A few days ago Apple promised slight changes for developers in the US in order to appease lawsuits, more recently South Korea has forced them to allow third party payments and now it’s Japan’s turn. Apple has announced that Japan’s Fair Trade Commission has agreed to close its investigation with Apple in exchange for allowing certain apps to link to outside the App Store to charge the user.

As announced by Apple in an official statement, “reader” apps will from 2022 be able to take the user to an external website to register and enter a payment method. Until now, the rules have been to allow new users to register within the app itself, which means that Apple takes a 15% or 30% commission (depending on various conditions). Otherwise, the developer was not allowed to provide any link or any hint that the user can register on their website (to avoid Apple’s commission). This is no longer the case.

Soon, developers who create “reader” applications will be able to include a button or link within the application that leads to a website where the user can set up a new account. This will allow developers to implement third-party or proprietary payment methods to avoid charging Apple.

The change will be reflected not only in Japan but also internationally. However, only for “reader” applications. “Reader” apps are, according to Apple, those that “allow users to browse previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music and video”. This includes for example streaming services for movies, series, music or books such as Netflix, Spotify or Amazon Kindle.

A battle that has taken years

This is undoubtedly a significant change for many large companies that have seen Apple’s limitation as an impediment. On the grounds of protecting users from scams and unsafe methods, developers have been prevented from offering alternative payment methods or even indicating that you can pay or create an account outside the app. Services like Spotify have taken Apple to court over this, others like Netflix simply manage to put up a message that it is not possible to create an account within the app. They also give no clue (because they are not allowed to) how to create an account or even if they can do it from outside the app.

Two of the big players who have been fighting with Apple in recent years are not likely to fall into this category of “reader apps”. On the one hand Epic Games with its game ‘Fortnite’ and on the other hand Basecamp with its HEY mail app. Both companies brought the controversy to light during 2020, but neither of them seems to be able to benefit from this change.


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