ramblings of joe / posts

Can we talk about the App Store?

An image showing the iOS, Safari, and App Store logos (source: Apple's press release about the DMA)

There has been a lot of press around changes to the App Store lately.

First there was a US court decision that forced Apple into allowing apps to include an “alternate payment link”, and just yesterday they announced a sweeping set of changes coming to the EU App Store due to the Digital Markets Act (DMA) that is scheduled to come into effect in March.

Both of these legally mandated changes are being implemented in such a way as to do the absolute bare minimum required and make everyone who decides to use the new options pay for it.

To sum this up: the way they’re “complying” with these legal directives is by grumbling “we’ll show them”, and then proceeding to take it out on the people and teams that are trying to build software for a platform they care about, that have contributed to making Apple one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Political maneuvering at it’s finest [as long as we end up mad at the legislators and judges, and not the angry mob boss trying to convince us they’re trying to help].

What’s the solution?

In my opinion, Apple can fix this. Instead of doing the minimum their legal teams are advising them they can get away with, how about rethinking the way the Apple to Developer relationship works all the way to the core. Instead of justifying why 15-30% is a fair fee, open up the market and offer a compelling service that people will line up to pay for.

There are plenty of things I would gladly pay Apple for as an indie developer:

With the exception of preferential search placement2, this is arguably most of what Apple currently provides as part of their App Store commission (15-30% of revenue). The problem is, if I want to ship an iPhone app, I don’t have a choice to use a competing service for most of these offerings.

If Apple’s in-app purchase flow is better for a customer than say, a Stripe checkout page, it should be able to stand on it’s own merits. Before working on iPhone apps, I spent some time working in eCommerce and checkout conversion is one of the main things you work to optimize. If Apple was able to offer an in-app checkout flow that converted 10% better than a Stripe flow, I would use Apple’s and pay them a similar cut to what Stripe would charge me.

The same goes for any other thing I listed (and I’m sure many more):

I could go on and on, but the point is the same: If Apple is providing such a compelling service to developers, why are they shielding themselves from competition by continuing to operate in a monopolistic way?

And again, because it can’t be said enough: the plethora of good apps available for Apple platforms is a boon, not a burden for Apple. Apple is able to continue selling their devices for record profits year after year in part because of the vibrant third-party app ecosystem enabled by the very developers and teams they’re scorning.

  1. And to be clear, my take that they are intentionally dissuading people from the new pricing structure is generous to Apple. Once you opt in to the new pricing structure, you are unable to opt out, meaning that it’s likely many developers will opt into the new pricing only to end up paying much more than they would under the current terms, and have no real options. ↩︎

  2. Which they will sell you for additional fees in the form of different App Store ad units. ↩︎