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Posts tagged with "app store"

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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The Developer Debrief on WWDC 2020

Weeks removed from Apple wrapping up its first all-virtual WWDC, many of us are still digesting what the conference’s announcements mean for the future of our favorite products.

Federico, John, and I have all shared various takeaways from the conference, and I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to report as we continue using the betas this summer and review Apple’s OS updates this fall. But our perspective is limited to our profession as journalists, so we also wanted to hear from the people this conference was really built for: developers.

WWDC has grown into an exciting conference for Apple users all around the globe, but its core identity is still ultimately an event for app developers. As a result, I wanted to speak with a variety of developers to get their reactions to the conference. These included:

My sincere thanks to these developers for taking the time to share their thoughts, and for their years of valuable contributions toward making Apple’s app ecosystem as strong and robust as it is today.

Interview questions for each developer ranged from the things that most excited them at the conference to surprises and disappointments, their read on how in-touch Apple is with the developer community, the current evolution of software development, and each developer was also generous enough to share a sneak peek at new technologies they’re working to implement in their apps.

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Apple’s App Review Board Confirms Rejection of Basecamp’s Hey Email Service

Hey is a new approach to email that was launched earlier this week by Basecamp. The service, which comes with its own hey.com email address, has a number of unique features for managing messages with an emphasis on screening tools. Hey does not, however, allow you to use its client app with other email services like Gmail, which is important to keep in mind.

Equally important to this story as it unfolded over the past several days is the fact that Hey does not offer an In-App Purchase for its service. The service is available from Basecamp only. As a result, if you download Hey’s iOS app, but have not yet purchased a license from Basecamp, the app doesn’t do anything except request your Hey login credentials.

The service launched on Monday with access provided via the web and native Windows, Android, Linux, Mac, and iOS apps. At the same time, Hey was being launched, an update to its iOS app, which fixed bugs, was rejected by Apple. The timing is unclear, but TechCrunch reports that Hey’s Mac app was rejected too.

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Apple Releases Guidance on Apps Related to COVID-19 and Explains How to Expedite Their Review

Today, on its developer site, Apple announced how its App Review team is evaluating apps related to COVID-19 to ensure that users can depend on such apps. Apple says:

The App Store should always be a safe and trusted place for users to download apps. Now more than ever that commitment takes on special significance as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities around the world are depending on apps to be credible news sources — helping users understand the latest health innovations, find out where they can get help if needed or provide assistance to their neighbors.

To help fulfill these expectations, we’re evaluating apps critically to ensure data sources are reputable and that developers presenting these apps are from recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions. Only developers from one of these recognized entities should submit an app related to COVID-19. Entertainment or game apps with COVID-19 as their theme will not be allowed.

Apple also encouraged developers of apps related to COVID-19 to select the ‘Time-Sensitive Event’ option when submitting an expedited review request, so their apps will be prioritized by App Review.

Overnight, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that retail stores outside Greater China will be closed until March 27th and shared details on the steps Apple is taking to protect the physical health of its employees and retail customers. With this latest announcement, Apple is tackling the pernicious effects of misinformation by pledging to keep it out if the App Store, so customers know they can rely on the apps they download.


Shortcuts Corner: Opening YouTube Watch Later, Subscribing to RSS Feeds with NetNewsWire, and Uploading Images via FTP

For this week’s installment of the Shortcuts Corner, I’ve prepared quite an assortment of miscellaneous shortcuts to share with MacStories readers and Club MacStories members (because I’ve been spending all my time at home due to the state of emergency in Italy, I’ve been reorganizing my entire Shortcuts library, among other things). Following this week’s launch of NetNewsWire for iPhone and iPad, I’ve adapted an existing shortcut to let you subscribe to feeds using the popular RSS client. I’ve also created shortcuts to reopen the watch later queue in the YouTube app, copy app links from the App Store, and copy a webpage selection from Safari as rich text.

Furthermore, exclusively for Club MacStories members, I’ve created an advanced shortcut to upload images to a remote FTP server and copy their public URLs to the clipboard. Let’s dig in.

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macOS Will Soon Support Universal Apps, Enabling a Single Purchase for Mac, iPhone, and iPad Apps

As first spotted by Steve Troughton-Smith, release notes for the latest beta build of Xcode include a major development: Mac apps can soon be included as universal purchases with their iPhone and iPad companions.

Universal apps currently enable you to make a single purchase to gain access to both iPhone and iPad versions of an app. Nearly all cross-platform developers default to this option, though some still sell separate iPhone and iPad apps. macOS has never been included as part of universal apps though, even after Mac Catalyst launched last year. That sounds like it’s going to change when the latest OS updates – iOS and iPadOS 13.4 and macOS 10.15.4 – arrive this spring.

With universal app support, developers will be able to charge users a single time to grant access to Mac, iPhone, and iPad versions of their app. As Apple’s release notes state, this option in Xcode will be on by default for apps built with Catalyst, but it will also be available to non-Catalyst apps that are offered on the Mac App Store. While this change won’t be the best option for all developers, especially considering the different business dynamics of Mac and iOS apps, it makes sense for iPad developers who bring their apps to the Mac with Catalyst and don’t want to deal with the complication of a separate purchase system.