iOS developers now allowed to tell users not to use Apple’s in-app payment system

Apple has reached a settlement with a group of people who brought a class action lawsuit against the Cupertino giant— but it’s not Epic Games. Instead, this is actually a separate lawsuit between Apple and a group of US-based app developers, who had filed the lawsuit back in 2019.

The big takeaway here seems to be that Apple will finally allow app developers to contact their users and tell them about payment options besides using the in-app payment system. Historically, Apple had barred such a move, but in June this year tweaked things so that developers could contact users outside of their apps. However, developers were not allowed to tell users about alternate payment systems using contact information gathered from the app. Devs had to find user contact information from another source like social media, ads or their official website.

That changes now with Apple’s new rules, with devs now able to use contact information like user email addresses gathered from their apps. But many wanted Apple to let app developers tell users about alternate payment systems within the app itself, which their new rules still forbid. Apple’s new rules also dictate that users must first give permission to developers to collect contact information from them in the first place. This could mean that for the most part, users will likely still use the in-app payment system which collects 30% of the revenue gained by app developers.

Apple meanwhile has sort of framed this move as a good thing that they’re doing for developers. In a press release by Apple following the settlement, they say that they want to give more flexibility to their users, and so will be allowing developers to contact them outside of apps.

“To give developers even more flexibility to reach their customers, Apple is also clarifying that developers can use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS app.

As always, developers will not pay Apple a commission on any purchases taking place outside of their app or the App Store. Users must consent to the communication and have the right to opt out,” – Apple press release

Another major part of the settlement agreement between Apple and the developers is a USD 100 million payout from Apple to small time developers in general. Apple are calling it the Small Developer Assistance Fund, where the USD 100 million will be split to developers who earned USD 1 million or less for all their apps in every year in which they had an account from the 4th of June 2015 till 26th of April 2021.

While the settlement site isn’t up and running just yet, there’s already some idea about how the money could be distributed. Depending on how much the dev has earned, they stand to get between USD 250 and USD 30,000. It would also depend on how many eligible developers apply for a part of the settlement fee. Any leftover funds will go towards the Girls Who Code nonprofit.

Other parts of Apple’s press release includes a new annual transparency report based on data that they get from the App Store. This will highlight meaningful data regarding the app review process, number of apps rejected and removed and so forth. They’ll also introduce more price points for developers to choose from when implementing subscription packages and in-app purchases. Furthermore, Apple will be adding more content to their app review system so that developers can better understand how the appeal process works.

It should be pointed out though that there’s still plenty of things that Apple needs to do if they want to make their platform more developer-friendly. Apple will still be keeping their 30% cut of in-app payments, and as mentioned earlier devs still can’t tell users other payment methods in the apps themselves. They also haven’t allowed apps to steer users to the web to pay for things to bypass in-app payments.

If you’d like to view the full Apple press statement on their settlement agreement, you can read it on the Apple Newsroom.


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