Developer PSA: you can't transfer apps and be part of the Small Business Program

App Store on iPhone
App Store on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • As developer Sean Harding found out the hard way, you can't transfer apps and be part of the Apple Small Business Program.
  • Transferring apps means you will not be elegible for a reduced App Store cut to going to Apple.

Here's a quick public service announcement specific to developers – if you transfer your apps to another App Store Connect account, you can't then apply to be aprt of the Small Business Program.

That's somethign developer Sean Harding just found out.

See, Apple's Small Business Program entitles successful applicants to pay Apple 15% of their App Store revenue, rather than the usual 30%. To be eligible, developers must be earning less than $1,000,000 per year. That covers the vast majority of developers, but there's an important point here – apps can't be transferred to another App Store Connect account because the account won't then be able to apply to be part of the same program.

The reasons are obvious – Apple doesn't want people moving apps around accounts to make it look like they're earning less money. It's also something that Apple makes clear in its support documentation.

Emphasis mine.

App transfers are not allowed while participating in the program. If you initiate an app transfer after December 31, 2020, or accept a transfer of an app that was initiated after December 31, 2020, you will no longer be eligible to participate in the program.

That's all pretty clear. But unfortunately Harding made the mistake of reaching out to Apple developer support. And they caused chaos.

You can read the full thread on Twitter, but the short version is that Harding wanted to create a new developer account so he could "get more serious" about his business before moving his existing apps over to it. He was already worried about the potential consequences, so he asked Apple if the transfer would prevent him from joining the Small Business Program.

Apple was less than helpful. Thrice.

Cool. So Harding completed the transfer and applied for the program. By this point we can all guess what happened next.

And so concludes today's tale of woe. This could all have been avoided with a web search, but it shouldn't have gotten this far when Apple developer support became involved. And the fact someone at Apple doesn't seem to know the rules does suggest it shouldn't expect developers to know them, either.

So here we are. Harding is stuck with apps that will lose 30% of their revenue instead of 15%.

If anyone reading this is part of Apple developer relations, please do the right thing – get in touch.

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.