Apple has changed guidelines of its iOS developer agreement to allow in-app subscriptions outside the App Store. There’re no longer any requirements that a subscription be the “same price or less than it’s offered outside the app”. There’re no longer any guidelines about price at all. Apple also removed the requirement that external subscriptions must be also offered as an in-app purchase.
MacRumors spotted a crucial change in section 11.13 which previously required that content sold outside of the app be “also offered in the app using In-App Purchase at the same price or less than it’s offered outside the app”. This requirement, which applied to both purchased content and subscriptions, is no longer in effect and has been entirely removed from section 11.13:
Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that’s sold outside of the app, for which Apple willn’t receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP at the same price or less than it’s offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.
An Apple spokesperson confirmed to Dow Jones Newswire that the company had, in fact, revised its policies regarding In-App Subscriptions.
Content providers may offer In-App subscriptions at whatever price they wish and they’re not required to offer an in-app subscription simply because they sell a subscription outside the App Store as well.
Apple also emphasized these points in its press release announcing the In-App Subscription service. For publishers who choose to “sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app.”
With the enforcement deadline looming, this week Apple introduced updated App Store Review Guidelines, of which MacRumors has obtained a copy. The corresponding 11.13 (now 11.14) section is significantly different:
Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there’s no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple willn’t receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app
The new section 11.14 states that apps can play content “subscribed to or purchased outside of the app” as long as the app doesn’t include a way for users to go directly from the app to the outside purchasing mechanism. That’s, these apps can’t have a “buy” button that takes users to an external subscription page.
According to these new guidelines, existing subscription services such as Netflix may continue to function without offering in-app purchases. Content providers are now also free to charge whatever price they wish. For e.g., they could offer in-app subscriptions with a premium to cover Apple’s 30% cut for In-App Subscription payments.