Just How Is Apple’s App Store Subscription Policy Good for Users?

Shane Richmond:

The case for the defence, as usual with Apple, comes from John Gruber. Greeting the arrival of the subscription plan on his Daring Fireball blog, Gruber wrote: “You’ll seldom go wrong betting on Apple doing something that’s good for Apple and good for its users — no matter what the ramifications for everyone else.”

I agree that is usually the case but in this instance I can’t see how the subscription plan is good for users. And if it’s not good for users then, in the long term, it won’t be good for Apple either.

Here’s how I see it as good for users:

  1. In-app subscriptions are easy to sign up for.

  2. In-app subscriptions are easy to unsubscribe from. This is where things start getting way better than the old days. It’s always been in magazines’ and newspapers’ interests to make it easy to sign up for a new subscription. They couldn’t replicate iTunes-style one-click-and-a-password ease, but they could get close. But they never made it easy to unsubscribe later on, because it wasn’t in their interests.

  3. Privacy protection. Publishers only get your personal information if you opt-in. They want that information so they can sell it to junk-mail companies. This is a big deal to publishers, and most subscribers don’t even know it’s happening. It’s a dirtbag deal, and Apple isn’t allowing it.

  4. The price protection rule — which prohibits publishers from charging iOS App Store users more for in-app subscriptions than they would pay from outside the store — might be a bad deal for publishers, but it’s good for users, because they know they’re getting the best price.

Again, if this subscription policy knocks a bunch of good apps out of the store, sure, that’ll be bad for iOS users. But that hasn’t happened, and clearly, Apple thinks it isn’t going to happen.

(One more note: Richmond, in his headline, calls it “Apple’s iOS Subscription Policy”. I think it’s important to note that it’s Apple’s App Store subscription policy. The App Store is what is closed and controlled by Apple. iOS has MobileSafari, through which anyone can do whatever they want.)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011