Posts tagged with "app store"

Apple and Others Suspend Parler from Their Platforms

Saturday, Apple suspended social media app Parler from the App Store. The move followed Google’s removal of the Android version of the app from the Play Store on Friday and happened at roughly the same time that Amazon announced that it was ending Parler’s access to its cloud services.

Parler is a social network that became popular with conservatives who felt they had been unfairly treated by services like Twitter and Facebook.

On Friday, Google removed the service’s app from the Play Store, telling CNN that:

“We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the US. We recognize that there can be reasonable debate about content policies and that it can be difficult for apps to immediately remove all violative content, but for us to distribute an app through Google Play, we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content. In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”

That same day, BuzzFeed News reported that Apple had given Parler 24-hours to improve its moderation of content posted to the service, or it would be suspended. Although there were reports that Parler removed some content, it wasn’t enough for Apple. On Saturday, in a statement to TechCrunch and other media outlets, the company said:

We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity. Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety. We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.

Around the same time, Amazon announced that it would bar Parler from using its cloud services, which host Parler’s content, beginning Monday at midnight and dealing another serious blow to its future.

We are deeply saddened by the horrific events that occurred in Washington, DC last week. As a site that covers apps, we applaud Apple, Google, and Amazon for taking action to eliminate threats of violence and illegal activity from their platforms. Apps have been a force for good in the world in so many ways, but like any tool, they can be used for evil too. There should never be a place on the App Store or any other app platform for threats of violence or illegal activity.


Apple Recaps Its 2020 Services, Including the App Store’s Record-Breaking Holiday Season

In a press release today, Apple provided an update on its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services:

Now more than ever before, customers around the world have found inspiration and value in the breadth and quality of Apple’s services, which have impacted their lives in big and small ways every day. We’re incredibly optimistic about where we’re headed, and we believe that the opportunities for developers and the creative community are endless, as are the positive and meaningful benefits to our customers.

Among the highlights Apple shared are App Store revenue numbers for the 2020 holiday season, which were greater than 2019 for the same period and once again set an all-time record for single-day sales on New Year’s Day:

The trend continued over the holiday season, with App Store customers spending $1.8 billion on digital goods and services over the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, driven largely by spending on games. Customers ushered in 2021 by setting a new single-day spending record of over $540 million on New Year’s Day.

Apple also noted that developers have earned more than $200 billion since the inception of the App Store in 2008 and that it kicked off the App Store Small Business Program at the end of 2020.

In addition to apps, Apple recapped its other services:

  • Apple Music, which added several new features in 2020 that Apple says have been used by more than 90% of iOS 14 users
  • The Apple TV App, which debuted on new smart TVs and videogame consoles in 2020 and is now available on over 1 billion screens in more than 100 countries
  • TV+, which gained a dedicated tab in the TV app and was nominated for 159 awards, receiving 45
  • Apple News, which added local news for certain cities, included special coverage of the pandemic, the racial justice movement, and the US election, and added audio to News+ in 2020
  • Fitness+, which debuted just before the New Year
  • Apple Pay, which Apple says is accepted by more than 90% of US stores, 85% of UK stores, and 99% of Australian stores
  • Apple Arcade, which now has more than 140 games with games that have received more than 50 award nominations
  • Apple Books, which has over 90 million monthly active users
  • Apple Podcasts, which is available in 175 countries and 100 languages
  • iCloud, 85% of whose users have enabled two-factor authentication

Every year I’m struck that the App Store continues to set holiday season records for sales. The success of the App Store has been nothing short of remarkable, but as Apple’s press release demonstrates, Apple’s current services story today extends far beyond apps.


Microsoft Says Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Will Add Browser-Based iOS Cloud Gaming in 2021

Microsoft originally planned to bring cloud-based Xbox gaming to iOS as a native app. The company got as far as a TestFlight beta, but that ended when it became clear that Apple would not allow Xbox games to be streamed unless they were available as App Store downloads that were subject to App Review.

When Microsoft pulled the plug on the Project xCloud beta, The Verge reported that its sources said the company would shift to a browser-based solution. Now, the company has confirmed that browser streaming is indeed planned for its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, announcing that the solution would be available in 2021.

According to Microsoft’s Jerret West:

In Spring 2021, we will take the next step in our journey to reach more players around the world by making cloud gaming as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate available on Windows PCs through the Xbox app and browser, and iOS devices through mobile web browser. By adding over a billion devices as a path to playing in the Xbox ecosystem, we envision a seamless experience for all types of players; whether it’s playing Minecraft Dungeons with your Xbox friends using touch controls on an iPhone, or jumping into a Destiny 2: Beyond Light strike on a Surface Pro when you have a break between meetings.

Microsoft isn’t the first to offer console videogame streaming via the browser. Nvidia’s GeForce NOW and Amazon’s Luna service are available on iOS and iPadOS via Safari, with Google’s Stadia service coming next year too.

It’s a testament to the importance of the iPhone and iPad as platforms for game streaming and the power of their hardware that Microsoft and others are willing to work around Apple’s App Store restrictions by developing progressive web apps. However, it’s also disappointing. There’s a place for console gaming on iOS and iPadOS, and Microsoft, Sony, Google, Amazon, Nvidia, and others should all be able to compete in the App Store on equal footing with other native apps and games. Perhaps we’ll get there someday, but for now, the gaming landscape on iOS and iPadOS remains fractured and likely confusing for many users.

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Family Sharing of In-App Purchases and Subscriptions Is Now Available

Yesterday, thanks to the excellent information storage and management app Keep It, Federico discovered that Apple had activated Family Sharing of In-App Purchases, including subscriptions.

First announced at WWDC in June, the new feature expands what’s included as part of Family Sharing. Previously, In-App Purchases, including subscriptions, were excluded. Now, however, there’s a toggle in Settings → iCloud → Subscriptions that permits sharing of new subscriptions automatically with family members. Family sharing of subscriptions can be turned on and off on a per-subscription basis, too, by tapping the individual subscriptions in Settings, where you’ll find a Family Sharing toggle for that particular app. Sharing of existing subscriptions is turned off by default and must be enabled manually one app at a time.

Family Sharing of In-App Purchases and subscriptions is optional for developers who must turn it on in the App Store Connect as Keep It developer Steve Harris explains in this Twitter thread:

I’m glad to see Apple has activated In-App Purchase and subscription sharing among families. With the increasing popularity of subscriptions, Family Sharing was quickly becoming less valuable to users who wanted their entire family to have access to an app. Although the feature requires developers to opt-in, three of my subscriptions have adopted Family Sharing, so I’m optimistic others will follow suit.


Apple Announces Partnership with (RED) to Combat HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 and Highlights Its PPE Donations in Zambia

Apple announced today that it is expanding its partnership with (RED), a relationship that spans fourteen years and has raised nearly $250 million to fund HIV and AIDS programs around the world, offering prevention, testing, and counseling services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted HIV/AIDS programs around the world, so earlier this year, Apple’s (RED) contributions were redirected to the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on HIV/AIDS programs.

According to Apple’s press release:

These funds have allowed for additional contact tracing in South Africa, helped secure critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and emergency medical equipment in Ghana, and enabled the purchase of motorbikes to deliver HIV treatment to local communities that have been unable to seek in-person health services due to COVID-19. Apple also donated millions of PPE units to the Ministry of Health in Zambia, including both surgical masks sourced from its supply chain and face shields designed and produced by Apple.

The PRODUCT(RED) iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Series 6.

The PRODUCT(RED) iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple’s support of (RED) continues this year with donations of 100% of all eligible proceeds from PRODUCT(RED) devices to the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response through June 30, 2021. The company will also donate $1 of every purchase made using Apple Pay on apple.com, or in the Apple Store app or an Apple retail store through December 7, 2020.

Apple is working to raise awareness of World AIDS Day too with red logos and window displays in retail stores, features on the App Store, tie-ins with Apple Music and The Ebro Show on Apple Music 1, and a special Watch Now collection in the Apple TV app.

A Zambian healthcare worker wearing an Apple-produced face shield.

A Zambian healthcare worker wearing an Apple-produced face shield.

Separately, Apple issued a press release about its donation of PPE to healthcare workers in Zambia to help them combat COVID-19 and HIV. Working with Zambia’s Ministry of Health, Apple donated:

millions of units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Ministry of Health in Zambia. That includes both surgical face masks Apple sourced from its supply chain as well as face shields designed and produced by Apple.

As the press release explains, the donations have protected front-line healthcare professionals and provided patients with the confidence to continue their treatments for HIV.


Apple Reduces App Store Commissions to 15% for Small Businesses Starting Next Year

Today, Apple announced a reduction in App Store commissions that will substantially benefit a large part of the developer community. Starting January 1, 2021, developers who earn up to $1 million per year from their apps will have the commission paid to Apple cut in half, reducing it from 30% to 15%. Apple CEO Tim Cook said of the new App Store Small Business Program in an Apple press release:

Small businesses are the backbone of our global economy and the beating heart of innovation and opportunity in communities around the world. We’re launching this program to help small business owners write the next chapter of creativity and prosperity on the App Store, and to build the kind of quality apps our customers love.

Cook continued:

The App Store has been an engine of economic growth like none other, creating millions of new jobs and a pathway to entrepreneurship accessible to anyone with a great idea. Our new program carries that progress forward — helping developers fund their small businesses, take risks on new ideas, expand their teams, and continue to make apps that enrich people’s lives.

Apple says that it will provide additional details about the new program in December, but here’s what we know so far:

  • Developers who made up to $1 million on all their apps in 2020 after subtracting Apple’s commissions will qualify for the program and its reduced commissions beginning January 1, 2021.
  • New developers are eligible to participate in the App Store Small Business Program beginning January 1, 2021, too.
  • If a developer who is part of the App Store Small Business Program makes more than $1 million during a year, the commissions paid for the remainder of the year will be at the 30% rate paid outside the program and the developer won’t be eligible for the program the following calendar year.
  • A developer that is not eligible for the App Store Small Business Program will be eligible the calendar year following any calendar year that they earn less than $1 million.

For example, a developer that earns less than $1 million in 2020 on all of their apps after subtracting the amount paid to Apple for App Store commissions is eligible for the program and would pay a 15% commission on App Store earnings beginning January 1, 2021. Hypothetically, if the same developer has post-commission earnings of greater than $1 million in aggregate on all of their apps by, for example, September 1st, their App Store commission rate (assuming a paid-up-front app) would increase to 30% for the remainder of the year. That same developer would continue to pay 30% in 2022 but would be eligible for the 15% rate again in 2023 if their 2022 post-commission earnings fell below $1 million. It is our understanding that App Store earnings of all kinds count toward the $1 million total regardless of whether the source is a paid-up-front app, In-App Purchase, or a subscription.

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Apple Publishes New Webpages Explaining the Benefits of the App Store and the Company’s Developer Program

Apple has published new online resources about the App Store and its developer program. The new webpages cover a wide range of topics related to the App Store and developing for it, and include several new facts and insights about the Store.

About the App Store’ is a page meant for consumers that explains the advantages of Apple’s Store, starting with the lead tagline: ‘The apps you love. From a place you can trust.’ The page covers the Store’s editorial curation, search functionality, global reach, privacy and security features, and the benefits of App Review. The page reveals several new facts and updates to other information we’ve heard from Apple before, including:

  • The App Store has published almost 20,000 editorial stories to date
  • The App Store has over 150 people on its global editorial team
  • Over 10,000 apps use Apple’s health-related frameworks
  • Over 150,000 apps were rejected for privacy violations last year
  • App Review includes over 500 reviewers who consider over 100,000 apps per week
  • Over 1 million apps have been rejected for objectionable, harmful, unsafe, or illegal content
  • In 2020, Apple removed over 60 million user reviews considered spam
  • Over 2 million outdated apps have been removed from the store

The developer-centric pages take a similar approach with a focus tailored to the audience. ‘Developing for the App Store’ explains the tools and opportunities Apple has created for developers and its commitment to helping developers succeed:

Apple is committed to helping developers turn their brightest ideas into apps that change the world. That’s why the App Store helps you from start to finish — to build, test, market, and distribute your products and grow your business. Our marketplace is secure, trusted, and accessible — connecting you to over 1.5 billion devices in 175 regions. The App Store and you. Together every step of the way.

Here too, there are new facts and updates on number previously reported about the developer program:

  • There are 28 million members in the development program from 227 regions
  • Apple provides over 160,000 technical documents and code samples for developers
  • 90% of apps are reviewed within 24 hours
  • 500 million people visit the App Store every week
  • Apple has paid $155 billion to developers since 2008
  • 85% of apps are free
  • Over 50% of apps are downloaded from outside a developer’s local region
  • In 2020 over 250 million user reviews were removed for not meeting integrity standards
  • Apps accounted for 50 billion impressions in 2020 across email, social media, and advertising
  • Over 130,000 apps have been featured on the App Store and other Apple channels
  • An Apple-commissioned study found in 2019 that apps facilitated $519 billion in global commerce
  • The App Store ecosystem supports over 2.1 million jobs in the US

A second developer page titled ‘Built for growth and scale’ provides additional details about developer services and tools like app distribution and payment processing, app marketing, analytics, Apple’s many frameworks, volume distribution outside the App Store to enterprise and education customers, and developer support. Finally, Apple has also published a page that explains the Apple Video Partner Program. Apple explains how the program for video streaming services works, lists the companies that participate in it, and who is eligible to participate.

Apple has faced growing criticism in recent months over App Review guidelines, the share of revenue paid to offer apps on the App Store, and other aspects of the App Store and developer program, so it’s not surprising to see the company respond with materials that put its programs into the best light possible. It’s good to see Apple communicating its position more clearly, though it does strike me as a little defensive given the current climate in the developer community. It’s also one of the downsides of being so secretive as a company. Had this information been shared over time when Apple was not in a defensive posture, I expect it would have been more effective. Instead, I expect it will be met with cynicism from many developers.

Perhaps the experiences of the past few months will lead Apple to be more open about the App Store and developer program in the future. Despite recent issues and criticism, there’s no denying the success of the App Store for Apple, many of its developers, and its customers. I’d like to think that the global numbers that tell a story of immense success don’t prevent the company from focusing on and improving the more granular issues faced by individual developers every day and communicating more openly with them.


Apple Updates Multiple App Review Guidelines Addressing Game Streaming Services, In-App Purchases, Advertising, and More

Today Apple released an update to its App Review Guidelines that address many of the gray areas surrounding them that have been the subject of multiple controversies in recent weeks.

The guidelines are effective as of today, but Apple says they want to work with developers to give them as much time as possible to implement these changes, which should provide developers some time to make any necessary adjustments.

The changes today include the following:

Game Streaming Services

Under section 3.1.2(a), games offered via game streaming services must be downloadable from the App Store. Unless changes are made to the services, this precludes apps that would allow console games to be streamed to iPhones and iPads using services like Google’s Stadia or Microsoft’s xCloud, but it would not change the status of game subscription services like GameClub. Services should also be designed to avoid duplicate payment by subscribers and should not disadvantage non-subscribers.

Guideline 4.9 provides that game streaming services must also comply with the same requirements as apps downloadable from the App Store including app review, providing metadata for search, and In-App Purchases must be used to unlock features an functionality. Each game that is part of a streaming service must be submitted to the App Store as a separate app, so it has a product page on the Store and is subject to the same guidelines as other apps. Section 4.9.2 further clarifies that game streaming services can provide a catalog app to assist users with signup and finding games if they comply with app review guidelines including using In-App Purchases to pay for subscriptions and Sign In with Apple. According to Apple, the requirements of Section 4.9 would allow a streaming service to offer the game as a download on the App Store with basic functionality with additional levels and gameplay streamed to a player’s device.

The rules also clarify in Section 2.3.1 that games cannot include hidden, dormant, or undocumented features and that the functionality must be clear to users and App Review, an addition clearly prompted by Apple’s recent dispute with Epic Games.

Person-to-Person Experiences

Section 3.1.3(d) of the guidelines clarify that the use of In-App-Purchases is not necessary for one-to-one experiences like tutoring or fitness classes but must be used for one-to-few or one-to-many services.

App Clips, Widgets, Notifications, and Extensions

According to new guideline 2.5.16, App Clips, widgets, notifications, and extensions cannot include advertising, must be included in the app’s binary, and their functionality must be related to the content and functionality of their app. Nor should ads be placed in third-party keyboards or Watch apps, according to guideline 3.1.7.

Personal Loans

Section 3.2.2(x) requires apps that offer personal loans to clearly identify the terms of the loans and provides some specific guidelines regarding certain loan terms.


There are other modifications to the App Review Guidelines including a few very narrow exceptions to the requirements that developers use In-App Purchases, but it’s clear from the changes that the primary goal of them is to clarify Apple’s stance on game streaming services. While not precluded outright, the requirement that they include a separate App Store app puts substantial requirements on service providers that many may not be able to comply with our for technical or practical reasons.


Deeper Controller Support and a Revitalized Game Center: Exploring Apple’s 2020 Gaming Updates

I’m perpetually confounded by Apple’s approach to gaming. For every encouraging development like Apple Arcade last year and the controller and Game Center announcements at WWDC this year, there’s a story like the blocking of Microsoft’s xCloud service from the App Store and the ongoing legal dispute with Epic. As uneven as Apple’s recent and long-term history with gaming has been, though, it’s clear that the company understands that games are a lucrative part of the App Store as it continues to introduce new gaming enhancements to its OSes. This year’s updates center on deeper game controller support and a refreshed Game Center experience.

Last year saw the surprise introduction of support for Microsoft’s Bluetooth-enabled Xbox controllers and the Sony DualShock 4 controller on Apple devices. As I wrote at the time, the initial integration of the controllers was excellent, and a substantial improvement over most of the expensive MFi controller options previously available. As a result, it’s no surprise this year that Apple has extended its support for controllers, even further expanding coverage to new controllers and adding support for features like haptics, rumble, motion, lights, and special input options. Apple is also adding support for button and other input remapping on iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS, but curiously not macOS.

The other pillar of Apple’s gaming story is Game Center, which hasn’t seen much love in recent years. Game Center debuted alongside iOS 4 in 2010, but with iOS 10 the dedicated Game Center app was eliminated, relegating Game Center functionality like leaderboards and achievements to APIs that developers could incorporate directly into their apps. Game Center isn’t returning as a standalone app in 2020. Instead, it is receiving a significant makeover that raises its profile in games and on the App Store, creating the potential to make gaming on Apple devices more social than in the past.

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