Even Apple can budge. The iPhone-maker on Monday announced that third-party App Store developers will soon have a mechanism to challenge particular App Store guidelines and that it will no longer delay bug fixes for apps already present on the App Store over guidelines violations. Both these changes will be implemented in the summer. The development comes just a week after the EU initiated two antitrust probes against Apple, one of which will look into Apple’s App Store policies (more on that below).
- “Developers will not only be able to appeal decisions about whether an app violates a given guideline of the App Store Review Guidelines, but will also have a mechanism to challenge the guideline itself,” Apple said in a blog post along with other announcements from its flagship event for developers, WWDC.
- “For apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues. Developers will instead be able to address the issue in their next submission,” it added.
Both these revisions seem to have come out of Apple’s public spat with HEY’s developers after it rejected HEY to provide bug fixes and new features until it allowed in-app purchases, and shared 15-30% of its revenue with Apple. HEY basically allows users to create an account on a separate website and pay for the service there itself, which Apple didn’t take kindly to. However, ahead of WWDC, Apple finally approved HEY’s bug fixes, after it allowed users to sign up for a randomised free account that expires after two weeks.
While welcoming the announced updates to the App Store review process, David Heinemeier Hansson, CTO of Basecamp, which developed HEY, also drew a cautious note saying that the review process will have to be transparent. “The real test here will be whether Apple will allow developers a transparent process. How often will developers actually be able to get a fair hearing about Apple’s processes from Apple itself? I mean, I want to be romantic here and think they will, but they’ll need to prove it,” he said.
This announcement also coincides with two antitrust probes being initiated against Apple in the EU. One of these investigations will assess whether Apple’s rules for app developers on the distribution of apps via the App Store violate EU competition rules, and follows complaints from Spotify and Rakuten’s e-book service Kobo. Spotify had filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the EU in March 2019, saying it’s unfair that Apple Music doesn’t have to pay a similar fee, and that Apple doesn’t let Spotify link users out of the app to purchase a subscription, or even advertise deals to users.