Apple’s App Store developer guidelines are extensive, even fatiguing in their length and specificity, but they make one point perfectly clear: If your app includes any in-app purchases, they must be executed via Apple’s own in-app purchasing platform.
If you try to sneak your purchase or subscription feature around Apple’s own tools, your app will get the boot — no matter who you are, even if you’re one of the largest digital dating services of all.
Match.com’s iPhone app, which debuted in 2009, was pulled from the App Store yesterday for allowing users to pay for a Match.com subscription using an external link instead of the in-app purchasing system that Apple has in place.
The App Store guidelines, which were updated in June, state, “Apps can read or play approved content 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’s policy ties back into its revenue-sharing scheme. For every app sold in the App Store, Apple skims 30 percent of the retail sale, right off the top. This 70-30 split applies to both initial app downloads and in-app purchases as well.
Match.com used a button in its app for users to subscribe directly, doing an end-run around the 30 percent tariff. It’s a violation of Apple’s policy, as the only way to avoid the revenue split is to stick with a browser-based web app and subscription form. Otherwise, Match.com will need to tweak its iPhone app to follow the rules.
Match.com has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Apple unveiled an app subscription service for publishers in February that incorporated the same model used for in-app purchases. This prevented apps like Sony’s e-reader app from selling content like e-books within its app without first going through Apple. The policy update forced a number of online retailers and publishers to change the way their apps functioned. For instance, Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble all removed links to their stores in their iOS apps by late July. But for many apps, the increased exposure received through iOS features like Newsstand more than make up for any profits lost by the 30 percent skim.
Apple’s App Store hosts more than half a million apps, of which there have been more than 15 billion downloads total. That’s a lot of apps to keep an eye on, but Apple does a pretty good job of preventing offending apps from entering the App Store in the first place — and evicting them when rule-breaking occurs.