There's been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about the 30 percent cut that Apple takes from developers on the App Store. Whether it's from purchasing apps outright, subscribing to in-app services, or buying things like in-game currency, Apple gets $0.30 of every dollar that you spend through the App Store, with the rest of it going to the developer.
Apple, of course, claims that this is the cost of running the App Store, and has repeatedly dug its heels in when developers have tried to get around it in various ways since Apple's App Store Guidelines also require that almost all developers use Apple's payment systems exclusively when it comes to subscriptions or digital content — apps are not allowed to offer alternative purchasing methods within the apps themselves, and while multi-platform services like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube are naturally allowed to offer their goods and services outside of their iOS apps, they're not allowed to point that out to users within the iOS apps themselves.
In reality, there are actually a number of advantages for end-users when it comes to using Apple's in-app payment system. Whether this justifies Apple's very strict approach of forcing developers to use the App Store exclusively is still very much open for discussion, as is the question of whether it actually warrants Apple's 30 percent take, but it's also important to understand that the commission that Apple charges on App Store payments does actually come with some tangible benefits. Read on for 7 reasons why Apple’s in-app payment system may actually be a good thing.
Naturally Apple claims that its in-app purchasing system is good for consumers, and actually works to protect them, and there's a certain amount of truth to this, to be fair — it's not hard to imagine a plethora of scammy apps appearing on the App Store that would leave both end users and even Apple with little recourse should money be taken directly without providing the promised content.
However, it goes well beyond fraudulent apps too. If you're an Apple customer, chances are you already have your credit card information on file with Apple, and you trust them to keep it safe. Whenever you make an in-app purchase on an iOS device, it's Apple, and not the developer, that's charging your credit card and collecting the money from you. The developer not only never sees your credit card information, they actually have no part of the transaction at all. What they get is a lump-sum payout of all in-app transactions from Apple (minus its 30 percent, of course) on a regular basis.
Contrast this with an in-app purchasing system run by each developer. In order for this to work, developers would need to collect credit card or other payment information from each user, and many developers would need to store that information too (or at least offer to do so) in order to make future transactions easier. This would be especially true with gaming and subscription apps, where repeated transactions and recurring charges are the norm.
This leaves your credit card info stored in a potentially huge number of other places, and it's not enough to simply trust the integrity of the developers you're giving that information to (and many of them would be relatively small and unknown companies) — you also need to trust their ability to run their systems securely enough to avoid being hacked, and as we've seen before, even high-profile companies like Adobe and Sony aren't immune to these kinds of problems. While it's not inconceivable that Apple could suffer a similar fate, so far its record of defending against such hacks is entirely clean. Besides, since you'd still be using Apple's payment system for at least some things, it's going to have your credit card info on file no matter what, so why risk having your information stored with dozens of smaller developers too?
The other critical factor here is how developers would handle authorizing new transactions. Once your credit card payment information is stored, what confirmation do you get that you're about to make a purchase? With Apple's system, there's a clear prompt that comes up asking for a password, Face ID, or Touch ID, and it appears the same way no matter what app you're using. We've already seen developers try to scam their way around Apple's in-app payment prompts, so a direct payment system would be even more for abuse, whether it's for deliberate scams or just encouraging more impulsive purchases of in-game currency.
Of course, Apple could mitigate most of these risks by enforcing a requirement to use Apple Pay for all third-party purchases, which would certainly provide a much greater level of security, and while Apple gets a small cut of each Apple Pay transaction, that's buried in normal credit card processing fees, so it's actually eaten by the banks, and not the developers.
Many people don't realize it, but Apple's strong stance on privacy means that as long as you're using its payment system, third-party developers don't get to know anything about you by default.
Apple handles all of the transaction processing, and only pays out the total of all monthly or quarterly transactions to developers. It doesn't give developers a detailed rundown of who made those transactions — not even Apple IDs are provided. They just get the money and some encrypted and anonymized identifiers so that they can tie the subscription to your device.
This has actually been another point of contention that some developers have with Apple, as they also feel that it prevents them from maintaining the customer relationship. While that concern is a fair one, it doesn't change the fact that by default, when you simply make an in-app purchase, your privacy is completely protected. Developers can't try and market to you outside of the app to convince you to buy more stuff, or even try to nag you to reinstall a game that you've grown tired of. It's a very consumer-friendly approach.
Of course, apps may still encourage you to sign up for an account with the developer, but this is always under your control, and you know what info you're providing and what you're signing up for. It's also almost never necessary to do this for simple transactions like buying in-game currency, so you're always free to decide if signing up for an account and giving up some of your privacy is worth the benefits that the developer is offering.
If you've set up Face ID or Touch ID on your device for in-app purchases, it's hard to overstate how incredibly easy it is to buy something within an app. In fact, it's so easy that this is one area in which Apple's payment system offers a huge benefit to developers as well, since it encourages far more purchases — and far more impulse purchases — than a direct developer payment system might.
Of course, as we noted above, developers could build a direct payment system that might be even easier (arguably too easy) for users to make recurring purchases, but users would still have to start by signing up for an account and entering their credit card or other payment information, and of course that would need to be done with every single app you plan to make regular in-app purchases in.
Further, if you're concerned about security, you may want to avoid storing your credit card information with every random game developer that comes along, in which case you'll be digging out your credit card to punch in the info every time you want to make a payment.
It's a big tradeoff between security and convenience, but with Apple's system, all of your payment information is securely on file, and it's available for every app you happen to be using. To be fair, however, Apple could also address this by making Apple Pay available to developers for digital purchases, which would offer almost all of the same benefits.
It's Great for Parents (and Kids Too)
If you're a parent, it's extremely unlikely you're going to be willing to store your credit card info in Fortnite or Roblox on your kid's iPad, which means that you'll be forced to punch that in each time your child wants to make an online in-game purchase.
By contrast, Apple's system allows your kids to have their own App Store account that's under your parental control as part of Apple's Family Sharing features. Kids who want to purchase anything — or even download a free app — are required to "Ask to Buy" and have that transaction approved by a parent, either by entering their password into the kid's device, or simply by approving the request from their own iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
It's a great system, and it works really well. Plus, it not only benefits parents, who are able to more effectively keep tabs on their kids' spending, but it also benefits the kids themselves, and by extension, the game developers. After all, it's much easier to tap a button and approve a request that comes in on your iPhone than it is to type in credit card information directly into a game app each time, and it's also easier for a kid to tap the "Ask to Buy" button than it is to go find mom or dad and hand over their iPad whenever they want something. This means that kids are able to spend more money on in-app purchases, which is actually a huge win for developers too.
Of course, developers could choose to offer their own parental control systems in their own apps, but the problem here would be a lack of consistency. Parents would be left figuring out how to navigate different parental control systems for each game that their kids like to play, and of course they'd have to trust those parental control systems to actually work properly, and trust them enough to store their credit card info with the developer.
Subscriptions Are All in One Place
These days it seems like just about everything wants you to sign up for a subscription. Whether it's a streaming service like Netflix or a reading service like Medium, the push is on to keep you paying monthly, and of course all of these subscriptions add up not only in terms of the raw dollars, but in the mental clutter that they add to your life. Even calendar apps are getting in on the game now.
Signing up in an app through Apple's system, however, goes a long way to making that whole process feel a lot more manageable. Instead of looking at your credit card statement and email receipts each month to figure out all of the various things you've subscribed to, instead, you get a nice list of everything all in on place right within your iPhone or iPad settings app.
Plus, the process of signing up is also simplicity itself. There's no need to go visit a web site and fill out a form and provide your credit card information. Tap "Subscribe" and confirm the payment with Face ID or Touch ID, and you're good to go. It's completely frictionless.
This is another feature that developers should welcome too, since it almost certainly translates into more subscribers. There are many services that I've signed up for that I wouldn't have even considered if I actually had to go and visit the service's website, yet I can easily subscribe in a click. There are even some that charge a higher price for in-app subscriptions where I've happily paid the Apple tax myself for the ease of managing everything through Apple's system.
Cancelling Subscriptions Is Easy
A key benefit of having all of your subscriptions in one place is that you can also very easily cancel them all from one place. In fact, if you delete an app from your iPhone or iPad that you have an active subscription in, Apple goes so far as to remind you of this, along with a handy link to cancel it.
Let's face it, many online services make unsubscribing an exercise in frustration. In fact, there are some that still actually require you to call their customer service line in order to cancel, in an effort to discourage you from doing so. Even those services that offer the most user-friendly online cancellation experiences still require you to visit their website, sign into your account, and figure out where the necessary buttons are.
This often nets developers a little bit more money in the short term as people hang onto their subscriptions for longer than they should, but it's ultimately frustrating for end-users. Subscribing through an iOS app, however, means that you always know where to go to cancel a subscription, and you can do so in less than 30 seconds. Plus you have the confidence in knowing that it will be cancelled right away, and you won't need to deal with any emails asking you if you're really sure you want to cancel, or nagging you to come back. In fact, as we noted earlier, the app developer doesn't even get to find out who you are or why you cancelled (unless you choose to tell them, of course).
It Can Save You Money
There's another big advantage to Apple's in-app purchasing system that many people don't realize, and that's the fact that you can use Apple Gift Cards and other promotional offers to pay for anything on the App Store, whether it's your Apple Music subscription or simply Robux in Roblox.
It's fairly commonplace to see stores like Costco offering discounts of 10% or more on iTunes Store gift cards, and Apple routinely offers its own 10% promotions when you add funds directly to your Apple ID. These offers work by giving you more App Store dollars for your actual money — you're either paying $90 for a $100 gift card or getting $110 for every $100 you add to your balance — so you'll spend the same dollar figures in apps and games, but you'll have paid less to acquire those dollars.
While it's unclear if these offers will be as frequent with Apple's transition to its universal gift cards, for now at least you can take advantage of these offers to easily save 10% and sometimes even more on anything you're buying through an in-app purchase. These offers are always irrespective of any discounts that developers may offer directly, so they can even be stacked on top of those discounts, and the key is that they work anywhere. A discount on V Bucks is only good in Fortnite, a discount on App Store credit is good for anything that Apple sells on the App Store.