Still, Apple’s review processes are somewhat opaque, and the company typically doesn’t comment on App Store approvals beyond what it shares with developers in its online Resolution Center. In some cases, developers say they receive rejection phone calls from Apple rather than something that would create a text trail. All of this leads to “some weird results,” Shabazz says.In Basecamp's case, the rejection note from Apple seemed to suggest that the issue is the way the developer is handling IAP, and the timing couldn't be more apt. As the software community is well aware, IAP stands for in-app purchases, the way we buy or subscribe to digital services within apps. Basecamp is urging its customers to pay that $99 annual fee for access to Hey email; Apple wants that transaction to happen within the walls of its Store, not outside of it, because Apple would get a cut of as much as 30 percent.
Apple’s review guidelines clearly state that apps that sell services across multiple platforms are allowed to promote those goods on their own websites, but Apple stipulates that those items have to also be available for purchase within the iOS or MacOS app. Apple owns the marketplace, and without it developers would have almost no way of getting their apps in front of millions of iPhone and Mac users. Consider Apple’s cut a fee for the privilege, for the marketing of the app, and for support. But app makers more pointedly call this the “Apple tax.” Those include the media giant Spotify, which filed a formal complaint with European regulators against Apple last spring, saying that the 30 percent commission is a burden on app makers and gives the company an unfair leg up when it’s both selling its own software and controlling the marketplace for competing software. Netflix has fought this fee. Now Rakuten, the Japanese ecommerce company, has joined in filing a complaint.
And on Tuesday morning, the day after the Hey email app update was rejected, the European Commission opened antitrust investigations into Apple’s App Store and Apple Pay service. “It appears that Apple obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices,” said Magrethe Vestager, executive vice president of the EU’s antitrust commission. “We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers.”“I mean, we’re not interested in changing our entire billing setup. If we change it, Apple takes 30 percent of our business,” Hansson says about the Hey app. “Those rates are completely outrageous. When we bill customers through the banking system, through the credit card system, we pay between 2 and 3 percent.” That’s a competitive market, Hansson argues, while Apple’s is not.
If there’s anything that’s clear from Apple’s event Monday, it’s that the maker of premium tech products is trying to sell people on its vision for the future of services—a seemingly effortless lifestyle filled with always-accessible media, exclusive video games, and cash-back incentives from a literal titanium credit card.