It is not yet the end of the “tax Apple », But it is an additional blow of plane. The firm at the apple announced Wednesday evening a new concession to the publishers of applications, more and more raised against the commission of 15% to 30% that the father of the iPhone takes on the expenses made inside his App Store.
In early 2022, some apps will be allowed to display an external link to their own website, allowing users to subscribe or manage their account without going through Apple’s payment system.
Many developers prefer transactions to take place outside the app because they bypass Apple’s commission and pocket the entire revenue. Only, the Cupertino group previously prohibited to mention this possibility or, worse, to include a link to this effect, under penalty of being ejected from the App Store.
A restricted scope
Apple’s turnaround, however, is still limited in scope. Only the so-called “Reader” apps are concerned: a very specific category, defined by Apple, in which only apps for subscribing to music, video, press or books services that do not appear. do not offer in-app purchases.
The new rule will apply in particular to a few big fish like Netflix, Spotify or the Kobo e-reader. So many powerful services that can afford to recruit subscribers only on their respective websites. From now on, a link to the site can be displayed in the app. What was strictly forbidden before.
On the other hand, apps that allow you to subscribe directly in the app (a simpler solution but which leaves Apple a large part of the margin) will still not be able to include a direct link to the outside. It will be either one (in-app purchases, subject to “Apple tax”) or the other (a link to subscribe outside).
A developer may however choose to forgo in-app purchases in order to benefit from the status of “Reader” and be able to display a link to his site. The whole thing will then be whether it generates as many subscriptions as Apple’s very efficient in-app system.
Several questions remain open. How will the old subscriber databases be managed in the event of a switch? How to justify that certain content such as video games are excluded? What will happen to Netflix, which has the status of “Reader”, but begins to enrich its video offer with streaming games, today excluded from the scope?
If Apple has never wanted to facilitate the bypassing of its own subscription and payment solutions, it is officially for reasons of security, ergonomics and respect for privacy. But it is also a question of big money.
The App Store accounts for the bulk of Apple’s “Services” category revenue. In the past nine months, this segment has brought in more than $ 50 billion in revenue. The margins are twice as important there as those of the sales of equipment (iPhone, iPad, Mac…).
It is therefore not out of gaiety of heart that the firm gives up ballast. A few days ago, it was to prevent a group action of American developers that Apple had made a minor concession by allowing them to explain to their customers by email how to pay outside the App Store. This time, it is to put an end to an investigation opened by the Japanese antitrust in 2016 that Apple is taking a new small step.
This is not the end of trouble. On Tuesday, South Korea passed a law that will allow application publishers to offer their own payment systems, a world first. India for its part opened an antitrust investigation against Apple’s payment system on Thursday. In Europe, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) could force Apple to embed several application stores on its iPhones.
At the same time, major publishers have gone to war against the pricing policy of the App Store. This is the case of Spotify, whose complaint led to an accusation of abuse of a dominant position brought against Apple by the European Commission.
This is especially the case of Epic Games, which went to American courts to claim the possibility of using payment services other than those of Apple. The verdict of this resounding trial, which could force Apple to change its practices much more radically, is expected in the coming days.