App developers get their wish with expanded support for free trials

A group of Apple developers recently banded together as a group called “The Developers Union” in order to plead with Apple, en masse, to allow them to offer free trials of their apps to end users. While not a traditional union with dues, it represented the first time a large group of developers pushed back at Apple’s control of the App Store’s policies. Today, it seems, the developers are having their voices heard.

In Apple’s newly updated App Store guidelines, the company has changed its policy around free trials. Previously, it allowed free trials of subscription-based apps, but now any app can offer a free trial.

The change, spotted by 9to5Mac, clarifies how this system will operate.

Apple says developers of non-subscription apps may offer a “free time-based trial period” before presenting a full unlock option by setting up a non-consumable in-app purchase that doesn’t cost any money.

The in-app purchase must specify the time frame the trial is being offered, and clearly explain to users what content and services it includes.

While Apple may have already been considering support for free trials for all apps, it’s notable that the change followed The Developer Union’s open letter on this matter. That gives the appearance, at least, that the developers had some sway. This is important because the group says they plan to advocate for other changes in the future, including a “more reasonable revenue cut” and “other community-driven, developer-friendly changes.”

As for the request for free trial support, there are currently 636 apps backing this cause on the union’s website – and the majority are indie developers looking to grow their businesses, not the major players.

Their letter specifically asked Apple to commit to “allowing free trials for all apps for the App Stores before July 2019.”

The updated support for free trials wasn’t the only significant change in the new App Store guidelines.

Apple also added a new section that requires apps to implement “appropriate security measures” for handling user data – a rule that could allow it to boot out shadier applications. Another privacy-related change said in-app ads can’t target “sensitive user data” and have to be age-appropriate.

The company addressed the situation with the rejection of the Steam Link app, as well, by saying that cross-platform apps may allow users to access content acquired on the other platforms, but only if it’s also available as an in-app purchase.

And Apple spelled out that apps cannot mine for cryptocurrency in the background, and explained how crypto apps should operate:

(i) Wallets: Apps may facilitate virtual currency storage, provided they are offered by developers enrolled as an organization.

(ii) Mining: Apps may not mine for cryptocurrencies unless the processing is performed off device (e.g. cloud-based mining).

(iii) Exchanges: Apps may facilitate transactions or transmissions of cryptocurrency on an approved exchange, provided they are offered by the exchange itself.

(iv) Initial Coin Offerings: Apps facilitating Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”), cryptocurrency futures trading, and other crypto-securities or quasi-securities trading must come from established banks, securities firms, futures commission merchants (“FCM”), or other approved financial institutions and must comply with all applicable law.

(v) Cryptocurrency apps may not offer currency for completing tasks, such as downloading other apps, encouraging other users to download, posting to social networks, etc.

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