By Emily Bary
Company will stop delaying bug fixes over guideline violations, allowing developers to address issues in their next update
Facing developer backlash and antitrust scrutiny, Apple Inc. has quietly announced it would be making a few tweaks to its App Store developer policies.
The company said in a press release late Monday that it plans to implement two changes to its app review process later this summer. Developers will be able to appeal decisions about whether their apps violate App Store guidelines and they'll also "have a mechanism to challenge the guideline itself." Apple (AAPL) also said it would stop delaying bug fixes over guideline violations except in legal circumstances.
Apple's release was published a few hours after the company concluded the keynote address for its WWDC developer conference. The company used the address to preview forthcoming software features and some technology-related changes for developers () around plans to introduce custom Mac processors over the next couple years, but Apple executives didn't discuss these new developer policies in the recorded keynote.
Apple declined to comment on the record on why the policy changes weren't highlighted in the address.
The company has faced criticism from some prominent app developers over its App Store practices. Apple takes a cut of revenue when users make in-app purchases of services through third-party apps, prompting some developers to bypass in-app subscriptions altogether and instead steer users toward web browsers for their purchases.
Shortly before WWDC kicked off, Apple found itself in a high-profile dispute with the developers of Hey, an email app that charges $99 a year for its services but didn't allow customers to pay for a subscription within the app. Apple rejected Hey's software update containing bug fixes because the company didn't have an in-app payment option, but after some public sparring, Apple agreed to approve Hey's bug fixes once developers created a free-trial option that users would be able to sign up for within the app itself.
Large developers including Tinder-parent Match Group Inc. (MTCH) have criticized Apple in recent days for its App Store policies. Match said in its statement that Apple "arbitrarily" decides what to classify as digital services for the purposes of determining which companies must fork over a portion of in-app revenue to the smartphone giant.
"We welcome the opportunity to discuss this with Apple and create an equitable distribution of fees across the entire App Store, as well as with interested parties in the EU and in the U.S.," Match said in the statement. European regulators are investigating Apple's App Store and Apple Pay practices.
See more: Apple faces new complaints from app makers as EU launches antitrust probes ()
Apple made another quiet change Monday that was likely intended to stave off regulatory backlash when it announced in a release and a small on-screen keynote blurb that it would give iOS users the ability to set their default email and web browsers in the forthcoming iOS 14 software update.
Opinion: Apple says more with its quiet actions than on the WWDC keynote stage ()
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) lost a big battle with the U.S. Department of Justice two decades ago over the bundling of its operating system and web browser, and Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) (GOOGL) Google faced issues in the European Union more recently for requiring that phone makers pre-install various Google apps before they could access the Android operating system.
It remains to be seen whether Apple will make changes to guidelines as a result of future developer challenges, but the company seems to be looking for ways to ease tensions with both developers and regulators without drawing overt attention to public controversies.
Apple shares are up 3.3% in Tuesday's session and they've gained 65% over the past three months as the Dow Jones Industrial Average has increased 41%.
-Emily Bary; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 23, 2020 14:40 ET (18:40 GMT)
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