Apple Modifies App Store Rules Amidst In-App Payments Row

Apple has revised its App Store rules, including its in-app payment policies, amidst criticism from developers that it exerts too much control over iPhone and iPad software.

The move comes ahead of the release of iOS 14, expected later this month.

The iPhone maker is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with Epic Games, maker of the popular game Fortnite, after Epic instituted its own in-app payment system.

Apple removed Fortnite from its app store following the move and the two companies have filed lawsuits against one another.

In-app payments

In general, Apple requires developers to use its in-app payment system, from which it takes a 30 percent commission.

As a result, Microsoft and Google have withheld their game streaming services from Apple’s platform, saying the rules are too restrictive.

One of the changes announced on Friday is that game streaming services such as Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud are explicitly permitted on Apple’s platforms.

However, on iOS and iPadOS the services are treated as gaming bundles, meaning that each game offered via the streaming service must also be available independently on the Apple App Store.

Each game developer must have an independent relationship with Apple and each game must use Apple’s in-app payment system.

Microsoft said the system remains a “bad experience for gamers” under the new rules.

“Gamers want to jump directly into a game from their curated catalogue within one app, just like they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Google declined to comment.

Virtual classes

Another change affects live virtual classes purchased inside a mobile app.

Apps such as ClassPass previously allowed users to book in-person classes at establishments such as gyms.

But in the spring, the pandemic saw many establishments switch to virtual classes, after which Apple said its rules entitled it to its 30 percent cut of the proceeds, the New York Times reported in July.

Apple’s new guidelines say one-on-one live virtual classes, such as fitness training, can bypass Apple’s payment system.

But if an instructor is teaching a virtual class to a group, Apple’s payment system and fees still apply, the company said.

Apple also changed its rules for paid services, such as email, that offer a free companion app. Such companion apps can now be distributed via the App Store, even if they accompany a paid service.

Companies such as WordPress and paid email service Hey had previously said they were unable to offer a free companion app in the App Store due to Apple’s rules.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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