Phil Schiller KeynoteSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • TechCrunch sat down for a phone call with Apple's Phil Schiller.
  • Schiller discussed Apple's recent rejection of the Hey Email app from the App Store.
  • The executive says that the company will not change its mind about the decision.

Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, hopped on the phone with TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino today to talk about the company's decision to reject the Hey Email app from the App Store.

The rejection of the app has caused an outcry from many in the developer community over the last couple of days. The Hey email app was originally approved for the App Store, but when the developers behind the app tried to release an update, they were contacted from the App Store team and told to make changes in order to stay on the store. Schiller says that the inital approval was actually an error.

"In fact, Hey's Mac App was rejected for the exact behavior that the iOS app is being targeted for. Schiller says that the iOS app's original version was approved in error, and should never have shipped to the store."

The Hey Email app currently requires users who download the app to navigate away from it in order to purchase a subscription to the email service, which currently costs $99 a year. Apple says that the company needs to offer in-app purchases for the service in order to meet its guidelines, something that Hey is opposed to as it would result in paying Apple's 30% fee for selling through the App Store.

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Apps in the Reader category can be exempt from having to offer in-app purchases, but Schiller says that email apps have not ever been considered as part of this category and are not eligible for the exemption.

"You download the app and it doesn't work, that's not what we want on the store ... We didn't extend these exceptions to all software ... Email is not and has never been an exception included in this rule."

Schiller says that, at least at this time, that Apple is not considering making any changes to its rules and guidelines, and that the Hey Email app will need to meet those guidelines in order to remain in the App Store.

"Sitting here today, there's not any changes to the rules that we are considering ... There are many things that they could do to make the app work within the rules that we have. We would love for them to do that."

You can read Apple's latest rejection letter to the HEY Email app in its entirety below:

Hello Jason,

We are writing to let you know the appeal results for your app, HEY Email.

The App Review Board evaluated your app and determined that the rejection was valid. Your app does not comply with the App Store Review Guidelines detailed below. As you are aware, this is the reason your Hey Email app was rejected when it was submitted to the Mac App Store on June 11, 2020.

The HEY Email app is marketed as an email app on the App Store, but when users download your app, it does not work. Users cannot use the app to access email or perform any useful function until after they go to the Basecamp website for Hey Email and purchase a license to use the HEY Email app. This violates the following App Store Review Guidelines:

Guideline 3.1.1 – Business – Payments – In-App Purchase

If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, you must use in-app purchase. Your app requires customers to purchase content, subscriptions, or features outside of the app, but those items are not available as in-app purchases within the app as required by the App Store Review Guidelines.

Guideline 3.1.3(a) – Business – Payments – "Reader" Apps

Reader apps may allow users to access previously purchased content and content subscriptions. Your mail app is not one of the content types allowed under this guideline for "Reader" apps (specifically: magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video, access to professional databases, VOIP, cloud storage, or approved services such as classroom management apps). Therefore, customers must be given the option to purchase access to features or functionality in your app using in-app purchase.

Guideline 3.1.3(b) – Business – Payments – Multiplatform Services

Apps that operate services across multiple platforms may allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or on your website, provided those items are also available as in-app purchases within the app. Your HEY Email app does not offer access to content, subscriptions, or features as in-app purchases within the app. In fact, the app does not function as an email app or for any purpose until the user goes to the Basecamp Hey Email website to start a free trial or purchase a separate license to use the app for its intended purpose.

Next Steps

To resolve this issue, please revise your app such that it does not violate any of the App Store Review Guidelines and terms.

There are a number of ways that you could revise your app or service to adhere to the App Store Review Guidelines. Customers who have previously purchased access to content, subscriptions, or features elsewhere may continue to access these items in your app, as long as new iOS customers are given the option to purchase access using in-app purchase as required by the App Store Review Guidelines.

If you would prefer not to offer users the option of in-app purchases, you could consider having the app function as marketed — an email client that works with standard IMAP and POP email accounts, where customers can optionally configure the Hey Email service as their preferred email service provider. This would allow the app to function as an email client without requiring an additional payment to use its features and functionality. Under this approach, what you sell on your website is clearly an email service separate from the function of your app as distributed on the App Store.

We are here as a resource as you explore these or other ideas to bring the Hey Email app within compliance of the App Store Review Guidelines and terms.

Thank you for being an iOS app developer. We understand that Basecamp has developed a number of apps and many subsequent versions for the App Store for many years, and that the App Store has distributed millions of these apps to iOS users. These apps do not offer in-app purchase — and, consequently, have not contributed any revenue to the App Store over the last eight years. We are happy to continue to support you in your app business and offer you the solutions to provide your services for free — so long as you follow and respect the same App Store Review Guidelines and terms that all developers must follow.

We hope to assist you in offering the Hey Email app on the App Store.

Sincerely,

App Review Board

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