Apple is standing firm on its decision to reject the Hey email app from the App Store — and its App Store policies in general. In a new interview with TechCrunch, Apple executive Phil Schiller said that the company has no plans to change App Store rules as they are today.

Schiller told TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino:

“Sitting here today, there’s not any changes to the rules that we are considering,” Schiller said. “There are many things that they could do to make the app work within the rules that we have. We would love for them to do that.”

The app Schiller is referring to is Hey, a new subscription email application from the creators of Basecamp. As we explained earlier this week, Hey was initially approved for the App Store, but subsequent updates are being rejected by Apple because you can not sign up for the subscription through Apple’s In-App Purchase system.

Schiller says that the reason the Hey app needs support for subscribing in-app is that otherwise, you download the app and it doesn’t work. “You download the app and it doesn’t work, that’s not what we want on the store,” Schiller explained. The exception is so-called “reader” applications such as Netflix:

“We didn’t extend these exceptions to all software. Email is not and has never been an exception included in this rule.” In fact, Hey’s Mac App was rejected for the exact behavior that the iOS app is being targeted for. Schiller says that the iOS app’s original version was approved in error, and should never have shipped to the store.

Schiller has advice for what Hey could do if it wanted to be available in the App Store. Essentially, he suggests that Hey could offer a free or paid version of the app that offers basic email reading features:

One way that Hey could have gone, Schiller says, is to offer a free or paid version of the app with basic email reading features on the App Store then separately offered an upgraded email service that worked with the Hey app on iOS on its own website. Schiller gives one more example: an RSS app that reads any feed, but also reads an upgraded feed that could be charged for on a separate site. In both cases, the apps would have functionality when downloaded on the store.

Furthermore, TechCrunch says that Apple has sent a new letter to Hey explaining that if the ability to subscribe to the service is not added in-app, the app will be removed from the App Store.

The App Review Board evaluated your app and determined that the rejection was valid. Your app does not comply with the App Store Review Guidelines detailed below. As you are aware, this is the reason your Hey Email app was rejected when it was submitted to the Mac App Store on June 11, 2020.

The HEY Email app is marketed as an email app on the App Store, but when users download your app, it does not work. Users cannot use the app to access email or perform any useful function until after they go to the Basecamp website for Hey Email and purchase a license to use the HEY Email app.

Apple says that Hey specifically violates three different App Store guidelines.

  • Guideline 3.1.1 – Business – Payments – In-App Purchase
    • If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, you must use in-app purchase. Your app requires customers to purchase content, subscriptions, or features outside of the app, but those items are not available as in-app purchases within the app as required by the App Store Review Guidelines.
  • Guideline 3.1.3(a) – Business – Payments – “Reader” Apps
    • Reader apps may allow users to access previously purchased content and content subscriptions. Your mail app is not one of the content types allowed under this guideline for “Reader” apps (specifically: magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video, access to professional databases, VOIP, cloud storage, or approved services such as classroom management apps). Therefore, customers must be given the option to purchase access to features or functionality in your app using in-app purchase.
  • Guideline 3.1.3(b) – Business – Payments – Multiplatform Services
    • Apps that operate services across multiple platforms may allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or on your website, provided those items are also available as in-app purchases within the app. Your HEY Email app does not offer access to content, subscriptions, or features as in-app purchases within the app. In fact, the app does not function as an email app or for any purpose until the user goes to the Basecamp Hey Email website to start a free trial or purchase a separate license to use the app for its intended purpose.

The letter, addressed to Basecamp’s Jason Fried, also points out that Basecamp has been available for years, but has not generated any revenue for Apple.

Thank you for being an iOS app developer. We understand that Basecamp has developed a number of apps and many subsequent versions for the App Store for many years, and that the App Store has distributed millions of these apps to iOS users. These apps do not offer in-app purchase — and, consequently, have not contributed any revenue to the App Store over the last eight years. We are happy to continue to support you in your app business and offer you the solutions to provide your services for free — so long as you follow and respect the same App Store Review Guidelines and terms that all developers must follow.

Building on this, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) joined the Vergecast this week to discuss Apple’s App Store policies. Cicilline, who serves as the chairman of the House antitrust subcommittee, says that the market power Apple has “is highway robbery.”

The battle between Hey and Apple started earlier this week. You can read our coverage here.

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