Archive for June 3, 2021

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Apple Developer Relations

Marco Arment (tweet, Hacker News):

Apple’s leaders continue to deny developers of two obvious truths:

  • That our apps provide substantial value to iOS beyond the purchase commissions collected by Apple.
  • That any portion of our customers came to our apps from our own marketing or reputation, rather than the App Store.

For Apple to continue to deny these is dishonest, factually wrong, and extremely insulting — not only to our efforts, but to the intelligence of all Apple developers and customers.


Update (2021-06-04): Jesper:

Epic’s inability to use another payment processor is just a symptom of the same disease. Beyond the mobility of huge companies, it affects the everyday lives of developers and customers as being users – this is where we live, and Apple are not being reasonable stewards of this community.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2021-06-07): Riccardo Mori:

I’ve purchased or downloaded apps from the App Store since the beginning, and I can confirm everything Arment says.

Becky Hansmeyer:

There’s a cloud hovering over Apple Park again, and it’s not just the pandemic. It’s bruised developer relations. It’s alleged anti-trust violations. It’s App Store scammy-ness. It’s the weight of a million different expectations and quibbles, from “make the iPad more like the Mac” to “let the iPad be an iPad,” from pro hardware announcements to satisfy developers, to hints of an augmented reality revolution to satisfy those hungry and excited for the post-staring-at-screens era.

Nick Statt (tweet):

Apple will host its second all-virtual Worldwide Developers Conference starting Monday, giving the iPhone maker its annual opportunity to showcase upcoming changes to its software platforms and maybe some new hardware, too. But more important than in years past is that Apple communicates it cares about developers and actively wants to make their lives easier.


“For me, it seems very clear that Apple thinks it owns the platform and the users, and thus can demand whatever it wants from developers with little to no recourse available to said developers,” Troughton-Smith said. […] “The Tim Cook testimony on the final day really rubbed developers the wrong way, when it seemingly became clear that Apple views the App Store as a way to monetize its IP and that if they had to give up control, they would find some other way to squeeze developers for what they ‘owe,’” Troughton-Smith said. “It feels like a toxic relationship, and is dramatically asymmetrical: Developers bend over backwards to fit within Apple’s ever-changing rules, knowing Apple can end their businesses overnight.”

Dan Moren:

Usually, the hours before Apple’s keynote event are filled with speculation and excitement, but this year there is far more frustration and antipathy than I can remember seeing in my decade and a half covering Apple. There’s always been some degree of dissatisfaction, especially amongst developers, but it’s hard to escape that the current story about Apple is less about its products and more about its attitude.


Update (2021-06-13): John Gruber:

What’s weirdest about Apple’s antitrust and PR problems related to the App Store is that the App Store is a side hustle for Apple. Yes it’s earning Apple $10+ billion a year, and even for Apple that’s significant. But it’s not Apple’s main business by a longshot. To my knowledge no company in history has ever gotten into antitrust hot water over a side business so comparatively small to its overall business. Apple doesn’t need this.


I don’t think the developers are wrong, but even if they are wrong, it’s not good for Apple that they’re so unhappy, and feel so aggrieved. It’s not good for Apple that developers don’t see the App Store as a platform that works in their interests.

Cory Zanoni:

Of the 57 apps on my phone, only two are App Store recommendations[…]


I’ve bounced around Android phones for a while but never stuck with one as my main phone for long. I struggle to find apps I like using. Meanwhile, it’s apps that brought me to iPhones and apps that keep me there.

On The Talk Show, Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak respond to Arment, calling his sentiments “bizarre” and “not founded in reality.” It’s too bad they were so dismissive, because his views are widely held and grounded in specific things that Apple has done and said in the last few years. One could argue that developers have misinterpreted these, but calling the inferences crazy is not going to convince anyone.

More Documents From Epic vs. Apple

Ryan Jones:

Here’s all the Apple vs Epic court files OCR’ed.


I also converted all the PPT to PDF, so they can be searched now too.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Ooh there are plenty of interesting documents I missed from the Epic trial, like this 2015 Apple report on the Mac App Store and why developers are rejecting it (including testimonials)

In 2017, Apple planned on adding… A/B product pages, and paid upgrades to the App Store?

Matt Gallagher:

The lack of progress on Mac App Store issues (from 6 years ago) is a tragedy. Apple should dogfood the real-world development stack (notarisation, package managers, third-party CI hosting, CD pipelines, App Store review, etc). Shouldn’t need surveys for the blatantly obvious.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Reading this, you’d get the impression that the Epic v Apple suit was designed just to get Apple to the negotiating table and change its policies by turning developers against them (which is exactly what happened). The antitrust sharks circling made this the best possible shot

To be fair, dev sentiment has been simmering for the past decade, and it’s only now that it looks like something might actually happen that a lot of us are comfortable talking about it. We lost an entire generation of 3rd-party innovation on iOS that just didn’t fit the App Store

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Wherein Apple strongarms Uber into switching to IAP, knowing that Uber would have to raise subscription prices and pass Apple’s 30% along to the consumer

This is interesting because Apple specifically mentioned in the trial that Uber and other physical goods are not subject to the 30%, and that this is by design because they can’t guarantee that the service was delivered.

Internal Tech Emails:

Phil Schiller forwards a Six Colors report card to other Apple execs, highlighting App Store/developer comments from @jamesthomson, @rgriff, @Ihnatko, @gruber, and Katie Floyd

Steve Troughton-Smith:

As late as August 2007 Apple still hadn’t committed to opening up the iPhone to developers beyond EA. Also: 15” MacBook Air and ‘Tablet’ were penciled in for 1H 2008? They thought they were mere months away from those products?

Internal Tech Emails:

App Store execs discuss Google’s app review process

James O’Leary:

holy whackamole some app reviewer at Apple pulled some tmobile app that required the customer service company death sentence, immediate training and mitigation because it screwed up everything


i feel really bad for the tmobile coo, schiller lecturing him about app review email dates and you were told to comply, etc etc. like it’s his fault Apple’s doing this weird money grab. Services(tm)!


Update (2021-06-05): Matthew Panzarino:

The gist of it is that SVP of Software Engineering, Bertrand Serlet, sent an email in October of 2007, just three months after the iPhone was launched. In the email, Serlet outlines essentially every core feature of Apple’s App Store — a business that brought in an estimated $64 billion in 2020. And that, more importantly, allowed the launch of countless titanic internet startups and businesses built on and taking advantage of native apps on iPhone.

Forty-five minutes after the email, Steve Jobs replies to Serlet and iPhone lead Scott Forstall, from his iPhone, “Sure, as long as we can roll it all out at Macworld on Jan 15, 2008.”

Update (2021-06-13): John Gruber:

This email is simultaneously not surprising — because he’s Phil Schiller, steward of the Apple brand, and because, of course, at some point surely some discussion was had within Apple about the permanence of 70/30 — but also shocking, because, my god, it spells out a game plan that would have kept Apple out of all this.

Update (2021-08-21): Sean Hollister:

After sifting through over 800 documents spanning 4.5 gigabytes, here are the roughly 100 things I learned.


Web Apps in Epic v. Apple

Adi Robertson:

For Apple it’s a win if Nvidia is providing an amazing service through the Safari browser outside the App Store, obviously. “Has Apple done anything to stop Nvidia from offering GeForce Now on Safari?” lawyer asks. Patel says no.

Nilay Patel:

Apple is basically making the argument that web apps are a good competitor to native apps, which, well… they are not. Famously they are a “shit sandwich,” according to @gruber

Dieter Bohn and Tom Warren:

Though the term itself hasn’t really come up explicitly, what’s being discussed are Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs. If you’re unfamiliar, think of them as slightly more advanced web apps that you can “install” directly from your web browser onto your home screen. Google has been pushing the idea (though support for PWAs on its own platforms is a little mixed), and some companies like Microsoft and Twitter have wholeheartedly embraced PWAs.

Not Apple, though. There are a variety of reasons for that — ranging from genuine concern about giving web pages too much access to device hardware to the simple fact that even Apple can’t do everything. There’s also the suspicion that Apple is deliberately dragging its feet on support for features that make PWAs better as a way to drive developers to its App Store instead.


All of this is compounded by yet another Apple policy: no third-party browser engines. You can install apps like Chrome, Firefox, Brave, DuckDuckGo, and others on the iPhone — but fundamentally they’re all just skins on top of Apple’s WebKit engine. That means that Apple’s decisions on what web features to support on Safari are final. If Apple were to find a way to be comfortable letting competing web browsers run their own browser engines, a lot of this tension would dissipate.

Alex Russell:

Apple’s iOS browser (Safari) and engine (WebKit) are uniquely under-powered. Consistent delays in the delivery of important features ensure the web can never be a credible alternative to its proprietary tools and App Store.