that a reader app “may” allow users to access previously purchased content. This reflects Apple is only offering this exception to companies that aren’t contributing any in-app purchase commissions to Apple.
Spotify is not impressed with Apple’s move. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek tweeted on Thursday that Apple’s move is “a step in the right direction.” Daniel Ek (@eldsjal) tweeted “This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t solve the problem. App developers want clear, fair rules that apply to all apps. Our goal is to restore competition once and for all, not one arbitrary, self-serving step at a time. We will continue to push for a real solution.”
Since the new rule does not apply to games, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney believes it is unfair. Tim Sweeney (@TimSweenyEpic) tweeted “In Apple’s carefully-worded statement on safety, it’s hard to discern the rationale that this is safe while Fortnite accepting direct payments remains unsafe. Even more so if Apple deems Roblox, a game from 2006-2021 that became “an experience” mid-trial, a reader app.”
Last but not the least, Apple said the rule is not going to come into effect until early 2022.