As part of a proposed agreement to resolve a class action lawsuit from US app developers, Apple says iOS developers will finally be able to contact their customers, with permission, using information collected inside their apps. The change will mark a major shift to the anti-steering policy that has been a significant point of contention between Apple and its critics for 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,” Apple said in its press release. “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.”
The company is making a number of other commitments as part of the proposed agreement for Cameron et al v. Apple Inc.:
- One is a promise to keep the App Store Small Business Program, which allows developers who earn less than $1 million in a year to apply for a reduced 15 percent commission from their sales, in place in its “current structure” for at least the next three years.
- Apple is making a fund to assist US developers who have earned $1 million or less “for all of their apps in every calendar year in which the developers had an account between June 4, 2015, and April 26, 2021.” Apple putting $100 million into the fund, called the Small Developer Assistance Fund, according to the proposed settlement.
- The company will publish an annual transparency report about the App Store. Apple says the report will include “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.” It’s unclear when the first report will be released, but the company is committing to releasing the report for at least three years.
- Developers will be able to set more than 500 price points for subscriptions, in-app purchases, and paid apps. Right now, they’re limited to fewer than 100, so the jump will allow developers to offer a wider range of prices.
- Apple is committing to keep the current App Store Search system in place “for at least the next three years.”
- The company will add more information about the app appeals process to the App Review website to “help developers understand how the appeals process works.”
The proposed changes come on the heels of another big App Store change announced Thursday: Apple announced that it will take a 15 percent cut of publishers’ in-app purchases and subscriptions if they join Apple News instead of 30 percent.