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.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Boris's list is all I've wanted since the inception of the App Store.

I just paid $10 for the upgrade bundle (already had Stop The Madness). Hopefully that $10 was correct and made it's way to Jeff.

I was happy with Stop the Madness, and didn't really see any need for Pro other than an opportunity to send Jeff another payment.

Sam Rowlands

For me personally, I have pretty much abandoned the Mac App Store.

The reasons given by Boris are a significant factor.

But, I also keep hitting the wall of trying to do things to help Mac users and getting slapped in the face with either Sandbox denials, or in some cases some pretty crappy public API that works some of the time, whilst private API works every single time, but is prohibited on MAS.

Sure; I'm missing out on 56% of the Mac market, but there's little point with some of my apps, as it's their core functionality that is prohibited on MAS.

I think I might try a reverse Pixelmator with one app I'm designing, have the FREE trial on MAS and the paid app on my site.

Running to the press never^W always works

Dan Shockley

Did that “it’s already fixed” message from Apple also remind Jeff Johnson that “going to the press never works” for dealing with a problem?

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