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Apple finally lets apps like Netflix use their own subscription payment services

Published Mar 31st, 2022 2:24PM EDT
iPhone 13 Pro Display
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Apple settled an antitrust case in Japan last summer, promising that so-called reader apps would get a big change in early 2022. Apple would allow iPhone apps like Netflix, Spotify, and others to link to their websites for the first time ever. This procedure would let customers create accounts on these platforms and even subscribe to them directly, without using the App Store’s payment platform. That means Apple won’t get a cut of in-app sales that follow this path.

Apple has finally made the App Store changes that allow developers to take advantage of the feature. Soon, iPhone reader apps like Netflix will let users sign up and manage their accounts in a browser outside of the apps.

Is the Netflix app free on iPhone?

Netflix and all apps that fall into the “reader” category are available for free on iPhone and Android. You don’t buy these apps to access their content. Instead, you subscribe to various services and open the door to movies, music, books, or whatever other digital content is sold via reader apps.

All you need to access content from Netflix is a subscription. Before Apple’s change to the App Store rules, Netflix couldn’t tell you where to create an account or link from the app to its own website so you could sign up or manage your subscription. It was up to the user to figure out that they had to go to a browser to create an account and get a subscription. Netflix didn’t want to pay Apple the in-app payment fee that would have resulted from an iPhone subscription.

Netflix is a prime example, but the same goes for any other reader app that offers access to digital content. It might be Spotify for music or Kindle for books. Until this week, Apple wouldn’t let these reader apps link to their own sites on iOS.

But Apple has now implemented the App Store changes that it promised back in early September 2021. Half a year later, iPhone and iPad apps like Netflix can finally link to their main websites to initiate signups from inside the app. These links will take the user to the app’s official website, where they can create an account and sign up for a subscription.

Example of information screen reader apps like Netflix will have to display on iPhone when showing external links
An example of information screen reader apps like Netflix will have to display on iPhone when showing external links. Image source: Apple Inc.E

The new App Store rules

Again, only new users will take advantage of this feature if they sign up for a service on an iPhone or iPad.

But Apple has implemented the feature in a particular way that forces the developer to respect additional rules. Reader apps looking to take advantage of the change will have to offer users the information seen in the image above.

Netflix, Spotify, Kindle, and other reader apps will have to tell customers they’ll be redirected to a website. The information screen also reminds users that any payments they’re about to make won’t go through Apple’s system. And developers also have to link to an information page from Apple that explains the risks involved with this sort of payment setup.

Furthermore, Apple prohibits developers from opening those links inside the app. Netflix might link to its own website in the iPhone app. But users clicking on the link will be redirected to the iPhone’s default browser. They’ll have to log into Netflix on Safari, Chrome, or whatever browser they use. Also, developers can’t pass any other data to the website.

Finally, Netflix can’t inform customers about the subscription prices they’ll pay outside of the main iPhone app.

You should expect to see this new iPhone app feature roll out soon in most reader apps. Since Apple just made the change, developers will need some time to update their apps to comply with Apple’s requirements. That goes for Netflix, Spotify, and every other app looking to skirt Apple’s in-app purchase fees on iPhone.

More Netflix coverage: For more Netflix news, check out our coverage of the latest new Netflix movies and series to watch.

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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