Apple clarifies deal on subscription apps: no free functionality fine, but must ‘make sense’

Apple’s announcement that developers will be able to keep 85% of subscription revenue after the first year seemed to leave some questions unanswered. In particular, Phil Schiller’s examples appeared to contradict descriptions on Apple’s own website.

MacWorld has now spoken with Apple to clarify the position, and it seems to be good news for developers.

We’ve confirmed with Apple that Schiller’s expansive vision is an accurate one: any developer can submit an app that relies entirely on a subscription to perform a task. It can be effectively a login screen, like with Netflix and Hulu, rather than conform to the broader policy Apple has enforced on most apps that weren’t periodicals and streaming media libraries to date. Schiller’s examples included enterprise apps, which are effectively in continuous development. In fact, many enterprise apps are already sold on a subscription basis, but typically couldn’t charge a subscription fee directly within iOS.

But Apple also stressed that not just every business model will pass its muster. Unlike with periodicals and streaming media apps, which are allowed to have no content or use without a subscription, apps in other categories will need to “make sense.” As Apple notes on the What’s New page, “the experience must provide ongoing value worth the recurring payment for an auto-renewable subscription to make sense.”

The position does still leave some uncertainty, however, as the terms ‘make sense’ and ‘ongoing value’ are subjective ones. Developers may still be nervous about creating new apps that would only be viable on a subscription model without the certainty that Apple would approve the deal.

Via Daring Fireball. Photo: AP.

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