Apple announces App Store changes: New communication rules, Small Developer Assistance Fund, more

By Chance Miller

August 26, 2021

Apple has announced a handful of changes coming to the App Store in response to a class-action lawsuit from US developers. One of the most notable changes is that developers can now communicate with users about alternative payment solutions outside of their applications.

This class-action lawsuit was first filed in 2019. This is not the Epic vs Apple case, but rather a lawsuit brought against Apple from small developers. These changes to the App Store apply to all developers in the App Store in the United States and other countries.

Notably, Apple says that developers can “use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS App.” This means that a company or developer can email users, with their consent, to inform them about subscribing outside of the App Store.

Apple has confirmed to 9to5Mac, however, that this change does not apply to in-app communication. Developers are still not allowed to inform users in-app about pricing or subscribing options available elsewhere. Theoretically, Netflix could have a field in its iOS app for users to enter their email address, then communicate with that user directly via email about payment options.

Other highlights from the settlement: Apple and the developers agreed to maintain the App Store Small Business program in its current structure for at least the next three years. App Store Search has always been about making it easy for users to find the apps they’re looking for. At the request of developers, Apple has agreed that its Search results will continue to be based on objective characteristics like downloads, star ratings, text relevance, and user behavior signals. The agreement will keep the current App Store Search system in place for at least the next three years.

Apple will also expand the number of price points available to developers for subscriptions, in-app purchases, and paid apps from fewer than 100 to more than 500. Developers will continue to set their own prices.

Small Developer Assistance Fund Apple is also announcing a Small Developer Assistance Fund, which will pay out between $250 to $30,000 to developers making under $1 million per year in the App Store. The amounts will vary based on the developer’s “historic participation in the App Store ecosystem.” Only developers in the United States are eligible for this program.