Apple today announced that the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) has agreed to close its App Store investigation in exchange for changes to how “reader” apps like Netflix operate. Reader apps allow users to browse previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video.
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Going forward, developers that create “reader” apps will be able to include an in-app link to their website for users to either set up or manage an account, and signup using a non-App Store payment method will be possible. Apple says that this change will be applied globally to all reader apps on the ‌App Store‌.
Because reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase, Apple has agreed to let these apps share just one link to their website for “account management” purposes.
“Trust on the App Store is everything to us. The focus of the App Store is always to create a safe and secure experience for users, while helping them find and use great apps on the devices they love,” said Phil Schiller, Apple Fellow who oversees the App Store. “We have great respect for the Japan Fair Trade Commission and appreciate the work we’ve done together, which will help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up and manage their apps and services, while protecting their privacy and maintaining their trust.”
Apple says that prior to when the change goes into effect in 2022, the ‌App Store‌ guidelines and the review process will be updated to “make sure users of reader apps continue to have a safe experience on the ‌App Store‌.” Apple plans to help developers of reader apps “protect users when they link to an external website to make purchases.”
Apple last week paid $100 million and agreed to make minor changes to its ‌App Store‌ policies to settle a class-action developer lawsuit. The money is going to a “fund” for small developers, who will receive payments from Apple.
Under the terms of that deal, Apple will let developers use communication methods like email to tell customers about payment methods available outside of iOS apps, and it will expand the price points that developers can offer for apps, in-app purchases, and subscriptions. Apple also plans to release annual transparency reports on the app review process.
The “reader” app change introduced today is a much more significant victory for Apple developers because it will allow apps to provide an in-app link to a website where a purchase can be made outside of the ‌App Store‌. This will be available for apps like Spotify and Netflix, and it addresses one of the biggest issues that developers have with the ‌App Store‌. Once implemented in 2022, a huge swath of developers will have an option to offer non-App Store signups to avoid the 15 to 30 percent cut that Apple takes from each transaction.
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