Apple about to force in-app purchases only?

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There have been rumors about Apple changing their policy on secondary purchases for a while now, but after denying the Sony eBook store app the story has flared up again. As it is now you have to buy apps from the App Store but secondary purchases such as magazine subscriptions or DLC content could be bought separately. If this policy changes to require all purchases to go through Apple that will have consequences, both positive and negative, for all involved.

As it is now the App Store is pretty divided on whether in-app purchases or separate purchases are being used. Generally speaking, games rely more on in-app purchases and already established digital content publishers (such as eBook and magazine providers) use their own methods of payment. Apparently this will change to only allow in-app purchases, which will give Apple 30% of any sales. This is no doubt going to cause a lot of grief for content providers, not only because they will lose some of their profit but also because it requires a whole new system of keeping track of who did what where.

That is especially the case for those services that offer apps as a bonus to existing customers, as the new plan is much more suited for services where the app is the only platform for the service. Imagine if you have a subscription to a magazine or newspaper and that you can then log in and get the digital copy for free- if Apple enforces the new policy, it might potentially mean that content providers will pull the apps completely because it’s just a secondary platform and isn’t worth losing 30% of the subscription over. Alternately they have to split the service in two so that the iOS version will cost money by itself, but that will leave out subscribers who get the iOS version because they already have a subscription.

It’s not all bad though, and this new system does have quite a few advantages. First off, everything will be readily available and all you need to do to make a purchase is enter your password. I’ve already given you my opinion on fillable forms and this would save you from having to create a whole new account just to buy something. That in itself is the reason why I welcome this change, even knowing the downsides. Not having to fill out a hundred forms to create an account will also make it easier to do digital impulse buys and that will help sales for the providers. In fact, while looking for an app with an in-app purchase to get a illustrative picture for this article I first checked out a Pixelmag app, thought I closed ti as they asked for my email first- not something they need in my opinion, and I know others feel the same and leave such apps alone. There’s also the “top grossing” lists in the App Store which will also help promote the app further as in-app purchases brings otherwise free apps onto that list.

Another plus is that with no account to create, there’s no info for the content providers to sell. I’ve talked about Zinio before, a magazine provider that makes some extra cash by selling (or giving away) your email address to anyone who asks nicely. Despite being a massive company who’s app now comes pre-installed on some devices, their lack of discretion regarding customers’ private data forced me to give them a separate, filtered email address to get any sort of peace in my inbox. With all purchases going through Apple, such behavior will hopefully be a thing of the past.

If in-app purchases becomes the only option for selling content, we might also see a decrease in price on certain services. It’s no secret that app stores on portable devices have different pricing schemes than you’d see elsewhere in the tech world, and it’s a lot harder to justify charging $100 for 12 issues of a magazine (which is fairly common here in Norway) when you suddenly have to compete with the entire world and can’t hide behind your own website. Since Apple actually lists the most popular in-app purchases on the information page for an app, you will finally be able to see what price point subscription content is on without first installing the app. Again this is a system that some companies have exploited to hide their ridiculous pricing schemes from the general public.

Lastly there’s a an added layer of security when dealing with in-app purchases. Some companies save your credit card information and even add auto-renewal as a default option to purchases (again, Zinio, you don’t make it easy to like you) so you might end up having money drawn automatically with only a confirmation email after the fact. Just earlier today I had to go into my PayPal account and cancel a subscription to a service that uses this scam-like method of getting more money from you.

Regardless of everything listed above, Apple’s reasoning behind this alleged change is no doubt to make more money. I’m not a big fan of Apple’s 30% commission  and I think that a good app helps promote the device as much as the other way around, and no iOS device would be worth shit if it hadn’t been for the third party software. A compromise could perhaps be that Apple lowered the percentage they keep, though that isn’t likely to happen. The only thing that is 100% certain is that no matter what Apple decides, there isn’t shit that we or anyone else can do about it…

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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