To fight Apple and Google, smaller app rivals organize coalition

Sunday, 27 Sep, 2020

Google plans to push harder for developers to give the company a cut of in-app purchases through its Play app store, according to people with knowledge of the move.

Apple Inc. will let users of Facebook Inc.'s online events product use the social network's own payment method through the end of the year, temporarily bypassing the iPhone maker's typical 30% cut.

App store fees generate billions of dollars in high-margin revenue for Google and Apple each year.

No developer should be required to use an app store exclusively, or to use ancillary services of the app store owner, including payment systems, or to accept other supplementary obligations in order to have access to the app store.

- Developers should have access to app stores as long as their apps meet certain standards.

Apple has been in a mounting war with various developers over the commission it takes on in-app purchases.

The coalition has 13 founding members
The coalition has 13 founding members. Image Coalition for app fairness

The CAF says it welcomes "companies of any size, in any industry who are committed to protecting consumer choice, fostering competition, and creating a level playing field for all app and game developers globally". But Apple to date has had much stricter rules for app makers. In fact, Google was nearly assuredly inspired to impose its own crackdown in light of what is marketed as a David vs. Goliath saga between Epic Games and both Apple and Google, which has brought these policies into the public's knowledge. A founder of the software company Basecamp attacked Apple's "highway robbery rates" on apps. The coalition is based out of Washington DC and Brussels, and aims to focus on three major points which it finds are problematic: "anti-competitive policies", "30 percent app tax", and "no consumer freedom".

Apple's App Store has the same requirement as Google Play for in-app purchases and billing. Several examples are offered; one "case study" claims that "Apple has manipulated its rules and policies to disadvantage Tile, a popular Bluetooth finding hardware and app developer, in favor of its competing Find My App". This is especially unfair when this tax is imposed on apps competing directly with similar apps sold by Apple. Tile's settings are buried in the Settings app while Find My gets set up when a user activates their device for the first time.

Match Group's Tinder still uses Apple's in app-purchase system.

Apple's enforcement has been more stringent than Google's for Netflix and Spotify.

In the past it has rebutted complaints from Spotify and Epic Games by saying they want to reap the benefits of the App Store's ecosystem without contributing financially. Not all the companies fighting Apple are necessarily in it to save the little guy, however.