Apple has overhauled its developer guidance for in-app subscriptions, with new pages in the Human Interface Guidelines and App Store documentation pages. The revamp reorganizes existing advice into a more modern design with clearer segmentation of sections, as well as clearly detail some ground rules for the first time.
For instance, the price of a monthly subscription must be clearly shown. Conversions into yearly savings, or similar advertising copy, should be less prominent than the actual amount customers pay in each renewal period.
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Developers frequently battle with App Review over implementation of in-app subscriptions as the rules about what needed to be included in paywall/upgrade screens, and how purchases can be presented, were not clearly defined.
These new documents help to patch over some of this knowledge gap. For instance, Apple offers full sample text for the fine print that needs to be shown at the bottom of subscription purchase flows:
Payment will be charged to your Apple ID account at the confirmation of purchase. Subscription automatically renews unless it is canceled at least 24 hours before the end of the current period. Your account will be charged for renewal within 24 hours prior to the end of the current period. You can manage and cancel your subscriptions by going to your account settings on the App Store after purchase.
Notice in Apple’s dummy app screenshots, that these terms and conditions are ‘above the fold’ of the screen. They have to be in the viewport and not hidden deep in a navigation stack, although scrolling partially off the edge is seemingly acceptable.
It also tries to clarify the rules around using push notifications for marketing purposes. The Apple documentation says it is okay to let subscribers know about new content added to an an application over time, but that they cannot be used to send direct advertising to the lock screen.
The billing amount section is particularly revealing. It heavily suggests that the real price users pay has to be shown in the largest text font on the page. An annual subscription app can offer monthly price comparisons, but the yearly cost must be prominent and the monthly breakdown should be “displayed in a subordinate position and size”.
Notably, apps like Tinder currently flout these guidelines, as they advertise to users a 6 month subscription as ‘$8.83/mo’, without making it clear that the transaction is actually ~$52 upfront for a subscription with a six month duration.
Apple imagined some apps like Forest Explorer and Ocean Journal to give a visual example of how it expects developers to present subscription screens to users. As far as we can tell, the App Review rules surrounding subscriptions have not changed. These new pages simply provide a bit more clarity about how Apple expects apps to look and behave.