Spotify is making a major change to its iPhone app

Spotify redesign for 2023 on a pastel colored background
(Image credit: Spotify)

Paying for Spotify Premium has been a complicated business in recent years, but it might be about to get a whole lot easier. Giving Spotify money as an iPhone owner has meant doing so via the company's website for some time, but there are now signs that subscribers could be able to pay for their music fix using Apple's in-app purchase system once more.

Spotify has not allowed people to sign up to its Premium subscription service via an in-app purchase for more than seven years at this point, and it stopped allowing those who already signed up to continue paying that way earlier this year. The move was all about preventing Apple from taking a cut of its subscription money, something that has proven to be a bone of contention for many a developer over the years. It even saw Epic Games get Fortnite kicked out of the App Store for good, and it's why Epic and Apple have been in court on and off ever since.

It's also why Spotify subscribers can't buy audiobooks in the iPhone app, but there is a sign that something is afoot after it was found that there are new code references to an in-app payment system in the latest beta version of the Spotify app.

More ways to pay?

This is all according to a MacRumors report that's based on the discovery of those references. The report notes that it isn't yet clear what those in-app purchases are going to be, but the system in play does include an in-app purchase checkout screen and retry panels for when a payment fails.

Most curious of course because, as I just mentioned, Spotify has been very clear about its disdain for Apple's in-app purchase system and the way that it takes a cut of all transactions that are processed that way. But there are currently no ways to bypass that system without getting kicked out of the App Store — just ask Epic Games — so it's beyond odd that these references exist.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has not been quiet about the way he feels in terms of the App Store. He called its rules "absurd" back in May 2023, and it's unlikely that his stance has changed.

What's really going on?

There are so many questions around this news that it's difficult to know where to start. Is Spotify going to implement Apple's in-app purchase system here? If it is, will that be for the Spotify Premium subscription or for buying audiobooks? Or is a new external payment system on the way?

There have been moves to open the App Store and allow third-party payment systems before with the EU often at the heart of them. It's possible that Spotify is simply getting its ducks in a row ahead of time, ready in case Apple is forced to allow external payments. Dating apps in the Netherlands already have that capability after Apple was forced to implement a system to allow it in 2022 — but not until it had spent $52 million in fines over the matter.

Apple doesn't want to allow transactions outside of the App Store for obvious reasons, and it still takes a cut of those dating payments, too. One thing is sure — all eyes will be on Spotify to see what comes next.

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Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.