EXPLAINER: What is Apple doing with its App Store?

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Over the past week or so, Apple has eased some longstanding restrictions that helped make its App Store into a big moneymaker for the company.

The company has long required app developers to pay high commissions to Apple on the sales of paid apps as well as purchases of subscriptions or digital items inside their apps.

Apple is facing some significant pressure to open up the App Store further. A federal judge is soon expected to return a verdict in an antitrust lawsuit filed by Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, that seeks to strike down much of Apple’s commission system. And earlier this week, the South Korean legislature passed a law that would allow developers to sidestep payment systems run by both Apple and Google — and the commissions of 15% to 30% they charge.

But Apple hasn’t always explained its moves very clearly, leaving some iPhone users with unanswered questions as to what exactly Apple is doing and whether and how they’ll be affected.


Late Wednesday, Apple agreed to App Store changes starting next year to resolve an investigation by Japanese regulators. For the first time, Apple will allow Spotify, Netflix and other apps that sell digital subscriptions to music, video, magazines, newspapers, books and audio to include an in-app link to their own sites, where users can sign up outside Apple’s payment system.

Apple took a more limited step in the same direction last week when it agreed to let app developers email their users about ways to sidestep Apple when signing up for subscriptions. Such efforts could previously have gotten apps kicked out of Apple’s store. That change resulted from a preliminary settlement in a class-action lawsuit that still requires court approval.

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