Tuesday, May 9, 2023

App Store Rules Regarding Trials

Anders Borum:

Making decisions for my coming S3 app.

Does Apple app review allow free to download apps to put everything behind a paywall, such that users can download and use the app during a free trial but when the trial expires nothing is available for free?

App Review guidelines doesn’t mention this particular case as either acceptable or unacceptable.

I thought there was a rule where you had to provide some minimum functionality for free. Sometimes this is straightforward, like allowing reading but not writing of documents. Some apps had to get more creative. But I can no longer find this rule in the guidelines.


Non-subscription apps may offer a free time-based trial period before presenting a full unlock option by setting up a Non-Consumable IAP item at Price Tier 0 that follows the naming convention: “XX-day Trial.” Prior to the start of the trial, your app must clearly identify its duration, the content or services that will no longer be accessible when the trial ends, and any downstream charges the user would need to pay for full functionality.


Auto-renewing subscription apps may offer a free trial period to customers by providing the relevant information set forth in App Store Connect. Learn more about providing subscription offers.

Anders Borum:

This is about using free non-consumable in-app purchases for trials which wasn’t allowed before 2014 and I was hurt badly by this in 2012.

It is related to my question but doesn’t make it super clear what is allowed when trial expires.

Of course, you can try to look at what other apps are doing, but that’s no guarantee that your app will be allowed to do the same thing. It’s a shame that the rules are still so unclear. A free trial should be a common pattern that is not only blessed in the rules but implemented once by Apple so that developers and users get a consistent experience, and the store can show what the business model is.


Update (2023-05-10): Rob Jonson:

Don’t ever do the ‘Non-Consumable IAP Trial’ dance. I did that years ago on Multi Monitor Wallpaper before subscription + trial was a thing. It’s a horrible customer experience. Subscription + trial is clearer for the customer and earns a lot more!

My experience has been that Apple is fine with apps that offer zero functionality after trial expires. I agree that this should be supported explicitly and directly. ’Free Download <tiny letters> In App Purchase’ Is not the same as Free Trial - Subscription required.

I think there are some app types where neither customers nor most developers think subscriptions are a good fit.

Update (2023-05-11): I heard from a developer whose app was just rejected for offering the choice between an IAP and a subscription with a free trial. They were told that they had to add some free functionality, with the reviewer citing a section of the guidelines that does not mention anything about this. The app had been in the store for years and was not even allowed to do a maintenance update before changing its business model.

Helge Heß:

I think apart from a SwiftUI w/o any changes but just fixes, my main WWDC wish would be AppStore support for flows I’d personally want (e.g. direct support for upgrades, non-subscription trials). And an actual iAP store that I don’t have to implement myself from scratch (it wouldn’t even have to be in-app, just let users purchase iAP’s in the store app and deep link there).


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