Apple will now take feedback from developers on App Store policies, something Google should also do
Apple held an online edition of its WWDC20 (Worldwide Developers Conference) event yesterday without any visitors. During the online event, executives from the company revealed everything new that will be coming to iOS, iPadOS, macOS, as well as the operating systems driving other hardware, including the Apple Watch and TV. Along with this, Apple also announced a new platform for developers to share opinions and feedback with Apple and appeal against penalties or takedowns in the iOS and macOS app stores. In a press release, the giant announced an online Apple Store Lab so that developers from all over the world can “help inform future improvements to the App Store.”
Apple announced two significant changes to the app submission and review process to be implemented later this summer. First, apart from being able to appeal against decisions about the violation of App Store Review Guidelines, developers will also have access to a channel that will let them “challenge the guideline itself.” Secondly, app updates with bug fixes will not be held back or suspended over violation of guidelines for apps that are already live on the App Store unless in case of legal issues. Instead, developers will be able to submit new changes addressing the issue in the next update to the app.
Also, Apple plans to add new communication channels and forums where developers can exchange knowledge and submit their feedback for the company to learn from and implement to make the process smoother and improve the experience for app developers.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s chief of marketing and App Store lead, said the following in the WWDC20 keynote:
Notably, these developments come a week after the European Union commissioned an antitrust investigation against Apple. The EU will be probing the tech giant over two main issues – the first being a 30% commission charged from developers by Apple to facilitate in-app payments – after complaints from Rakuten and Spotify. Another angle of investigation concerns the restrictions set by Apple on which apps can use NFC for payments on the iPhone or Apple Watch – which usually means NFC payments don’t work on apps from banks and other financial service providers.
Apple’s more developer-friendly aura is also seen as a measure to pacify developers and some lawmakers tensed by the removal of Hey email app. The app was removed from the App Store last week by Apple for not providing a “Sign Up” option on the welcome screen of the app. As you may have guessed, Hey developer Basecamp chooses this to avoid Apple from charging 30% commission on paid sign-ups. Apple reinstated the app just before WWDC ’20 after the developer added an option for 14-day trial sign-ups.
It is worth mentioning that Netflix also lacks an in-app signup option (both on iOS and Android) to avoid paying these commissions but hasn’t been taken down by Apple – and this preferential behavior could have possibly anguished developers.
What can Google learn from Apple’s new store submission guidelines?
While the general view after WWDC20 is that Apple appears to have taken a lot of inspiration from Android for iOS 14, Google can certainly use some of the changes Apple is applying to the review process. Google, much like Apple, also has a convoluted and inconsistent method of taking down apps that don’t meet its Play Store guidelines. While Apple’s policies and takedown procedures have arguably been more stringent, we’ve seen similar complaints from Android developers on public platforms like Reddit and Twitter.
There’s a vast scope for Google to learn from Apple and modify its Play Store policies, addressing issues such as inconsistent app removals, taking a 30% cut of in-app purchases, and not listening to feedback enough. The starting point can be improvements in communication channels with developers.