From 2022, content distribution platforms (called “reader apps” in Japan) will be authorized to include a link to their website so that their users can create or manage their account. They will thus be able to escape the Apple tax of 30% on all income generated from smartphones, including monthly subscriptions.
This update is the result of a compromise with the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), the equivalent of the Competition Authority in Japan. Although the agreement was signed in Japan, this new feature will apply to developers around the world from 2022.
Only reader apps are concerned
As Apple explains in its press release published on September 1, the applications concerned are those offering the reading of content “previously purchased” or “subscriptions to content for magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music or videos “. Spotify, Netflix and Audible are therefore among the main affected by this update.
Currently, platforms of this type are prohibited by Apple from offering links to their website allowing users to subscribe or manage their subscription directly from the application. This is the case with Netflix for example. People who have not yet subscribed to the service cannot subscribe to it through the app and must visit the Netflix website on their own.
This situation is the result of a conflict between the firm at the apple and Netflix. Indeed, from July 2018, Netflix decided to remove in-app purchases rather than continue to go through Apple’s 30% levy system on all income generated from smartphones, including monthly subscriptions. This change created a real shortfall for Apple because Netflix was one of the most profitable apps on iOS. According to Sensor Tower, it would have generated $ 853 million in 2018.
The practice remains unclear
It is still difficult to measure the scope of this future update because Apple provides very few details. It simply mentions that it “will help ‘reader apps’ developers protect users when they are referred to a website to make purchases.” Many questions therefore remain unanswered: will developers have the right to mention the price of the subscription? Will they be confined to a single link?
The announcement comes as Apple issued a series of proposals a few days ago to close a class action lawsuit initiated by a group of American developers in a California court. It proposes to allow developers to inform their users of the existence of alternative “means of payment” to the App Store. Presented as a major concession, this faculty does not generate a profound change in historically strained relations with developers, like Epic Games which is currently waging a legal battle against the company.