Apple App Store Updates - What you need to know

James Mortimer

Paid Social Director

What has happened?

On the 24th October, Eric Seufert pointed out that Apple has updated the terms and conditions for developers using the App Store. Usually, these updates are fairly mundane, but this week’s release contains important information for developers, and potentially, social media companies.

How is this different to other updates?

The latest update included an added line under 3.1.3(g) that states; “Digital purchases for content that is experienced or consumed in an app, including buying advertisements to display in the same app (such as sales of “boosts” for posts in a social media app) must use in-app purchase.”

What does this mean?

If you want to boost an Instagram post the payment will have to be processed with the iOS app directly, and not on Meta’s website. This means that the payment will incur a 30% charge from Apple, something that didn’t happen previously. It’s not clear if Meta (or other developers) will swallow this cost or pass it on to users.

Who will be impacted?

It won’t just be social media companies, like Meta, Snap, LinkedIn or TikTok, that will be impacted by this update. Dating sites and some games which offer in app boosting will be much more affected. While anyone who’s buying ads at scale, on Meta’s platforms, or any other social media networks will be doing their work on desktop and not via an iOS app. Still, this move represents another shot fired between Apple and Meta after iOS 14.5 made it considerably harder for advertisers to attribute their sales last year.

What happens next?

The 30% in app purchase fee, or Apple Tax, has already come under extensive scrutiny. Earlier this year Epic Games, the company that produces Fortnite, took Apple to court to dispute the rule.

In that instance, Apple was successful in defending nine of the ten counts that were filed against them. This shows that it’s unlikely there is much of legal standing for Meta, or any other app developer, to bring legal court against Apple.

That said, Apple has come under increased scrutiny from regulators around the world on how they operate the App Store. The EU’s Antitrust Commission is currently investigating the company for monopolistic business practices around the access developers have to get their apps on iOS devices.

It’s hard to see how this won’t increase scrutiny on Apple and potentially cause the company more issues further down the line.

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