Apple and developers in the United States agree to sweeping changes to the App Store

The App Store has been the focal point of a lot of scrutiny lately. And it appears that Apple is finally ready to start making some changes based on that feedback, at least in part. Today, the company has announced some major changes coming to the digital storefront, all thanks to an agreement with developers in the United States.

In light of a class-action lawsuit put against Apple via a variety of different developers in the U.S., and pending court approval, Apple has come to terms with those developers to build a better App Store, that, according to Apple, will “support businesses” and yet retain the “great experience for users.” Apple’s official press release today says the company “respects the ongoing judicial review process,” and adds that Apple also “appreciates the developer feedback and ideas that helped inform the agreement.”

As for the changes? Well, it’s quite a lot, and many of them are direct responses to what we’ve seen many raise concerns about. That starts with allowing developers to share various purchase options with users from within the iOS app. The agreement also allows developers to expand “the price points developers can offer for subscriptions, in-app purchases, and paid apps.” Apple will also launch a new fund to assist qualifying developers in the United States.

From today’s announcement, Apple’s Phil Schiller weighed in:

From the beginning, the App Store has been an economic miracle; it is the safest and most trusted place for users to get apps, and an incredible business opportunity for developers to innovate, thrive, and grow. We would like to thank the developers who worked with us to reach these agreements in support of the goals of the App Store and to the benefit of all of our users.

There are seven “key priorities” that Apple believes are crucial to address following the dialogue between the company and the U.S.-based developers. Here are the major bullet points:

  • In a validation of the App Store Small Business Program’s success, Apple and the developers agreed to maintain the program in its current structure for at least the next three years. Businesses earning less than $1 million annually will continue to benefit from the reduced commission, while larger developers pay the App Store’s standard commission on app purchases and in-app payments.
  • App Store Search has always been about making it easy for users to find the apps they’re looking for. At the request of developers, Apple has agreed that its Search results will continue to be based on objective characteristics like downloads, star ratings, text relevance, and user behavior signals. The agreement will keep the current App Store Search system in place for at least the next three years.
  • To give developers even more flexibility to reach their customers, Apple is also clarifying that developers can use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS app. As always, developers will not pay Apple a commission on any purchases taking place outside of their app or the App Store. Users must consent to the communication and have the right to opt out.
  • Apple will also expand the number of price points available to developers for subscriptions, in-app purchases, and paid apps from fewer than 100 to more than 500. Developers will continue to set their own prices.
  • Apple will maintain the option for developers to appeal the rejection of an app based on perceived unfair treatment, a process that continues to prove successful. Apple has agreed to add content to the App Review website to help developers understand how the appeals process works.
  • Over the last several years, Apple has provided a great deal of new information about the App Store on Apple agreed to create an annual transparency report based on that data, which will share meaningful statistics about the app review process, including the number of apps rejected for different reasons, the number of customer and developer accounts deactivated, objective data regarding search queries and results, and the number of apps removed from the App Store.
  • Apple will also establish a fund to assist small US developers, particularly as the world continues to suffer from the effects of COVID-19. Eligible developers must have earned $1 million or less through the US storefront for all of their apps in every calendar year in which the developers had an account between June 4, 2015, and April 26, 2021 — encompassing 99 percent of developers in the US. Details will be available at a later date.

This is a major change for Apple, and one that, by all accounts, only surfaced due to the legal matter brought against the company. But, it’s at least a start. It’s worth noting that Apple is facing pushback outside of the United States as well. In South Korea, for instance, the government is looking to enact the Telecommunications Business Act, which would bar Apple and Google from forcing developers to use their own payment systems. And Apple’s also facing scrutiny in the European Union as well.

So, what do you think? Is this good for Apple, developers, the App Store, and users?