Apple will let developers challenge App Store guidelines

App store revenues 2019
(Image credit: Future)

Apple will allow developers to appeal its review process and challenge App Store guidelines in a move that satisfies two criticisms of its ‘walled garden’ marketplace.

The measures ware announced alongside a slew of new developer features for the iOS 14 platform at WWDC 2020 and will come into effect this summer.

The company did not specify to TechRadar Pro what had prompted the change in approach nor what mechanism would allow developers to challenge regulations. However the news follows a public dispute with a developer and the launch of an antitrust investigation by the EU.

Apple App Store

Launched in 2008 as a marketplace for applications and games for the iPhone and iPad, the App store has developed into a vast e-commerce and software platform which generated  $519 billion (£410 bn) in 2019. This figure includes not just the cost of apps and in-app purchases, but also advertising and the sale of physical and digital goods and services generated by software.

Traditionally, the App Store has generated more revenues than rival Google Play despite the significantly greater market share of Android. The less fragmented nature of the iOS ecosystem, the closed-shop nature of the App Store, and integrated billing and payment options have all contributed, as has the fact that iPhone users tend to spend more than their Android counterparts who also have a greater selection of marketplaces to choose from.

However developers have long objected to the 30 per cent commission Apple takes from every sale and the fact there is no alternative marketplace. This means developers must accept these terms and the restrictions of the App Store if they want to sell their wares to iPhone users.

The EU investigation will examine whether this situation is unfairly restricting competition, including an obligation to use Apple’s in-app purchase (IAP) method.

This stipulation promoted a high profile incident between Apple and Basecamp’s Hey Email application. The app was initially approved but an update was blocked because users were required to sign up and pay for the service outside of the confines of the Apple ecosystem – thereby denying Apple commission.

As a multi-platform application, Basecamp believed it was entitled to the same exemptions that have been applied to the likes of Netflix, Google and Salesforce. Eventually, Apple performed a U-turn after Hey Email started to offer a free, randomised email address that worked for 14 days.

Aside from the new guideline appeals process, Apple has also promised not to block updates to existing applications because of such issues.

“For apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues,” said Apple. “Developers will instead be able to address the issue in their next submission.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.