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Apple to relax store rules for "reader apps"

"It's hard to discern the rationale that this is safe while Fortnite accepting direct payments remains unsafe," Tim Sweeney reacted

Apple is further relaxing its App Store rules, and will be allowing some content apps to link to their websites so users can set up and manage accounts.

The change will be applied from early 2022 globally to what is referred to as "reader apps," providing content such as ebooks, newspapers, audio, music, and video, the announcement said.

This is part of a settlement with Japan's Fair Trade Commission, which investigated Apple's practices for the past five years, focusing on video and music apps, but not games.

"To ensure a safe and seamless user experience, the App Store's guidelines require developers to sell digital services and subscriptions using Apple's in-app payment system," the announcement read. "Because developers of reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase, Apple agreed with the JFTC to let developers of these apps share a single link to their website to help users set up and manage their account."

Apple's latest update follows a series of concessions and clarifications made last week around payments in the ongoing row with its developers. The tech giant will now allow developers to promote alternative payment options for its apps to customers.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney reacted to the new announcement on Twitter, in particular highlighting the part of Apple's statement saying that "developers of reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase."

"This bit isn't really true, now, is it?" Sweeney said. "Amazon video offers digital goods for sale, like individual movies for purchase or rent, that can be experienced in-app."

He also said: "Apple's special deal for 'reader apps' like Amazon video, Netflix, and Kindle just got more special! Starting in 2022, they can link directly to the web to signup and 'manage' accounts (presumably meaning: buying stuff with non-Apple payment methods).

"In Apple's carefully-worded statement on safety, it's hard to discern the rationale that this is safe while Fortnite accepting direct payments remains unsafe. Even more so if Apple deems Roblox, a game from 2006-2021 that became 'an experience' mid-trial, a reader app."

The trial he's referring to, of course, is the Epic vs Apple trial that took place last May, which focused on the 30% commission Apple takes from purchases made through its app store. You can read all about it in our roundup of this high-profile case.

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