The first act in the high-profile Epic Games vs. Apple lawsuit came to a close in mid-September, but the fight is far from over. Epic did not get the big iPhone App Store changes it sought, though the company has already appealed the decision. Epic did win one of the 10 counts that could have massive consequences on how digital app stores operate. The judge in the case said that Apple must allow developers to include some sort of link to an alternate payment option.
Apple is yet to detail how it might implement the changes, but some developers have already started creating solutions for third-party in-app purchase mechanisms. The big caveat is they still don’t know how Apple will modify the App Store rules to allow apps to link to alternative payment options. And Apple just signaled that it’s not looking to provide that sort of support anytime soon. Despite labeling the verdict in the Epic trial as a “huge win,” Apple is now appealing the ruling.
The iPhone App Store changes you want
Changing the iPhone App Store rules to comply with the verdict in the Epic case could allow developers to offer cheaper in-app purchases. Payment platforms that have created alternatives to the iPhone in-app payment system already advertise lower commissions than Apple’s traditional 15% to 30% fee. But the same companies have pointed out they have no guidance on how the process might work. They assume developers will have to offer their customers links to Apple’s payment systems alongside links to their own payment options.
On the other hand, payment platforms say that third-party alternatives might not really work. Developers might have to overcome a few obvious hurdles. Third-party payment processors would likely take the customer out of the app to complete a transaction. Also, buyers won’t be able to manage iPhone app subscriptions through the App Store. These are the kind of convenient features iPhone users get with the default in-app purchase system.
Apple filed a notice of appeal in the Epic Games case, asking for a stay on the injunction that would let developers link to other in-app payment systems. Federal judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers’s ruling last month gave Apple until December 9th to comply with the injunction.
A judge will issue a verdict on Apple’s appeal in November. If Apple wins the appeal, it won’t be forced to implement the change Epic and others want. A stay on the injunction would let Apple postpone compliance until the trial is finished. The appeals process could take years.
“At a high level, it is my judgment that, without thoughtful restrictions in place to protect consumers, developers, and the iOS platform, this change will harm users, developers, and the iOS platform more generally,” Apple’s senior director of App Review said in the filing.
According to CNBC, Apple representatives have said the company might change its App Store policy and engage in discussions with the judge. This would eliminate the need for an injunction.
Apple also cites concessions made as part of a separate deal with small US developers in August. The company agreed to allow app developers to collect contact information from their customers via iPhone apps. Reaching customers directly would enable developers to offer better deals and point them to alternative payment options.
Separately, Apple settled an antitrust case in Japan. The company agreed to include a link in “reader” apps like Netflix and Spotify. The links will allow iPhone and iPad users to manage their subscriptions outside the apps.