Archive for February 19, 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021

Apple Store Polices “Irrationally High Prices”

Guilherme Rambo:

It looks like Apple has started to crack down on scam attempts by rejecting apps that look like they have subscriptions or other in-app purchases with prices that don’t seem reasonable to the App Review team.


We were initially skeptical about the veracity of this email given some of the wording choices, but looking through Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, it’s possible to find the term “rip-off” at least twice, such as in section 3, where Apple states that “we won’t distribute apps and in-app purchase items that are clear rip-offs.”

In contact with the developer of the rejected app, we were able to verify the authenticity of the rejection email from Apple. Unfortunately in this case, it seems clear that the rejection was a mistake.

See also: Ilia Kukharev.

Paul Haddad:

“Please note that App Store Review cannot make specific recommendations on the price for your app” Isn’t that exactly what they are doing?

If Apple thinks these prices are rip-offs shouldn’t they proactively refund anyone who paid those prices?

Francisco Tolmasky:

I wonder if Apple will apply the same rule to themselves to explain their iCloud and RAM pricing decisions…

Ryan Jones:

These apps will either a) change the price for review then instantly change it back b) lower by $1 and keep submitting until they find the max.

Paulo Andrade:

Maybe it’s just me but mandating the use of Apple provided views for subscribing (with clear monthly and yearly values) as well as an Apple provided view to display in-app for unsubscribing sounds like a better solution then having app review decide what’s worthy or not.


Update (2021-02-22): John Gruber:

This is exactly the sort of crackdown I’ve been advocating for years. A bunco squad that looks for scams, starting with apps that (a) have high-priced in-app purchases and subscriptions, and (b) are generating a lot of money. Ideally Apple will crack down on all scams, but practically speaking, all that matters is that they identify and eliminate successful scams — and identify the scammers behind them and keep them out of the store.

Kosta Eleftheriou:

Apple trying to crack down on “irrational” pricing is an admission that @AppStore ratings just don’t work.

Fix the FAKE RATINGS and people will make it clear if some app’s price-to-value offering is bonkers.

David Barnard:

Apple appears to making some changes to the “buy sheet” on iOS 14.5. Not quite as dramatic as I hope they’ll eventually do, but headed the right direction.

Nick Heer:

I have waffled a bit on whether it makes sense for Apple to be the filter for the appropriateness of app pricing. It has always been a little bit at the mercy of Apple’s discretion — remember the I Am Rich app? — but legitimate developers have concerns about whether their apps will be second-guessed by some reviewer as being too expensive. And I am quite sure that, if the hypothetical becomes a reality, it is likely to be resolved with a few emails. But developers’ livelihoods are often on the line; there are no alternative native app marketplaces on iOS.

The proof of this strategy’s success will be in Apple’s execution, but that in itself is a little worrisome. It is a largely subjective measure; who is an app reviewer to say whether an app is worth five dollars a week or five dollars a month? Apple does not have a history of wild incompetence with its handling of the App Store, but there are enough stories of mistakes and heavy-handedness that this is being viewed as a potential concern even by longstanding developers of high-quality apps.

Update (2021-09-08): Ilia Kukharev:

Now confirmed: Apple is rejecting apps with irrationally high prices for in-apps and subscriptions.

You have to explain why are you charging like $7.99 per week. Because of using 3rd-party paid services, or something similar.

Unhelpful App Store E-mail Receipts

Tyler Hall (tweet):

It’s always difficult to tell when Apple charges you for something and what it was for. Because unlike every other online retailer, they queue up email receipts for an indeterminate amount of time.


Huh. I have no idea what that receipt is for.

This is because, surprisingly, receipts don’t say which app the subscription is associated with.

Sure enough, the Apple ID in 12px font is for my 68-year-old mother. It was her purchase!

But I still have no idea what the app is. And I’m very suspicious because there’s basically zero chance she would ever willingly spend $39.99 on an app. Much less one that automatically renews.


The Order ID link doesn’t open anything in on iOS.

On the Mac, it eventually leads to the Music app.

But there’s no way to search for your purchases. And even if you could, what would you search for? Apple’s receipt didn’t give you any meaningful information. Your only option is to scroll the list and see if you recognize the receipt’s app icon.


Let’s tap the “DOCUMENT NO.” link. (Now, if you’re a developer like me, you know exactly what comes next and why.)

iOS thinks it’s a phone number.

In the email receipt on my desktop browser, clicking the “Write a Review” link opens Chrome and once again asks if I want to open Sure.

And there it is. Inside, right next to all my music playlists, the App Store page loads, and I can see my mom signed up for an automatically renewing $39.99 a year subscription for…

…a white noise app.


It may seem like innocuous onboarding steps, but I know for a fact - based on what comes next - that this developer is already using a dark pattern to trick customers into subscribing.

Jeff Johnson:

pologists: “iOS App Store lockdown is necessary to protect people like your mother who aren’t computer experts.”

your mother: [scammed by iOS App Store]

Paul Haddad:

I think most people would agree that $40/year for a white noise app is a troublesome price. But does anyone want Apple deciding what fair prices are? I’d say no, but then again $40/year…


Update (2021-02-22): David Wendland:

I’ve heard these email invoices have been corrected

Safari to Support WebM Video Playback

Hartley Charlton:

Safari features support for WebM video playback in the second beta of macOS Big Sur 11.3 Beta, indicating that Apple’s browser will finally support the format after failing to do so for almost 11 years.


WebM also has a sister project called WebP for images. Last year, Apple added support for WebP in Safari 14, so the company’s approach to more niche media formats appears to be softening. WebM support still appears to be unavailable on iOS, but in light of these developments it would be unsurprising if Apple’s WebKit engine added support for it too in due course.

On Catalina, WebP files launch Preview, which can’t display them, and Safari 14 can’t open them, either.


Update (2021-03-15): Noah Gilmore:

Turns out that WebP, the web-optimized image format developed by Google, isn’t supported natively by UIKit. Luckily it’s not too hard to implement support for it with the help of a small library and some deeper UIKit APIs.

Apple Adds Proxy for Safe Browsing Queries

Taha Broach (via Hacker News):

Apple’s privacy push is much more widespread than it seems at the surface. A perfect example is the new privacy feature in iOS 14.5 Beta 1 (V2) which redirects Google Safe Browsing traffic through Apple’s own proxy servers to enhance users’ privacy and to not let Google see your IP address.

Since Apple uses a hashed prefix, Google cannot learn which website the user is trying to visit. Up until iOS 14.5, Google could also see the IP address of where that request is coming from. However, since Apple now proxies Google Safe Browsing traffic, it further safeguards users’ privacy while browsing using Safari.

I still think that one could figure out with reasonable certainty which site the hashed prefix corresponds to. Presumably this also prevents the data from iPhone users in China from being shared with Tencent. On the other hand, now Apple gets the data and would be in a position to link it to your iPhone if it wanted to.