Apple will let apps redirect users to sign up for subscriptions outside of the App Store

App Store
App Store (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple has announced that "reader" apps can redirect users to sign up for services outside of the App Store.
  • The company says the change will close an investigation from the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC)

There is an enormous change coming to the App Store all over the world.

Today, Apple announced a major change to the App Store that will close an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC). The company says that developers of "reader" apps will soon be able to include an in-app link to their website for users to sign up for or manage an account. Apple classifies "reader" apps as ones that provide "previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video."

The change will go into effect in early 2022.

To ensure a safe and seamless user experience, the App Store's guidelines require developers to sell digital services and subscriptions using Apple's in-app payment system. Because developers of reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase, Apple agreed with the JFTC to let developers of these apps share a single link to their website to help users set up and manage their account.Before the change goes into effect in early 2022, Apple will update its guidelines and review process to make sure users of reader apps continue to have a safe experience on the App Store. While in-app purchases through the App Store commerce system remain the safest and most trusted payment methods for users, Apple will also help developers of reader apps protect users when they link them to an external website to make purchases.

Phil Schiller, Apple Fellow who runs the App Store, says that the change will "help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up and manage their apps and services while protecting their privacy and maintaining their trust."

"Trust on the App Store is everything to us. The focus of the App Store is always to create a safe and secure experience for users, while helping them find and use great apps on the devices they love. We have great respect for the Japan Fair Trade Commission and appreciate the work we've done together, which will help developers of reader apps make it easier for users to set up and manage their apps and services, while protecting their privacy and maintaining their trust."

This sets up an enormous change for how developers can advertise services that live outside of Apple's grasp within their app. For example, the Netflix app can currently tell users that they need to subscribe to the streaming service on its website but cannot provide users with a link in the app to do so. That's where this change comes in. Next year, apps will be able to provide a link so that users can easily hop outside the App Store to subscribe.

This is huge news, as it is Apple allowing developers an easier way to dodge its 15-30% commission rates. This is one of the big pain points in the Epic v. Apple case as well as from other major developers like Spotify. We'll have to wait and learn more about how this will work and if all of the apps you would expect to be included are, but it is still a major sign from Apple that it is bending to the pressure it is currently experiencing.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.