The last-minute changes to Apple’s App Store come with a catch: this is what developers think

Apple’s plans to comply with the European Union’s new rules for big tech are already off to an interesting start, and not just because Apple has revoked Epic Games’ developer license. Apple made last-minute changes to its Digital Markets Act (DMA) compliance plan to add flexibility, but it has received mixed reactions among developers.

Developers considering Apple’s post-DMA fee structure, which comes with a new ‘Core Technology Fee’, can try them out now and then go back to the original terms – rather than, as originally announced, making the change a one-way trip . In an update published Tuesday, Apple said it has created the “one-time option” to revert to Apple’s standard agreement in the event of “unexpected business changes” or if developers simply change their minds. But there’s a caveat: Developers can only switch back if they haven’t placed their apps in an alternative app store or used alternative payment options.

Apple’s new rules allow developers to distribute their apps to third-party marketplaces and use alternative payment options. Even if they don’t distribute outside the App Store, they can sign up for the new structure and benefit from a lower commission rate on the App Store. But if their app has more than 1 million annual installs per year, they have to pay that 50 cents for each additional install and update – which can add up, especially for popular freemium apps.

Apple is now giving developers the chance to return to standard terms, which means dropping the per-install fee and returning to the higher commission rate. That offers a way out for app makers who rack up millions of downloads but can’t afford the fee, but only if they haven’t left the App Store. While this should allow developers to test Apple’s new terms, it also arguably discourages developers from trying out alternative app stores, undermining a key purpose of the DMA.

“I believe the concept of these new agreements… bears an uncanny resemblance to a mafia-style ultimatum to developers, essentially conveying, ‘Remember who’s in charge here, I’m your friend if you remember that; I’m willing to give you one more chance to stay with me,” says developer and author Maximiliano Firtman The edge. “This new rule, along with most new publishing regulations in EU countries, appears overly complex, potentially creating a significant barrier to developers from even attempting to navigate these waters.”

But other developers see the update as a welcome change. “I think this will encourage more developers (especially indies) to adopt the terms just now for the reduced App Store commission rate because they can now ‘try it out’ and see if they stay under the CTF [Core Technology fee] threshold,” AltStore developer Riley Testut said in an emailed statement The edge. “I don’t expect many developers to actually return, but knowing they can do it will give them the confidence to adopt the terms.”

David Barnard, the founder of software development company Contrast, similarly writes in a post on X that Apple has “eliminated the risk in accepting the new terms.” In addition to giving developers the option to switch back to Apple’s default terms, Apple is also making it easier for some developers to open an alternative app store. As outlined in Apple’s terms, developers can now open a third-party store if they have been a member of the Apple Developer Program for at least two consecutive years and have an app that is installed more than 1 million times annually in the EU. Apple previously required all developers to provide a €1,000,000 letter of credit from an A-rated financial institution.

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