Apple App Store Universal Purchase now available but has a catch for devs

JC Torres - Mar 23, 2020, 8:54 pm CDT
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Apple App Store Universal Purchase now available but has a catch for devs

Apple now has a diverse set of platforms ranging from mobile to desktop to even smartwatch. Apps for those naturally take different forms even if the apps come under the same name. From a user’s perspective, however, paying for an app on one platform should give access to the same app on other platforms. Previously, that was not the case as App Store didn’t have that ability. Apple is now rolling out the Universal Purchase option but some developers might shirk from at least one note about this feature.

In a nutshell, a universal purchase means that buying a single app that is also available on other Apple platforms gives you access to all those forms. This feature also applies to in-app purchases so you really only have to pay for it once. Previously, you’d have to buy each version of the app and each in-app purchase separately, even if they provided the exact same functionality, just in different forms.

It doesn’t happen by magic, though, and developers will have to adjust their apps and workflows to take advantage of this. There are also considerations per platform but the most basic requirement is that apps will need to share a single app record to be eligible for this universal purchase option. And, unfortunately, that is also the catch for some well-established apps.

According to Apple’s support document, existing app records for apps on multiple platforms cannot be merged. They’d have to remove all but one platform version of the app and then add those to the remaining app’s record. Unfortunately, removing those apps means it will lose all data associated with it from the App Store, including the app’s page, ratings, and reviews. It also means users of that app won’t be able to get updates anymore unless.

It might be a messy situation that could force developers to either start from scratch on all but one platform or keep app separate as they are now. New apps, of course, won’t have such problems and the universal purchase could encourage a new generation of apps that are available on all Apple’s platforms in a single purchase.


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