Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Setapp for iOS

William Gallagher (also: MacRumors, Mike Schmitz):

Having launched back in 2017 with just 61 apps, Setapp is a continually growing subscription service which gives users access to paid-for apps for one monthly fee. Currently hosting around 190 Mac apps, the service has now added its first iOS ones.


At launch, the major titles in the eight are the Ulysses writing app, and MindNode mind-mapping tool. It also includes Taskheat and 2Do task managers, the Paste clipboard manager, PDF Search, and SQLPro Studio.


Once you have an iOS device registered to your Setapp account, each eligible app’s page on the Mac Setapp app contains a pair of QR codes. The first downloads the app from the App Store to your iOS device, then the second unlocks it.

Ryan Jones:

THIS BREAKS A GAZILLION RULES. We spend weeks making mental pretzels to understand the latest rule bullshit, and the something that breaks multiple explicit rules is allowed.

I heard about this a while ago and always assumed it would be allowed, because even though the guidelines forbid unlocking via means other than IAP, they specifically allow unlocking for multi-platform apps. This works for Microsoft and The Omni Group, and I don’t see why Setapp unlocking the iOS versions of Mac apps would be any different.


3.1.1 In-App Purchase

If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, (by way of example: subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version), you must use in-app purchase. Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc. Apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.


3.1.3(b) Multiplatform Services: Apps that operate across multiple platforms may allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site, including consumable items in multiplatform games, provided those items are also available as in-app purchases within the app. You must not directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods must not discourage use of in-app purchase.


We would never put our vendors at risk. Therefore we’ve received approval from Apple before going forward. It was confirmed that applications with integrated Setapp iOS framework fulfill the App Store Guidelines.

But a lot of people shared Jones’ reaction, so I guess we’ll see. The rules are anything but “transparent and applied equally,” as Tim Cook stated. WeChat (via Hacker News) remains in the App Store despite offering a store within a store, and it’s threatened more on iOS by the U.S. government than by App Store policy.

(My ToothFairy app is available on Setapp but is unaffected by this issue as it’s Mac-only.)


Update (2020-08-12): Markus Müller-Simhofer:

Section 3.1.1 is mentioned a lot when people comment on the legality of Setapp for iOS, but based on my reading it doesn’t apply here. It’s correct that Setapp uses a QR code, but this code doesn’t unlock the app. It contains a “magic link”/“account token”.

This token is used to login the user into their account (similar to how Slack uses a magic link in emails to login). This token identifies the user and based on this information the Setapp framework tells us the subscription state of the user.


Based on my interpretation this is similar to what other companies (e.g. Microsoft) are doing with their cross platform subscriptions. We also never mention Setapp in the app, the App Store description or App Store release notes. We only promote the App Store subscription.

Adam Engst:

When I asked if Setapp planned to add any iOS-only apps or if the only iOS apps would be companions to Mac apps, Setapp PR manager Julia Petryk’s response suggested, albeit a bit ambiguously, that iOS-only apps might be in Setapp’s future: “Yes, iOS apps will go through the review process by the Setapp review team and in case of their approval, they will join Setapp.”

Given Apple’s explicit prohibition—Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc.—it’s hard to imagine that Apple will allow Setapp to provide access to iOS-only apps. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned with the App Store, it’s that Apple reserves the right to interpret or change the rules as it wants.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

I’m puzzled as to why this is news today. I’ve been using Ulysses on Mac and iOS for over a year thru Setapp. This is the main reason Setapp is worthwhile for me. Maybe they have added more cross platform apps, but Setapp has been doing this for a while.

@Jim Rea
It's mostly news today because what you paid $10 for in the past, may cost more now. For $9.99/month you get 2 devices. That's been 2 Macs for most of us. Now you need to pay another $4.99/month for each device beyond those 2. If you had 2 Macs on your plan, and an iPhone and an iPad, it's double now. The math may still work for some people. I'm currently assessing and leaning toward going back to the old way of just paying for what I actually use.

Unless I'm reading everything wrong, you don't even get the two devices for $9.99 now, just one? https://setapp.com/pricing

No announcement anywhere. Will my laptop just lose access when I'm billed next? This is bad form if so.

@BillyOK Most regular Setapp accounts created before May 2020 have two devices by default. If you had two devices on your subscription plan, none will be taken away from you for as long as you're with us and want to continue on that plan. Here's a link to an article on the Setapp support portal about this: https://support.setapp.com/hc/en-us/articles/360007109260-The-price-or-other-terms-of-my-subscription-plan-changed-since-I-signed-up-Does-that-affect-me-too-.

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