Apple to launch program to lower App Store fees for small developers

The Apple logo is seen through a security fence erected around the Apple Fifth Avenue store as votes continue to be counted following the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Manhattan, New York City, U.S.

Apple Inc said on Wednesday it plans to start a program to lower its App Store commissions for software developers who make $1 million or less in proceeds each year from the store, but some of the company’s critics called the move “window dressing.”

Apple takes a 30% cut of most purchases made on the App Store, although the commission drops to 15% for subscriptions that remain active for more than a year.

The iPhone maker said developers will automatically get the lower 15% rate if they generate $1 million or less in proceeds – defined as the portion of store purchases that the developer keeps – in a calendar year.

Apple’s App Store fees and rules have come under fire from large firms such as Microsoft Corp, Spotify Technology SA, Match Group Inc and Epic Games as well as startups and smaller companies that allege the fees deprive consumers of choices and push up the price of apps.

“This would be something to celebrate were it not a calculated move by Apple to divide app creators and preserve their monopoly on stores and payments, again breaking the promise of treating all developers equally,” Epic Games Chief Executive Officer Tim Sweeney said.

In reply to its critics, the iPhone maker has previously said its rules apply evenly to developers and that the App Store provides an easy way to reach its huge base of users without having to set up payment systems in the 175 countries where it operates.

The move will affect a broad swath of developers who make up a small portion of Apple’s App Store revenue. Based on the publishers it tracks, analytics firm Sensor Tower said 97.5% of iOS developers generated less than $1 million per year in gross consumer spending. But those same developers contributed only 4.9% of the App Store’s 2019 revenue.

“It’s a symbolic gesture,” said Sarah Maxwell, a spokeswoman for the Coalition for App Fairness, a group of Apple’s critics. “You have to apply to the program, and the vast majority of developers who generate livable revenue through their apps won’t benefit from this change.”

The App Store generated $59.3 billion from gross consumer spending in the first 10 months of 2020 and Apple would have made $17.8 billion if it took a 30% cut, according to Sensor Tower estimates.

“This latest move further demonstrates that their App Store policies are arbitrary and capricious,” streaming music company Spotify, which is pursuing an antitrust complaint against Apple in Europe, said in a statement. “We hope that regulators will ignore Apple’s ‘window dressing’ and act with urgency to protect consumer choice, ensure fair competition, and create a level playing field for all.”

Apple said the new program will start on January 1 and it will give more details on which developers qualify next month.

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