Apple has backtracked on its strict in-app purchases policy, softening its stance on whether developers can sell content outside of apps. The new guidelines, MacRumors spotted, now permit sales of magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music and video outside of apps, with no in-app option as previously mandated, as long as developers do not include a “buy” button or similar in the app itself.
Previously, the App Store review guidelines – updated in February 2011, but not set to be enforced until this month – meant that developers were not allowed to work around Apple’s 30-percent tithe on extra purchased content:
11.13 Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.
Now, as long as that route is not explicitly flagged up, such purchases and downloads can be made:
11.14 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app
The change means that developers offering digital content like periodicals, video subscriptions and the like – including Netflix and Amazon’s Kindle app – will still be able to offer a free iOS app that relies on an external subscription system. Apple’s rule that no link or button will be allowed means such apps will have to give a text or other message pointing would-be users in the right direction for service.