Netflix's small iOS change is bigger than you think

Netflix logo on a smartphone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Netflix has made a small tweak to its iOS app that will now take people from the app to its website to finish signing up for a subscription.

Upon tapping the new signup button on the Netflix app, a new window appears informing people that they’re going to an external website and “will no longer be transacting with Apple”, as first spotted by 9to5 Mac. The message adds that Apple will not be responsible for anything that happens to you on the streaming service. If you want a refund or have concerns with transaction security, you’ll have to take it up with Netflix. 

9to5 Mac reports that change rolled out worldwide.

Update 7-26-2022: A Netflix representative confirmed to us that the external link is available worldwide.

iOS changes

Although a small tweak, the updated Netflix app speaks to the changing iOS environment for both developers and users alike. It shows Apple is starting to play nice with developers as it eases up on its notoriously strict App Store rules. For the everyday consumer, signing up for Netflix on iOS has never been easier.

Netflix used to allow people to directly sign up for its service via the iOS app but removed that option because of Apple’s policy of taking a 30 percent cut from all in-app purchases. Not ognly that, Apple wouldn’t allow developers to add an external link to their website to avoid that hefty fee. Users had to first purchase a Netflix subscription separately and then download the Netflix app in order to stream. This wasn’t the most arduous task, but it added unnecessary extra steps.

What was once a hard-fast rule, though, has started to loosen.

In March 2022, Apple announced a policy adjustment that would allow "reader" apps to provide links to their own subscription pages. Apple's new attitude is driven, in part, by pressure to change. There's a new Dutch law, for instance, that demands non-iOS payment options for people using dating apps in the Netherlands. Similarly, South Korea enacted a law in 2021 that allows developers to bypass Apple's fee.

At a glance, it appears Apple made the reader app change to avoid future headaches, but there is one major omission.

Analysis: what about video games?

Apple’s App Store guidelines define a reader app as one that provides a certain type of digital content as its main function. Magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video apps fall under this umbrella, but not video games.

This omission was pointed out by Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney on Twitter. He complained that since Netflix can now avoid “Apple's 30 [percent] App Tax,” why can’t video games? Epic Games sued Apple over the 30 percent cut back in 2020. The judge in the case ruled against Apple, seemingly allowing developers to implement their own third-party payment systems to avoid the fee. The court decision arguably paved the way for the March 2022 policy change, but games are still not included in the reader app definition.

We asked Apple if there are plans to extend the external link support to video games so developers can avoid the fee. All we got in return are links to the reader app definition. We then asked why video games aren't included in the definition, but we haven't heard back yet.

Speaking of which, if you’re interested in iOS video games, TechRadar has a massive list of the best ones for 2022.

Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.