A Crack in the Garden Wall: What the Epic Games v. Apple stands for mobile application providers


This is a big deal for mobile app vendors and developers.

Image: kostsov, Getty Images / iStockphoto

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers released her ruling in the prosecution and counter-prosecution of Epic and Apple. Neither side could claim complete victory. Epic was on trial for severing its contract with Apple (which it admitted) and now owes Apple more than $ 3.6 million. Apple has escaped on almost every point. The court ruled that Apple did not have a monopoly, but found that Apple had violated California’s unfair competition law.

The judge further issued an injunction against Apple, which prevents Apple “from prohibiting developers (i) from including in their applications and their buttons metadata, external links or other calls to action that direct the customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to Purchasing and (ii) communication with customers via touchpoints obtained voluntarily from customers via account registration in the application.

This is a big deal for mobile app vendors and developers.

The next 90 days

Both parties will appeal. Epic announced plans to do so on the same day the decision was released. Apple has said it is weighing its options. Apple’s injunction takes effect in 90 days. If Apple appeals, the injunction will likely be stayed until the appeal can be heard. A stay means that Apple collects revenue from the App Store at the going rate.

In other words, developers won’t see any changes in the short term.

Changes for companies that provide apps

If nothing is overturned on appeal, Apple loses its exclusive market place. Companies like Netflix, which now use subtle wording to entice users to register on its website, will be able to register users in the app on iOS. Expect future disputes with Apple over the injunction. This does not prevent Apple from requiring its Integrated Purchasing Capability (IAP) as well as links to other purchasing mechanisms. It doesn’t say anything about the different prices for IAP and non-IAP listings. Apple might even require that IAP registrations be much larger and more easily accessible than non-IAP registrations.

Also expect there to be more freemium and credit-based services. Businesses will collect email addresses in the app and then send promotions and billing information via email to avoid App Store fees. While Apple already has a convenient billing relationship with customers, third-party billing services such as PayPal may see an opportunity to handle billing for lesser-known businesses, taking a smaller share than the App Store. Large organizations such as Netflix that have sufficient user trust will bill directly.

What does this mean for developers?

In the long run, this will bring dramatic changes to iOS. Apple claims to have received $ 643 million in App Store billing and sales in 2020. A large part of that will surely come from Apple’s own products and services, which will remain exclusively on the App Store. Some of what Apple collects from mobile app vendors, however, pays for the human app review team that checks every version of every app. Apple will have to rely even more on automated testing than on humans. There will be fewer people you can turn to when the going gets tough. With the changed IAP, we can see more delays in approving an app.

Until we know more about what Apple will require from apps, it’s difficult to predict what form app changes will need to take to support other payment mechanisms. User interfaces will definitely change to allow registration directly into the app. It’s not unreasonable to expect third-party libraries to evolve like the currentEntitlements IAP API, perhaps even encapsulating it to allow multiple payment mechanisms, if that’s what it takes to get in. the App Store.

When it comes to mobile web apps, the news isn’t as good for progressive web app (PWA) developers. This decision concluded that Apple was not a monopoly. Whether developers have an effective alternative for iOS development in mobile web apps is out of the question at this time. For this reason, Apple has no incentive to put web apps on a par with apps from the App Store. Even with a less profitable App Store, Apple still controls the user experience on iOS devices. Apple will continue to develop its own implementations in line with its user experience goals and will refuse to implement W3C standards when it sees them in conflict with Apple’s interests, especially its discourse on privacy.

In short…

If you are developing PWAs, this decision is against you. The court won’t force Apple to implement push notifications for web apps, for example. If you’re a native app developer, the approval process is likely to get harder, slower, and more expensive, but there’s a new way to avoid paying more to Apple, once your application has been integrated into the store.

This article was written by senior analyst Andrew Cornwall, and it originally appeared here.

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