Hey, Apple, we need to talk about the App Store… Our relationship has gotten away from us. Things started great, I remember how Steve Jobs introduced us.
It started out simple: Free Apps, and Paid Apps. Paid apps pay a 30% rev-share and Free Apps are always Free. Steve Jobs, made it pretty clear and it was a good deal for a new platform that didn’t have many apps.
Things were good for many years. App Store was growing, Apple was promoting and advertising developers and apps. It was a great time to be an app developer, but things started to change.
The App Store Review process started to clamp down on developers. At first, it was for consistency with the platform, design guidelines, network consistency, and quality. But soon it started to be much more than that.
Apple started to reject apps that competed with Apple and started to enforce payment requirements on all digital apps that had subscriptions. At first, it was newspapers and magazines but over the years it has gotten broader and broader.
Many rejections are no longer for the benefit of consumers, it’s just for the benefit of Apple.
Applications from Netflix, Spotify, Audible, Facebook, and many more started to create features and experiences that were terrible because it was necessary to avoid paying Apple 30%. You’d download an app and you couldn’t do anything unless you went to a website to subscribe or create an account. For years you couldn’t use your audible credits to add books to your library because Apple wanted to compete with Amazon and take 30% off the top.
This terrible experience was a requirement if you wanted to avoid paying Apple 30% of your revenue. For many businesses that have smaller margins, this made it a requirement to create awkward free apps or limited apps that would then convert outside the app.
The App Review is a good idea – to provide a level of quality in the App store but the rules that are good for consumers are now confused with what is financially good for Apple. The App Store and Apple are very different now.
The promise of simplicity in the original app store isn’t there anymore. Apple isn’t helping market or sell apps the way that it did in the early days so the benefit to individual developers isn’t there anymore. It’s time to renegotiate the deal.
I’ve seen many businesses large and small get turned upside down because of reviews. The Hey email app being rejected recently is only the most recent battle. Apple’s platform isn’t an option for mobile-first companies, it’s table-stakes to compete.
Apple needs to look in the mirror and reexamine the relationship they want with their developer community. Do they think that Apple Pay and In-App-Payments should win on its own merits or if they should continue to strong-arm every digital business? Do they need developers to build apps anymore or should we go back to building web-apps? Does the App Store Review exist for the benefit of consumers or does it enforce an Apple advantage in certain businesses?
Hey Apple – I’ve been a fan of for many years, the app store has made me a lot of money and it’s made Apple into a trillion-dollar business, but the reason we loved Apple is that it symbolized the creators, the rebels, the misfits and trouble makers. As you think about iOS14 and WWDC- it’s time to reflect on your roots. Apple made products that wowed and we need to get back there. We need to rekindle the relationship. The AppStore is an amazing innovation but it’s gotten away from its roots. Let’s stop strongarming and let’s get back to making things that are insanely great.