Apple pilots subscription price increase feature

Apple is piloting a new feature that would allow app developers to raise subscription prices without requiring users to sign up. Instead, iPhone users will specifically have to opt out of these increases. It looks like a win for developers, who can count on fewer users opting out, but it seems like an odd choice for Apple, a company that has historically emphasized transparency for users (see: Tracking app advertisements).

Some Disney+ subscribers noticed something was wrong when the streaming service announced that a price increase would take effect on April 19, 2022. iPhone users generally have two options when a developer raises prices: accept the price increase or manage their subscription. . But when the price increase notification appeared on the iPhones of Disney+ subscribers in Europe last month, they didn’t have as many options. The only button they could press said “OK”. Underneath was some fine print telling them they could review their subscription.

Apple confirmed to TechCrunch that the new alert language was no accident. The company is piloting a program with Disney and other companies “in various app categories” to change how in-app purchases work. An Apple spokesperson acknowledged that the new prompt for Disney+ subscribers would be inconsistent with Apple’s current documentation, if it weren’t part of the pilot program.

However, the company did not provide any additional details, nor did it respond to Protocol’s request for comment.

The pilot raises a lot of questions. For one thing, it’s unclear whether there are limits to how high developers can automatically raise subscription prices. Raising a subscription by $1, after all, would be less of a financial blow to users than a bad actor automatically increasing subscriptions by large sums. It’s also unclear how much notice app developers should give users, if any.

Apple has been in hot water for the way it negotiates payments through the App Store for years. The company takes up to 30% commission on in-app payments and does not allow developers to connect to third-party billing options. Regulators in the EU and South Korea have targeted Apple for these policies, which they see as monopolizing the market. Companies like Epic have also tried to fight the so-called “app store tax” in court.

But by creating a feature to automatically raise subscription prices, Apple may be trying to win back favor with developers — and take some of those bonus subscriptions.

Richard L. Militello