Apple’s U-turn over in-app subscription charges

9 Jun 2011

Apple appears to have made a major U-turn on its policy regarding publishers having the ability to offer subscriptions for content outside the App Store. As long as the apps don’t include a ‘buy’ button that directs users away from the App Store, publishers can press ahead.

Apple caused a storm of controversy in February when it issued new subscription service guidelines. Under the guidelines, when a user subscribes to content through the App Store, Apple keeps a 30pc share of the price. And while publishers can offer a digital subscription on their own website and keep a 100pc share, Apple insists this deal must be the same or not as good as what is being offered inside the App Store.

The Californian tech giant has, however, apparently softened its stance – perhaps realising staying on the good side of publishers can have its rewards.

The new in-app rules

It has just emerged from the WWDC that publishers can price in-app subscriptions as they see fit or circumvent the system by selling them outside their apps.

While Apple will still receive 30pc of royalties from what’s sold in-apps, the publisher can hold onto the money made from purchases outside of its domain.

As long as there is no button or external link in the approved app to purchase content on external sites, Apple will not receive a portion of the revenues for content purchased outside of the app.

Apps that link to an external app or site with a buy button, for example, will be rejected.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years