Why Apple doesn’t allow App Store developers to bill through their own systems? The most popular answer is that Apple wants to force them to pay a 30% (15% after 1 year) subscription cut. If that’s the only reason, Apple would ease this rule already. Apple hates the negative press, and this would help with Antitrust action. It is hard for Apple to hold its ground on this. But they not going to change their mind. At least, I hope, they won’t.
I think Apple shouldn’t change this rule. Developers can do this extra work and take this hit for their customer benefit. It sucks to download an app and realise that you can’t use it until you create an account, it sucks even more if you have to create an account and pay a subscription. You should be able to try the product first, and you shouldn’t be forced to give up on your privacy. The fact that developers can’t even add a link to a web payment is annoying, but it works, it’s an effective measure to force developers to add In-App Purchase (IAP), and this is great for Apple customers who now have an easy and quick way to pay.
This rule was created for a good reason — to provide the best user experience possible. App Store was created to be better and safer than the web. I have worked in a company that didn’t want to add IAP in their app initially and added a web-based subscription for a premium tier. Eventually, our CEO changed his mind and we implemented IAP. In the end, our customers won and have more choice.
Apple knows this, they know this rule was created to simplify payments, protect user data, and automate refunds. If Apple eases these rules, there would be no motivation for companies to maintain IAP. Every App Store app will switch to its own payment system. It’s going to be a disaster, just like the web. Yes, this will give more money to devs, but it will hurt Apple customers. Customers first, developers second. Instead of raising a public stink, the HEY app should do the same everyone else is doing, introduce a free tier or add IAP — they have many options which can improve their product.
Removing the fee is also a bad solution. Maintaining App Store curation is not free, and Apple has the right to take this cut, this is how capitalism works, and that’s what allows revenue growth. Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo have been doing this for years and no one seems to complain.
The most common criticism is if the HEY app doesn’t allow to do it, why Netflix, Uber, and others can. They can because they are famous, Apple needs them. It’s better to have this inequality than allow everyone to charge money themselves. Unprecedentedly, Amazon added IAP for Prime videos, and if this rule wouldn’t exist, Amazon would never do it. I understand that Netflix can’t afford to lose 30% on every sale, they need this margin to invest in new shows. I think it is acceptable for popular companies like Netflix and Amazon to negotiate a lower fee, perhaps, even a zero fee. But this company has to be as big as Apple is.
What Apple could improve to make this matter better? Maybe they can deprecate StoreKit and allow Apple Pay for digital purchases. Maybe Sign in with Apple can play a role in this new system. It’s confusing, from a customer perspective, to have 2 different payment systems on a single platform. Why you can order food with Apple Pay but can’t buy a digital game? Refunds and subscription management would be problematic in this case, and it makes IAP a superior experience to a traditional credit card. Perhaps, if this is technically possible, and Apple could figure this out and augment IAP with Apple Pay, it could work.