Apple's rejection of 'Readability' iOS app stirs subscription controversy

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
The makers of the software service Readability have called out Apple in an open letter after their application, which declined to use the new iOS in-app subscription feature, was rejected from the App Store.



The Readability application was submitted to Apple for approval, but was rejected last Friday, according to creator Rich Ziade, for not adhering to the company's new subscription policies. Ziade revealed that the iOS software, which saves web articles in an easy-to-read view without advertisements, was rejected from the App Store due to section 11.2 of the App Store Review Guidelines.



Section 11.2 prevents iOS software from "utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or other services in an app."



Readability gives 70 percent of its service fees directly to writers and publishers of content, financed through a minimum $5-per-month subscription fee. But that fee is collected from outside the confines of the App Store, which means Apple does not get its mandated 30 percent cut of all transactions for iOS software.



"We're obviously disappointed by this decision, and surprised by the broad language," Ziade wrote. "By including 'functionality, or services,' it's clear that you intend to pursue any subscription-based apps, not merely those of services serving up content."



He argued that Readability is "unique" because it is a service that pays most of its earnings to writers and publishers. In response, Ziade said that Apple's policy -- which he said "smacks of greed" -- will force Readability to embrace the Web and bypass the App Store.



Last week, Apple unveiled subscriptions for its iOS App Store, allowing publishers of content-based applications for iOS devices to offer recurring billing. Apple's terms also prevented links to external websites to purchase content or subscriptions. In addition, fees cannot be less expensive for customers outside of the App Store.



Apple's change in policy frustrated some publishers, developers and content providers, who feel that a 30 percent cut of all transactions through iOS software is too steep. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department are also said to be looking into Apple's policies in a "preliminary stage."



Ziade said that while he's frustrated by Apple's change of policy, he hopes that the company will reconsider its approach and allow services like Readability to come to the iPad and iPhone in the form of a native application.



"We're always looking to give readers the best possible reading experience and a native iOS client would help us do that," he wrote. "We hope you'll change your mind. If you do, we?d be happy to resubmit the Readability iOS app."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 380
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,894member
    To me, the irony of a lot of this is that there is very little content that is available in the form of a native app that is any better than what's available through the web. Actually, in many cases, the app-version of content is *worse* than the website (the NY Times perhaps being the most dramatic example that I can think of).



    If I were a content person, I think I'd just make an html5 web app that installs on people's home screens. From the user's perspective, that's pretty similar to a native app, and if all you're doing is looking at text, graphics, and video, why do you need a native app to begin with? Those things work just fine through html5 and can have interactive components.
  • Reply 2 of 380
    Don't like Apple's choices? Try the competition.
  • Reply 3 of 380
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,752member
    Well, Apple certainly seems to be losing the PR war here. They do come off as greedy and more controlling than in the past. They have always had a high profit margin, but fans (like me) said "it is worth it for a great product package." Here, it doesn't seem that Apple is adding all that much with in-app subscriptions...



    I don't see how they will win all these battles. Not sure where it will end...
  • Reply 4 of 380
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post


    Well, Apple certainly seems to be losing the PR war here. They do come off as greedy and more controlling than in the past. They have always had a high profit margin, but fans (like me) said "it is worth it for a great product package." Here, it doesn't seem that Apple is adding all that much with in-app subscriptions...



    I don't see how they will win all these battles. Not sure where it will end...



    I agree with you, whatever the rights and wrongs of this, Apple are coming across pretty badly in the news. I can imagine them backing down on this one.
  • Reply 5 of 380
    I don't see what all the hub-ub is about. This is THEIR phone, using THEIR App Store. They should reserve the right for business to be run on their terms. Why shouldn't they get a cut of developer's who make money off of the software they put on their device? It's the same way when royalites are paid to creators of films or television shows that are later remade, or when actors are paid for DVDs and such that are sold of their films.
  • Reply 6 of 380
    estyleestyle Posts: 201member
    I thought that the bang for the buck with itunes (music, apps, movies, etc) was to get people using apple, not to cushion apple profits.



    this seems counter to that approach.



    30% seems like a lot, especially when I would love to buy books through ipad kindle without going to the web. I don't think that amazon is going to take a 30% loss on every book.



    This just doesn't seem fully thought out. SJ needs to start asking some questions inside as to what they were thinking.



    E
  • Reply 7 of 380
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Eideard View Post


    Don't like Apple's choices? Try the competition.



    thats great business, alienate the consumers and those you rely on to make your ecosystem desirable.
  • Reply 8 of 380
    This is only the beginning.. They keep this up, the more developers they'll turn off. As a consumer I don't care (right now) but once apps and contents start leaving iOS then I will start caring.
  • Reply 9 of 380
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hface119 View Post


    I don't see what all the hub-ub is about. This is THEIR phone, using THEIR App Store. They should reserve the right for business to be run on their terms. Why shouldn't they get a cut of developer's who make money off of the software they put on their device? It's the same way when royalites are paid to creators of films or television shows that are later remade, or when actors are paid for DVDs and such that are sold of their films.



    No one is arguing that Apple deserves a cut but 30% is just flat out ridiculous. Like the music industry, Apple is supposed to save the publishing industry not help destroy it.
  • Reply 10 of 380
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hface119 View Post


    I don't see what all the hub-ub is about. This is THEIR phone, using THEIR App Store. They should reserve the right for business to be run on their terms. Why shouldn't they get a cut of developer's who make money off of the software they put on their device? It's the same way when royalites are paid to creators of films or television shows that are later remade, or when actors are paid for DVDs and such that are sold of their films.



    Lets say Apple has developed an ecosystem, not just iPhone/iPad hardware, right ? Then one might also look at the number of native Apps that Apple built. How many are they? Not many. Thousands of developers developed Apps using their brains/resources and Apple started gaining and touting that there are hundreds of new apps coming to App store available to users. Sort of, Apple and developers have some degree of interdependence. Apple needs developers' software and developers need Apple hardware.



    Now are those developers asking for a bite in hardware sale revenue ? Plain NO. Is Apple asking a bite (not a chunk)? Yes. What's fair?
  • Reply 11 of 380
    Apple is completely & totally 100% out of control here.



    Apple's greed is simply unfathomable.



    Their new subscription policies are the equivalent of Microsoft charging Apple a 30% fee every time Apple sold a song through iTunes for Windows, simply because Apple is using Microsoft's platform.



    This is completely unfair, and I'm hoping that it's illegal as well so that somebody will put a stop to Apple's corrupt practices here.



    Shame on Apple.



    And for my next phone, I will be looking at Android.
  • Reply 12 of 380
    I wonder if many more apps get rejected/ leave the App store. Readability is nice, but not that well known so won't have too much impact. While Apple does have all these rights, it's a wonder they didn't announce this from the store's inception. Their policies haven't been the best, although I guess it's difficult not to make mistakes when you're the first to do it.
  • Reply 13 of 380
    estyleestyle Posts: 201member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by scotty321 View Post


    Apple is completely & totally 100% out of control here.



    ...

    And for my next phone, I will be looking at Android.



    I wouldn't go that far. That is like whipping yourself because the price of milk went up.



    Let's just hope that this is sorted out so that Apple's operational costs are covered and apps all go in-app with purchases.



    But don't punish yourself by using an Android phone. You did nothing wrong here.



    E
  • Reply 14 of 380
    at the very least, for the consumer, it's a bait and switch on Apple's part if a significant amount of content leaves the store that had been available.
  • Reply 15 of 380
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wurm5150 View Post


    No one is arguing that Apple deserves a cut but 30% is just flat out ridiculous. Like the music industry, Apple is supposed to save the publishing industry not help destroy it.



    I'm in the publishing industry, and while I can not speak for the whole industry, I can safely say for myself that I have never looked to Apple (or Google, or Microsoft) to "save the publishing industry".



    As for this app, this seems to be another issue of a developer thinking they are too important to play by the rules Apple has created. They charge $5 a month for the a subscription, of which 70% goes to publishers. Great. But why can't they simply do the same through the app store?



    If they are in the app store the amount they would get after Apple's commission would be $3.50, of which $2.45 will go to publishers. By crying foul, they will not be in the app store and publishers will get what? Zero.



    The other option is to make their app a "reader" app where only those who already subscribe to the service can use it. By taking out the out-of-app purchasing option they will not be in conflict with the app store rules.



    (For instance, the Xfinity app can only be used if you are an Xfinity subscriber -- you can not subscribe to Comcast services through the app, therefore there is no conflict.)
  • Reply 16 of 380
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hface119 View Post


    I don't see what all the hub-ub is about. This is THEIR phone, using THEIR App Store. They should reserve the right for business to be run on their terms. Why shouldn't they get a cut of developer's who make money off of the software they put on their device? It's the same way when royalites are paid to creators of films or television shows that are later remade, or when actors are paid for DVDs and such that are sold of their films.



    Should they also be able to control the price outside of the store on your website too?
  • Reply 17 of 380
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by scotty321 View Post


    Apple is completely & totally 100% out of control here.



    Apple's greed is simply unfathomable.



    Their new subscription policies are the equivalent of Microsoft charging Apple a 30% fee every time Apple sold a song through iTunes for Windows, simply because Apple is using Microsoft's platform.



    This is completely unfair, and I'm hoping that it's illegal as well so that somebody will put a stop to Apple's corrupt practices here.



    Shame on Apple.



    And for my next phone, I will be looking at Android.



    While I'm defending Apple, I've seen the analogy of Microsoft charging Apple for iTunes purchases on Windows a couple times, and it's beyond stupid. Microsoft doesn't host, advertise, or do quality control for iTunes. Apple does do all three for app developers. If Apple were charging people for downloading the iOS SDK, then it would be similar to Microsoft charging Apple for iTunes (though of note, Microsoft does actually charge for it's development software, whilst Xcode is free).
  • Reply 18 of 380
    I understood that 30% mainly covers the cost of the distribution and purchase. I disagree that an app should be able to be free on the store and then in some way charge the user for it's use outside of the Apple structure. I get all the greed talk, but at the same time, Apple deserves revenue from both their investment in the store and to cover any costs.
  • Reply 19 of 380
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Eideard View Post


    Don't like Apple's choices? Try the competition.



    It's amazing how consistently I see this mindset. The thing is, that's exactly what's going to happen.



    But even beyond that, it's such an unintelligent attitude. See, a lot of people fail to realize that it wasn't Apple who built the app store, but it was the app developers. It's like a nation; it's the people who build the country, not its government.



    Apple and the app developers once existed in a mutually beneficial relationship. Like a shark with the sucker fish that attach to itself and clean it. But Apple has basically become the shark who lacks foresight, and thinks "Hey wait a minute, I can eat the sucker fish!"



    And of course, the sucker fish will learn that they cannot trust the shark. So they'll move onto a marine animal that they know they can trust. One such as the intelligent, elegant Dolphin, which would be the equivalent of Android in this perfect and irrefutable analogy.



  • Reply 20 of 380
    xsuxsu Posts: 401member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by scotty321 View Post


    Apple is completely & totally 100% out of control here.



    Apple's greed is simply unfathomable.



    Their new subscription policies are the equivalent of Microsoft charging Apple a 30% fee every time Apple sold a song through iTunes for Windows, simply because Apple is using Microsoft's platform.



    This is completely unfair, and I'm hoping that it's illegal as well so that somebody will put a stop to Apple's corrupt practices here.



    Shame on Apple.



    And for my next phone, I will be looking at Android.





    To make an argument, it helps if you make the right analogy.



    Windows is an operating system, not a trading platform. The correct analogy to Windows is the iOS. Now if MS designed iTune, and Apple is using it to sell music it had sourced from other suppliers, your analogy would be correct.



    A real world relevant analogy would be the Amazon market, where 3rd party vendors sell their items in Amazon's marketplace to customers attracted to Amazon's marketplace by Amazon. Of course, this analogy doesn't help your argument as Amazon does charge a not so insignificant percentage of item price to the 3rd party vendors.
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