Archive for May 16, 2024

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Problems With App Store Bundles

Jeff Johnson:

The first thing I tried was to create yet another new Mac App Store bundle that included Link Unshortener, StopTheMadness, and StopTheMadness Pro. It took a number of days for Apple to review and approve the bundle, just like with the upgrade bundles, as I complained about in the previous blog post. At the end of the wait, there was no joy, because the customers did not see a discounted Complete My Bundle price with the new bundle either.


After weeks of back and forth — mostly waiting for responses from Apple — I think I’ve finally received confirmation of my greatest fear: Complete My Bundle prices are available only for previous purchasers of standalone apps, not for previous purchases of app bundles. I say “I think” because I haven’t been allowed to speak directly with Apple engineering. I had to go back and forth with an intermediary, an Apple Developer Support representative, who hasn’t personally demonstrated much of a grasp of the situation. The responses from Apple engineering have been terse, and it’s not entirely clear that they have a full grasp of the situation either, so I’ve been forced to play interpreter and guess at their meaning.


The conclusion, if my interpretation is correct, is that previously selling an app bundle for StopTheMadness and Link Unshortener ended up backfiring on me when I needed to sell an app bundle for StopTheMadness and StopTheMadness Pro. There’s no upgrade path for those customers.


I still believe that the upgrade app bundles were the least worst of my available options for StopTheMadness Pro. Adding an In-App Purchase to the old StopTheMadness app would not have been technically feasible, because there were massive architectural changes in StopTheMadness Pro, making it nearly impossible to release the functionality of those two apps in a single app. StopTheMadness Pro needed to be a brand new app. Moreover, it would be weird to have an IAP in an app that’s already paid upfront. This would make potential customers wary.

It’s really swimming against the App Store tide to eschew subscriptions.

Boris Yurkevich:

It’s 2024 and I think there are three massive things the App Store can still give us, these three signs will make a business of indie developers healthier and stronger. It will save us stress, and development time. It will make us more money we so desperately need.

So it’s 2024 and I want these three things.

  1. Free trials for paid upfront apps.
  2. Upgrade pricing for new major releases.
  3. Version management which would allow customers to install previously purchased releases of major versions.

Jeff Johnson (Mastodon):

I’ve discovered that starting in February, Apple mistakenly subtracts the price of the previously purchased app twice from the proceeds of a “Complete My Bundle” purchase, thereby causing me to take a loss on each such bundle purchase. This accounting change has cost me thousands of dollars over the past few months.


My trust in Apple is shaken. In the App Store, Apple has all the cards, handling all of the financial transactions with customers. App Store developers have no direct relationship with their customers. I’ve had little choice but to trust that Apple is paying me the amounts that I’m due. Yesterday I looked back at all of my proceeds since 2017 when I started doing business in the App Store, and it does appear that the amounts of Apple’s payments to me have pretty closely corresponded to the estimated proceeds in App Store Connect Trends (if you can trust those numbers) up until February 2024. Only the past few months have been problematic. Still, a corporation with the financial resources and financial responsibilities of Apple should not make such a fundamental accounting error. It’s inexcusable. And if “Complete My Bundle” purchases were not such a big portion of my current proceeds, I might have never discovered the error.

John Gruber:

Surely this is a bug, not an attempt by Apple to swindle developers. But, how surprised are you that this bug, left unfixed, works in Apple’s favor, not the other way around? If Apple were erroneously paying developers too much, rather than too little, I’m guessing it would be fixed already.

After Gruber and others helped publicize this issue, Johnson got a call from Apple stating that the bug was already fixed.


Update (2024-05-29): Jeff Johnson:

Bad news, everyone!

Apple has ghosted me since that 2 minutes phone call, I’ve received 0 emails about the issue, and the Apple representative hasn’t responded to my follow-up phone inquiry, which went straight to voicemail.

Jeff Johnson:

Since last time I checked, my App Store proceeds payable June 6 have risen by thousands of dollars!

However, I still haven’t received any further communication from Apple since the 2 minute phone call 2 weeks ago.

Update (2024-05-31): Jeff Johnson:

I finally got an email from Apple, more than 2 weeks after the phone call.

We’re reaching out to let you know of a bug that resulted in an underpayment to your account.

This bug has been resolved and no action is needed on your part. Apple will calculate your underpaid proceeds and issue a one-time adjustment soon, which will appear in your Payments and Financial Reports in App Store Connect.

Update (2024-06-03): Jeff Johnson (Mastodon):

To date, I’ve never received a follow-up on my case number. It was clear from my one phone conversation with the Apple representative (who never responded personally to my subsequent voicemail) that they learned of my situation from the news media rather than from my case with Apple Media Services Finance Support.

I checked my financial reports for April, and I found a new, large, lump sum addition. […] Is the lump sum amount correct? Well, it’s a suspiciously round number, ending in 300.00. Otherwise, though, it seems roughly correct, at least compared with my proceeds listed in App Store Connect Trends. Comparing the financial statements with the “trends” was how I discovered the discrepancy in the first place. But it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to perform a precise comparison. The trends never seem to match exactly with the financial statements in the amount of proceeds—or even in the number of unit sales—for reasons that I don’t fully understand.


Another problem is that the lump sum adjustment to my April financial statement is entirely in US dollars, whereas the financial statements themselves are always broken down into different countries and currencies.

Web-Only Apple Music Features


Apple Music today announced the release of its 100 Best Albums of all time, a celebratory list of the greatest records ever made, crafted by Apple Music’s team of experts alongside a select group of artists, including Maren Morris, Pharrell Williams, J Balvin, Charli XCX, Mark Hoppus, Honey Dijon, and Nia Archives, as well as songwriters, producers, and industry professionals. The list is an editorial statement, fully independent of any streaming numbers on Apple Music — a love letter to the records that have shaped the world music lovers live and listen in.

Nick Heer:

Yet there is no exciting presentation of this list in Apple Music. There is a live radio broadcast — which cannot be found by searching, say, “100 best” or “top 100” — and the albums are shown in the featured boxes on the Browse tab, but there little else that I can find. To explore the list, you need to visit in a web browser, where each record gets a lovely write-up and explanation of why it is on the list. The same explanation appears in album descriptions. But, like the Replay feature, why is this not all within the app and on the web?


Update (2024-05-30): Nick Heer:

It is beyond my understanding why anyone seems to be under the impression this list is anything more than a business reminding you it operates a music streaming platform to which you can subscribe for eleven dollars per month.

Speaking of the app — some time after I complained there was no way in Apple Music to view the list, Apple added a full section, which I found via foursliced on Threads. It is actually not bad. There are stories about each album, all the reveal episodes from the radio show, and interviews.

You will note something missing, however: a way to play a given album. That is, one cannot visit this page in Apple Music, see an album on the list they are interested in, and simply tap to hear it. There are play buttons on the website and, if you are signed in with your Apple Music account, you can add them to your library. But I cannot find a way to do any of this from within the app.

Emoji History: The Missing Years

Matt Sephton (tweet):

During my research into vintage Japanese drawing software, I came across some devices that had built in sketch or handwritten memo functions. I bought a couple of them to see if they did anything cool or interesting. These sorts of devices are pre-internet, so there’s not much about them online, and they can’t be emulated, so the only way to find out what they do is to get first hand experience by reading the manual or, better, using one yourself. It’s difficult to find these devices in working condition, as most of them have screen polarisers that have gone bad over time, but if you’re lucky you can find one.


At this point, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing because I was under the impression that the first emoji were created by an anonymous designer at SoftBank in 1997, and the most famous emoji were created by Shigetaka Kurita at NTT DoCoMo in 1999. But the Sharp PI-4000 in my hands was released in 1994, and it was chock full of recognisable emoji. Then down the rabbit hole I fell. 🕳️🐇

Keith Broni (Hacker News):

In 2019 Emojipedia detailed a historic revelation: Docomo’s i-mode emojis from 20 years prior were not the first to exist. Now, in 2024, further digital excavations have led to the recreation of emoji designs that predate both Softbank’s 1997 emoji set and the ❤-enabled Pocket Bell pagers of 1995.

Delta’s 10-Year Journey to the Top of the App Store

David Pierce:

On this episode of The Vergecast, Testut joins the show to tell us the full Delta story. He describes his early attempts at building emulators, the first time he almost made it onto the App Store, the process of building the alternative app store AltStore, what it was like to watch regulators around the world take aim at Apple, and much more.

Amazingly, his GBA4iOS app got 10 million downloads outside the App Store more than a decade ago.

He then went to a WWDC lab and talked with Apple directly about how to get Delta into the App Store. He did exactly what they told him would be allowed, but after a year of work they changed their mind and rejected the app, anyway.

This year, he tried to get the AltStore PAL marketplace ready for day one with iOS 17.4, but Apple wasn’t prepared and held up the launch for over a month. They surely knew that Delta and emulators would be popular and so changed the guidelines to avoid the bad look of these apps being exclusive to the EU. They then approved a knock-off app based on Testut’s old open-source code before allowing Delta itself to be available.

Paulo Andrade:

It feels like App Review just likes to pick on me. I’ve been on the receiving end of silly rejections for way too many years. Be it for my own apps or for my employers. And the feeling like your powerless never goes away.

I’ve submitted a new app today, it got rejected 3 times for 3 completely different reasons. It was just approved. All the while I never uploaded a new binary. I just argued my way to approval and changed some metadata.

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve said to myself to switch to web apps. Just to avoid all the gate keeping.

With all the recent changes in the EU regarding alternative App Stores, I’m surprised many people focus on the money when I feel the most pressing issue with the App Store is their relation with devs.