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Apple’s new App Store change will let some developers avoid Apple’s fees

Published Sep 2nd, 2021 7:31AM EDT
App Store Netflix
Image: Apple Inc.

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It’s been a few tumultuous days for digital app stores that provide smartphone users with all sorts of content. Apple just announced a settlement with US developers. The most significant App Store change coming out of that is allowing developers to collect contact information from apps. Then South Korean lawmakers passed a bill that will ban Apple and Google from forcing apps to use their in-app payment systems. Finally, Apple settled an antitrust case with the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC). This will bring a significant change to the way “reader” App Store apps like Netflix, Spotify, and others work.

Apple announced the JFTC closed its App Store investigation in a press release. Separately, the Japanese regulator issued an announcement confirming the deal.

The settlement will impact only reader apps, which customers use to access content that needs membership or subscription. These apps do not feature in-app purchases, but they’re useless without an account and active subscription. Such apps include Netflix and all video streaming apps, Spotify and music streaming apps, and Kindle and e-book readers apps.

What the new App Store change means for your Netflix experience

Apple agreed to allow these reader apps to display a single link inside their iPhone apps. Users will be able to visit the developer’s website to sign up.

For example, an app like Netflix can now offer a link to Netflix’s website. The user can access it to get a new subscription. The Netflix app only lets you sign into your account currently. This gateway will let buyers purchase a new subscription directly from Netflix, bypassing the App Store commission.

Again, it’s not just Netflix that’ll see an impact. The new App Store rule will affect all streamers — Apple explains:

To ensure a safe and seamless user experience, the App Store’s guidelines require developers to sell digital services and subscriptions using Apple’s in-app payment system. Because developers of reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase, Apple agreed with the JFTC to let developers of these apps share a single link to their website to help users set up and manage their account.

The new rules only impact new subscribers

If you have active subscriptions with streaming services, you’re unlikely to see any changes.

But if you’re a new Netflix user downloading the app from the App Store on iPhone and iPad, you’ll find a link that lets you sign-up for the service from Netflix’s website.

The change will go into effect in early 2022, Apple said. The App Store guidelines and review process will receive updates to “make sure users of reader apps continue to have a safe experience on the App Store.”

Apple insists that in-app purchases “through the App Store commerce system remain the safest and most trusted payment methods for users.” But the company will also “help developers of reader apps protect users when they link them to an external website to make purchases.” It’s unclear what that means, however.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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