Apple is about to find out what developers really make of its App Store shake-up. It might want to brace itself.
The iPhone maker has started to offer 30-minute online consultations to any app maker seeking to give feedback on a raft of controversial changes made to its App Store last month.
The changes were made to comply with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act. The new law deemed Apple’s App Store to be unfair in the way it imposed a 30% commission on developers and prevented them from reaching iPhone users through alternative digital stores.
To address lawmakers’ concerns, Apple set about allowing third-party app stores onto iOS. But their presence on iPhones will come at a cost. Developers will still have to pay a 17% commission to Apple while using these stores as well as a flat “core technology fee” that is equivalent to 54 cents for each “first annual install per year over a 1 million threshold.”
These costs have enraged developers, who believed the impending changes were going to make app distribution much fairer.
Apple, for its part, is at least going to hear them out.
Apple faces the music
Apple employees in Cupertino, London, and Singapore will now be made available at select dates this month, starting February 6, “to discuss changes to iOS, Safari, and the App Store” impacting apps in the EU, per registration forms on Apple’s developer site.
What can Apple expect when developers meet them?
For one, it can expect to hear strong thoughts about rules dictating which third-party app stores will be allowed onto its operating systems.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, who has described the overall changes as “hot garbage,” noted last month that Apple will retain strict control over which digital stores are allowed, say, onto iOS, to compete with its own store.
“They could block Epic from launching the Epic Games Store and distributing Fortnite through it,” he wrote in an X post.
Apple can also expect to hear some criticism over the new “core technology fee.”
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek described the move as a “masterclass in distortion,” with Apple seeming to offer a policy that “just repackages the old terms” when presenting its new alternative to developers, one that he said “has potentially even higher fees.”
Xbox president Sarah Bond, meanwhile, described the overall policy as a “step in the wrong direction.”
Developers will be hoping that Apple listens to their feedback.
They play a huge role in making the App Store a vital pillar of Apple’s services business, and will be needed for years to come to populate the Vision Pro with innovative apps built with virtual and augmented reality in mind.
On Sunday, Sweeney took to X to “encourage iOS developers to sign up and share” their point of view, even if it might seem like it’s “just a ploy” from Apple.
“It’s also possible there’s someone within Apple who genuinely wants developers to be heard and to influence a real change in plans,” he wrote.
Meanwhile Zach Meyers, assistant director at the Center for European Reform, described the consultations on offer as a “positive sign” that signals some “problematic” aspects of the new App Store regime might be revisited.
Apple now offering meetings with developers to “provide feedback” about its Digital Markets Act changes. A v positive sign. Perhaps some of the more problematic (ie fee related) aspects of its approach to opening its ecosystem might be revisited?— Zach Meyers (@Zach_CER) February 4, 2024
For what it’s worth, developers should know that Apple seems fairly unhappy about the laws it’s been forced to comply with.
The company thinks the Digital Market Act’s changes “will result in a less secure system” over fears that it creates new ways for bad actors to target iPhone users with malware, fraud, and scams.
In a statement, Apple said the changes it’s sharing for apps in the EU “give developers choice — with new options to distribute iOS apps and process payments.”
“Every developer can choose to stay on the same terms in place today. And under the new terms, more than 99% of developers would pay the same or less to Apple,” the company said.
That said, it’s still open to talk about topics including alternative distribution on iOS, alternative payments in the App Store, and more. The time for developers to speak up is now.