Apple said Wednesday that so-called “reader apps,” which allow users to access libraries of content on their phones, may use external links in their apps to allow users to sign in or manage their accounts.
The move, announced last year as part of a settlement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission, applies to apps that deliver magazine, newspaper, books, audio, music or video content, Apple said. Reader apps include some of the most popular apps on Apple’s App Store, including Spotify and Netflix.
Apple previously banned app makers from encouraging users to sign up via a website. It instead forced them to use Apple’s App Store payment system, which takes between 15% and 30% of sales. The new policy allows these apps to bypass Apple’s fees by enrolling new customers directly in the app.
The change, which is now reflected in Apple’s App Store guidelines, will allow reader apps to handle their own customer management for users acquired through the app, a sticking point that app makers have complained about to regulators and in courts over. worldwide. The new policy is available worldwide, Apple said.
The rule doesn’t apply to all apps. Games that offer in-app purchases, which make up the bulk of Apple’s App Store revenue, must still use Apple’s payment system.
Apple said in a post on its developer website that interested developers can submit an application form to Apple and that Apple’s App Review process would still approve updates to the app. The link must be formatted as a standard link, not a button, and must contain the domain name of the website it points to.
Apple also has some limitations: for example, any eligible app cannot offer in-app purchases, and the app cannot provide real-time services with an individual, such as tutoring or fitness training, which are still required to use the App Store. use payments.
Apple said apps that include digital content as a feature but target other uses, such as social networking, are also not eligible for the program.
Apple requires a popup warning that “Apple is not responsible for the privacy or security of transactions with this developer” before the user exits the app.
The policy change comes after Apple’s App Store rules have been subject to intense scrutiny by courts and lawmakers around the world.
In response, Apple has made several changes to its policies and created exceptions and discounts for certain types of apps and app makers, but has failed to ground its core interest in having the right to control what software can work on iPhones, and it continues to claim that App Store charges are not just for processing payments, but also for App Store distribution and support.
In a separate blog post on Wednesday, Apple said it has also changed its policy in the Netherlands, where it has been fined nearly €50 million for failing to comply with an order from the antitrust watchdog Authority for Consumers and Markets in that country forcing it to comply. to grant permission. external links for dating apps.
Apple’s new policy does not require app makers in the Netherlands to submit a completely different version, or “binary”, that was previously mandatory.
“As we’ve said before, we disagree with ACM’s original injunction and are appealing,” Apple said in its blog post.