Is Tesla skipping out on Apple's 30% app tax?

App Store on iPhone
(Image credit: Future)

It's a well-known fact that Apple charges a 30% cut of all in-app purchases and it's something that it has gotten plenty of criticism for over the years. But for the most part app developers pay it. But not always.

The Epic Games case that saw Fortnite kicked out of the App Store for bypassing Apple's 30% cut is legendary at this point but there might be another huge company pushing its luck. That company, it seems, is Tesla.

As one report notes, Tesla offers a subscription service via its iPhone app that should possibly be run through the App Store in-app purchase system, giving Apple its cut. But it isn't, and the only way to pay is via credit card or Apple Pay. So what gives?

Tricky business

The report in question comes from Gizmodo and it accuses Tesla of "dodging Apple's 30% App Store tax." And it all revolves around a Connectivity Packages subscription.

"Tesla offers drivers a tier of premium features called 'Connectivity Packages' that costs $9.99 a month," the report points out. "The package unlocks a number of functions and perks including a satellite view map in the car’s console, a web browser for your car’s dashboard, and several others." Part of that package is a View Live Camera feature that allows iPhone owners to see what's going on around their car and that, the report believes, means that Apple's App Store rules apply.

Apple doesn't require its in-app purchase system to be used if a purchase relates to content exclusively consumed or related to another device. But that doesn't appear to apply in this case. What's more, Apple has a clause that covers this situation. It says that apps that "work in combination with an approved physical product (such as a toy) on an optional basis may unlock functionality without using in-app purchase," but goes on to say that its in-app purchase system must be an option. In the case of Tesla, it isn't.

Whether Tesla and Apple have some sort of understanding here isn't clear, nor is it possible that there is some nuance that's being missed here.

Gizmodo notes that neither company responded to a request for comment.

Oliver Haslam

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.