Apple responds on Sony Reader rejection: "We have not changed our guidelines"

iPhone in-app purhase

Apple has responded to news this morning about rejecting the Sony Reader app from the App Store for not using Apple's in-app purchase system, which could have a broader impact on other apps like Kindle, Netflix and Hulu+. All Things Digital spoke with Apple Spokesperson Trudy Miller who stated the following about Apple's recent move:

We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines, we are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.

According to Apple these guidelines have been in place all along but haven't been enforced until now. Looking further into Apple's App Store review policy shows the following requirements:

11.2 Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected

11.3 Apps using IAP to purchase physical goods or goods and services used outside of the application will be rejected

So it looks like Apple is in the right on this one by wanting to ensure a quality experience for users who purchase electronic goods using iOS devices. Remember, Apple currently takes 30% off the top when users purchase goods using in-app purchases. By requiring apps to use Apple's in-app purchase system, they're essentially asking developers to rethink their iOS strategy and make changes accordingly.

Do you think this is a good move on Apple's part, or could it have a negative impact if companies like Amazon and Sony decide not to play ball? Let us know what you think in the comments!

[All Things Digital]

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Andrew Wray

Andrew Wray is a Salt Lake City, Utah based writer who focuses on news, how-tos, and jailbreak. Andrew also enjoys running, spending time with his daughter, and jamming out on his guitar. He works in a management position for Unisys Technical Services, a subsidiary of Unisys Corporation.

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Reader comments

Apple responds on Sony Reader rejection: "We have not changed our guidelines"


Does Zinio have to abide by these rules too? Just curious. I don't use the app, but it used to take you to an outside webpage to purchase the digital subscriptions.

In January, Apple had already indicated, at least to several major European publishers, that all subscriptions would have to be through Apple, and that free subscriptions for print subscribers would not be allowed. ( )

Kindle doesn't have an in app store, just a link to it's mobile website, which sells Kindle books.
You can then sync books back, no purchase mechanism at all in the app

I think this policy will backfire on Apple. I think they will reverse themselves. They will loose Kindle, Netflix, and other content providers if they don't. Netflix was promoted as part of Apple TV and this policy would kill them as well.

I am not so sure about the PR aspect, but as a Kindle owner and a person who reads Kindle Books also on the iPhone, I look forward to in-app purchases of Kindle books.
Amazon requires one-click purchases to be enabled to buy books on the Kindle device, no password required both for the device and on their website for normal purchases! I'd prefer to buy using an in-app purchase from the iPhone as that would require the iTunes password and would feel more secure. I could then turn off one-click on the Amazon site, which would be somewhat of a relief.
I like the idea and think it would apply reasonably to other apps, too. My opinion on this issue, anyway.
(Of course, this doesn't prevent Amazon from charging 30% more to buy a Kindle book on the iPhone.)

This is totally bogus and nothing but a money grab by Apple. I buy books and magazine subscriptions for the Nook, Kindle and Google Reader apps. None of these companies need (or want) Apple's hosting, distribution or credit card processing. And users like me don't want the inevitable price increase this will bring across the board. I'm sure there is also a rule, or there will be a rule that says that in app prices have to match prices available elsewhere.
I will be replacing my iPad in the spring and I can promise you it will be an Android or webOS device. I'm done with anything that runs iOS.

don't have an opinion one way or another. apple's a for profit business. if it makes them profits and isn't illegal i don't have much problem with it. i don't buy media content from apple, sony or amazon.

I don't buy from any of them either, and if they want a higher priced option for in-app that doesn't bother me. I don't think it will make the content providers happy, though, and I do think Apple has better things to focus on.

this might possibly be illegal on apple's part. certain litigate-able.
they are clearly using their pseudo-monopoly to force commerce through their cash register and theirs alone.
the question is just how pseudo their pseudo-monopoly is.
with android there is clearly more competition for apple than microsoft had when they were brought up on anti-trust charges for far, far less.

Could providers offer different prices on the web vs in-app? They could up prices in the app to compensate for the 30% Apple is skimming off the top.

If I lose my favorite apps because of this policy, Apple loses me as a customer. I love Apple products with a passion, but, sometimes you can go too far. Never thought I would say this, but, Android is starting to look a little bit nicer now.

What is often lost in discussions of what this means to Amazon, and if this is legal, and so on, is this:

  • This is the first time that Apple does done something so publicly without even the pretense that this is done for the benefit of its customers.

Apple has always justified its controversial policies in terms of protections/benefits for consumers. Apple blocks Flash for battery constraints. Apple blocks interpreted code to close possible attack vectors. Apple blocks boobies to protect the children, and so on. Agree or disagree, there is at very least a veneer of consumer-oriented logic there.
This time, not even Apple has mounted any sort of defense that this is good for the customer, probably because it isn't. In fact, it goes against one of their primary motivations for the App Store, that of a single, convenient store to shop for all apps without confusion. This 11.2 guideline explicitly requires all apps with web stores to maintain a separate in-app storefront. That is expensive (if not impossible) for the provider, and it is both inconvenient and confusing for the consumer. That does not even count the fact that Amazon, for example, literally has millions of books that are not available in the iBookStore, many of which cannot be placed in the iBookStore, due to Apple's other policies regarding DRM. (Apple mandates it for all books, even if the publisher requests none; Amazon allows DRM-free books.)
Whether or not this starts any legal or consumer actions in motion, this is deeply, deeply, disappointing, and should be a black eye on Apple's reputation. In the past, even when I disagreed with their policies, they could present their reasons in a framework of doing right by their customers, and I could grudgingly say, yes, they are control freaks, yes, at least they are well-meaning control freaks. This, on the other hand, is a naked cash grab that screws both their providers and their customers. For shame.

This is ALL because ibooks is failing.
Kindle book sales have been eating ibooks lunch with features, faster delivery, and generally working better on all devices.
So far Apple has looked the other way.
There was every indication that the Sony Reader would do the same, and further erode Apple iBook sales.
The question now is, how long till they go after Amazon.
Bezos has just as many Lawyers as Apple. And they know the definition of illegal restraint of trade.

I agree - the ipad was never a good choice for reading books - any back-lit device is tough on the eyes to read pages of copy. The e-ink technology solves the eyestrain issue and can be read in direct sunlight(another problem for iPad. The apps for the Kindle or the Sony Reader would just be a back-up for most.

This and other constraints that Apple imposes makes me think seriously of not buying an iPad, but rather another device for general purpose reading/watching/browsing... Imagine if Safari forbided access to a web site because it does use a MacOS server (e.g., not generating revenue for Apple). What good would the Internet be like that??

I think, if it's not easy for Kindle, Nook, etc. readers to get their content onto iPad and iPhone it's bad for Apple. However, it doesn't make Apple any worse than Amazon, which doesn't let you buy or read Nook or any other type of books on Kindle.
Every company, even Google, protects their revenue streams.
Apple just needs to consider that protecting this revenue stream might just cost them too much in the long run.
Again, I'm betting this either isn't what it seems or gets rolled back so Kindle libraries stay easily accessible on iOS.
Now who's going to force the Kindle open!

Amazon does invite developers to write applications, and then change rules midstream.
Barnes & Noble does not have a developer agreement.
If/when the above sorts of conditions are true, then you can make the argument Apple is no worse than the other two.

That's not completely true. Kindle does support PDF and can be used with services such as Safari Books Online.
The reason that Kindle and Nook don't have cross support is because of differing DRM, but the Nook Color can be "hacked" to use Kindle books since it's OS is a bit more advanced than the regular Nook or Kindle.

Upon reading the guidelines above, there is nothing in 11.2 that states that an App that leverages paid content must sell such content via the App store as well. It only states that all "In App Purchases" must be made via the Apple API. Amazon and BN do not offer in App purchases. THe key term is 'within the app.'
11.3 has even less to do with this as it says you can't use the Apple API (and infrastructure for payments) to buy goods or services that are not used on the devices in question (mostly physical goods.)
So unless there is another guideline than the two above, the Apple rep has contradicted herself. She says they have not changed but that 'now they are requireing' which infers something new.
I'm guessing this will be clarified as an issue with Sony building thier own in App purchase system bypassing iTunes. They will redirect purchases to a web store and it will be done.
Otherwise Android, and WebOS will have a huge advantage for all consumers and Google, Microsoft, Motorola, and the others will slam them repeatedly and Apple will have little real legitimate defense for it except 'we wish to make more money.'

You are correct when you say Amazon and BN do not offer in App purchases. They invoke the browser. And its pretty lame.
On android Kindle allows in app purchases. This is much faster.
Its as if Microsoft stepped up and demanded 30% of everything you bought on line when running a windows machine. I don't understand how this can be legal.

This newfound requirement is one that needs to be though out by Apple a bit more. On the surface it appears anti-competitive and best, simply greedy at worst. ( I didn't realize that every purchase - even in-app was subject to a 30% surcharge by Apple. That's a lot of Smurfberries!!)
But I think that something is missing from this story and the piece by the NY Times. I just have a feeling that Sony is not being 100% transparent on the reason for it's App Store rejection. I suspect that they were doing something "extra" which got them flagged an ultimately rejected.

This is a week old, when Apple first did this to publishers, but the timeline would seem to fit for Amazon and others:
"For existing apps already on the App Store, we are providing a grace period to bring your app into compliance with this guideline. To ensure your app remains on the App Store, please submit an update that uses the In App Purchase API for purchasing content, by June 30, 2011"

11.3 Apps using IAP to purchase physical goods or goods and services used outside of the application will be rejected
So you can't use the Apple Store App anymore to buy Apple products? Or does it not use IAP? Don't know, don't have the app.

The Apple Store App will be fine. While I don't know anything about its internals of the, Apple has never claimed their own apps were subject to app store guidelines, and there are numerous examples of first-party Apple apps with capabilities that would not be allowed for third parties.

I thunk that this us going to hurt consumers because now the books will be 30% more expensive. I hope that because the books will be essayer to bye then they will lower the pieces in the long run but that is my wishful thinking.

As long as you can still buy Kindle e-books directly from Amazon via your PC/MAC and then sync them to your iPhone/iPad I don't see much of a problem. Sure, it's a limitation, but hardly a deal breaker for me. Unless going forward Apple won't allow 3rd party content to be accessed on the iPhone/iPad unless it is purchased via iTunes and that would be counter productive. They'd have to pull hundreds of popular apps in that case.

I hope all the third party vendors revolt and stick it to apple. No one will want a device with no apps/vendors.

I agree with an above comment that this move is probably because iBook is failing to draw readers. But instead of Apple trying to eliminate the competition through imposing costly changes upon them, perhaps Apple should try to improve their own product – iBooks. I don’t use iBooks because it is the worst of the bunch in terms of readability on the iPhone. All the others are so much better in terms of page layout - minimal margin width and font sizing. iBooks wastes so much space with wide margins that I don’t like using it on the iPhone. The only nice feature of the iBooks is the page numbering, but that doesn’t offset for me the horrible page layout design.

This situation reminds me of an old column by Paul Grahm on Apple, here quoted by Gruber. He was talking about App Store restrictions, but it seems more appropriate than ever:
"Later on, Graham captures what it is that gives me The Fear:
'An organization that wins by exercising power starts to lose the ability to win by doing better work.'
I wish I’d written that sentence."

Why don't they just sell a physical good, a piece of tissue paper with an apple logo on it, and then give the digital content away for free. This way they are selling a physical good and can use their IAP system and tell Apple to wipe their butt. Since the digital content is free there is no need for using Apple IAP.

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