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Apple's 15% Deflection Tactic (johnluxford.com)
599 points by lux 15 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 465 comments



The other (slightly earlier) big thread on this is https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25135410.


but you pay for the distribution / tools / OS etc is a common sentiment I see here. No, the yearly fee should pay for that, and the user for the OS. And anyways, what if I don't want to, why cant I distribute it myself?


> but you pay for the distribution / tools / OS etc is a common sentiment I see here. No, the yearly fee should pay for that, and the user for the OS. And anyways, what if I don't want to, why cant I distribute it myself?

And if you choose to distribute your apps yourself? Apple still requires you to pay the $100 a year Apple tax, otherwise macOS will treat your app as if it is radioactive[1], leaving users to think that your app is either broken or malicious.

Apple has gone one step further, and now macOS on ARM Macs requires signed binaries, and it will not run unsigned ones[1][2].

[1] https://lapcatsoftware.com/articles/unsigned.html

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25134352


> Apple has gone one step further, and now macOS on ARM Macs requires signed binaries, and it will not run unsigned ones.

Apple Silicon Macs will not run unsigned binaries, but the binaries can have any signature, so you can just generate one yourself and add it. There's no need for a developer account, or any other external party. And there are no issues with legacy support either, because ARM Mac binaries didn't exist until now (and the requirement does not apply to Intel apps being run via Rosetta).

This really isn't a big deal.

I was initially worried that mandatory code signing would prevent me from hex editing binaries (which is a thing I do sometimes), but I recently learned that codesign can replace a binary's existing signature. So even that shouldn't be a problem.


> They will not run unsigned binaries, but the binaries can have any signature, so you can just generate one yourself and add it. No need for a developer account, or any other external server or party. And there's no issues with legacy support because ARM Mac binaries didn't exist before now (and the requirement does not apply to Intel apps being run via Rosetta).

Self-signed applications are treated as if they're radioactive by macOS, too.

> This really isn't a big deal.

They've been turning the screws slowly over the last two years. It only takes another turn for them to switch off support for self-signed apps for security reasons. Browsers already do this for self-signed certificates.

It's just not something I'm willing to base my purchasing decisions on, nor the decisions about what desktop platforms I target with my applications.


> Self-signed applications are treated as if they're radioactive by macOS, too.

But not if you turn off Gatekeeper! I can understand how this is annoying if you're creating apps for other people, but in terms of my own personal experience with my computer, the only time I think about Gatekeeper is when I'm talking about it on HN. It gets turned off as part of a bash script I run after installing macOS, at which point it's gone for good.

On my list of annoyances with macOS, Gatekeeper is somewhere below the Library folder being hidden by default. I can't say what Apple will decide to do in the future, but I have a very clear line in the sand, and Apple has absolutely not crossed it.


Gatekeeper-by-default is sensible IMO. I've seen how some people interact with these devices, and how easily malware gets on a computer.

As long as the walled garden can be easily circumvented, advanced users can do what they wish. "Able to learn about Gatekeeper and decide if they should turn it off" is probably an okay heuristic for "can tell a fake Flash installer site apart from a real one" or even "knows that Flash is pretty much abandoned, do everything you can to avoid it".

That said, it absolutely changes the incentive structures, and Apple is also doing it for profit. Will they cross the line in the future, with this goal? I expect they will conclude losing the advanced users would be a net loss.


> As long as the walled garden can be easily circumvented, advanced users can do what they wish. "Able to learn about Gatekeeper and decide if they should turn it off" is probably an okay heuristic for "can tell a fake Flash installer site apart from a real one" or even "knows that Flash is pretty much abandoned, do everything you can to avoid it".

That's exactly how I see it! And this mentality continues throughout the chain, too—if you want to actually install unsigned kernel extensions, or inject code into other processes, you need to boot into recovery mode to disable SIP. This is still not at all onerous if you know what you're doing (and, like Gatekeeper, you only need to do it once), but it's definitely a next-level test for next-level privileges.

IMO, the way Apple designed this process is brilliant! And that's why I'm not personally concerned by the boiling water argument, at least not yet—whatever Apple's incentives, the current setup strikes me as the best way to handle things.

All of that said, where I am starting to get annoyed is with the root snapshot stuff in Big Sur. Having to reboot every time I want to edit a system file is a clear progression from "trivial speed bump" into "consistent pain-in-the-ass" territory. If you want to talk about Apple locking down the Mac, I'd start there!


It makes my favorite trick of editing SystemVersion.plist no longer work for when Xcode says you need to submit your app from a non-beta OS :(


Can't you still go through the song and dance of disabling SIP and authenticated root and then editing the root snapshot? It's incredibly annoying but should still work, right?


Generally things don’t like it very much when I lie to them about what OS they’re running on; I try to set the version just before opening Xcode and fix it then right after I’m done submitting the app so my computer isn’t confused. More than once that has been long enough for Software Update to get confused and offer me a new build :P

The problem is that it makes it clear that the market for third-party software is completely at Apple's pleasure.

If Apple chooses not to issue me a Developer ID, they have effectively removed 95%+ of my market.

If this is because I distributed malware, that's reasonable. But there are a lot of other reasons why Apple might choose to revoke a Developer ID. (Think pressure from the state, for one.)


I also feel like in the spirit of the OP: it’s like telling customers that they can drive without a seatbelt and it will save them time getting in/out of the car.

Most will look at you like you’ve got three heads, and (I suspect) the majority will simply walk away without purchasing.


Right but you understand that this is just raising the temperature of the pot the frog is in.


Your just assuming it’s a pot and want to persuade me to jump into the freezing river instead. But Apple may have no intention to completely lock down the Mac. It may well be just a hot tub, and right now it’s quite comfortable. If it gets too hot, I’ll just get out.


No... you dont understand the analogy. Once its too hot, you don't jump out, you are already cooked. Thats the whole point.


I understand the analogy. You are asserting that it's a pot, but that's just an opinion. Anyway the analogy just doesn't work. Why can't I get out of the Apple ecosystem if it gets too hot, what's stopping me?


"The boiling frog is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive.

The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly."

In the case of Apple, at some point when they do something you really dislike you might be too invested into the ecosystem and it will be easier to just accept it instead of leaving.

But if you were not on their ecosystem already and were thinking of switching to Apple you would just think "Yeah, I really dislike that new move, I'm not buying into it".


I mean, if you try this with a real frog, the frog will actually just jump out when it gets too hot.

It's just a metaphor. It's not a law of nature, nor is it even a GOOD metaphor.


Wow, today I learned. I really did think it was real, but looks like it's not:

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2006/09/the-b...


I believe to get the behavior you need a brainless frog - they are shockingly functional due to how much behavior is in bodily reflexes. In that context the brainless frog sort of fits as a metaphor of "cargo culted" or tradition fixed behavior or single strategy. An approach well adapted enough to the expected environment that no thinking is required but is doomed as soon as it has to deal with change.


sorry to be pedantic, but if you believe wikipedia, it is true (just you probably cant reproduce it on your kitchen stove)

--

The New Psychology (1897): "a live frog can actually be boiled without a movement if the water is heated slowly enough; in one experiment the temperature was raised at a rate of 0.002°C per second, and the frog was found dead at the end of 2½ hours without having moved."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog


I was today years old..


> But Apple may have no intention to completely lock down the Mac.

They've been very gradually locking it down for years and show no signs of stopping. Plus they have an obvious financial motivation to lock it down. To give them the benefit of the doubt here is naive to say the least.


> the binaries can have any signature

What's the security benefit to this?


There isn't really any - it's just a smaller change than banning unsigned apps completely. Their strategy for forcing people to use the app store is to very gradually make it more and more inconvenient not to. This is one of those gradual changes.

Imagine the next ones:

1. You have to enable an option in settings to allow running self-signed apps.

2. You have to disable SIP to allow running self-signed apps.

3. Apps can only be self-signed via Apple's website.

etc.


The second link seems like a massive problem for developers - but the tweet in that link has been deleted. What's actually happening?

If that were true, I couldn't just write some C, Rust, or Go code on my mac, compile it myself, and run the executable file because it's not signed?

There's got to be a way (developer mode?) to disable this, right?

Edit: Found some more info - only binaries that are compiled to run natively on ARM are affected (for now). Still seems like this will introduce some major inconvenience for developers/power-users.

https://eclecticlight.co/2020/08/22/apple-silicon-macs-will-...


But at some point you'll _only_ be able to run ARM binaries. Rosetta2 will go away. Like how Rosetta went away for non-ARM Mac's, and now they can only run x86 binaries.

This is bad.


I seriously can't overstate how easy it is to sign a binary. You don't need an Apple Developer account, or an internet connection, or anything other than macOS and a working development environment. Just go into the Terminal and type:

> codesign -f -s - [path to binary]

Unless something has changed on Apple Silicon, that's it, you're done, the binary has a signature. It does not have a trusted signature, but you don't need one. I think it was just simpler to write the OS assuming all executables would have a signature.


Do you know whether this applies to everything which executes? If my build scripts create a build script and run it I guess that will be ok, but if my build scripts build a specialised parser (say, from C source) I need to add a step after linking to code sign the generated parser binary before using it? Is that about right?


Signing is only required for native code. If your parser is a native binary, it needs at least an ad-hoc signature on it before it will run.


> but you don't need one

Yet. Until this you didn't need a signature at all.


That's definitely going to be fun to integrate into build systems.


Have they announced that it’s temporary or is this an assumption? Obviously it goes away eventually, but going away in year 3 of a transition is a different beast than going away in year 10.


My personal thought - there's a hell of a lot more software written for x86 Mac than there ever was for PowerPC Macs. It would make sense to provide the transational layer for a longer amount of time.

That said, Apple has never been shy about aggressive transitions.


Yeah I have the same thought. On the other hand, SaaS and Electron were not really things back then. It's possible that if enough heavy workloads go into the cloud and basic ones just turn into wrapped web apps the actual underlying instruction set becomes irrelevant much faster.

The first link is very interesting. The author talks about the alert in terms of a dark pattern, but the notification directly lies to the user stating "cannot be opened." In fact, the app can be opened by simply command-clicking and selecting open. However Apple lies to users in an effort to prevent them from using these applications. Sounds like a possible tortuous interference claim, or possibly fraud. Surely this "warning" serves to prevent users from using apps where Apple doesn't get a cut, and cases them to use apps that Apple does profit from.


#2 is a showstopper for me. Can you at least disable it?


I found some more info:

https://eclecticlight.co/2020/08/22/apple-silicon-macs-will-...

Seems like only binaries compiles to run natively on ARM will require signatures. Still seems like its going to introduce some inconvenience for developers/power-users.


Signing bins as part of your build chain seems easy to me.


Don't self-signed apps expire after a week? You'd need to distribute a new build every week for people to continue to use your app. That's not a major hassle if you're just using your own code, but if you want to distribute something to other people it quickly becomes very problematic.


You can "sign" your binary without any identity associated with it and macOS will let it run. There is no time limit on those.


I agree - for commercial development its a trivial step. But it's yet another barrier to entry for students and people that just want to hack on their own computer at will.

It's also a potentially dangerous first step towards forcing new versions of MacOS to only run code from verified developers - those that pay Apple. Again, trivial for commericial development, but a major issue for non-commercial use.


I have mixed feelings about this ... the yearly fee is $100 - i feel that is very much out of balance with what you get back in terms of cloud services, distribution, marketing, reach, etc.

The danger of saying 'the developer membership should account for that' is that they will actually run the numbers and come back with MUCH higher yearly fees that simply push many small devs out.


Bandwidth for app distribution is cheap. Marginal cost of developing App Store is nearly zero per app.

99.999% of apps don't get any marketing from Apple at all. Apps get lost in the crowd and the poor search that still struggles with obvious keyword spamming and rip-offs. Actual app ads are charged separately.

Apple doesn't increase your reach. They merely let you through an artificial barrier they themselves have created. I hate it that as an iOS user, I'm sold to you as Apple's product.

I can see manual app review getting costly, but Apple somehow doesn't wage war against free-to-user apps, nor they put limits or fees on excessive app releases. They're only upset when someone else makes money without giving them a cut. It's not about recouping Apple's costs, but increasing Apple's profit.


Pretty much nobody prices software or digital services by looking at how much they cost to provide and adding some margin, which is how this implies Apple should be reasoning. The common model is to price on value. Taking a percentage of revenue is a pretty good proxy for that.

And Apple absolutely does increase your reach. Not in any important technical sense, but by creating a low-friction, high-trust environment, which results in a much larger market for apps than would exist if purchasing required users to type their credit card numbers into your web site and download and run an installer. This is a huge part of why native apps even emerged as a major phenomenon on mobile, against the tide of webification that's swept the desktop over the last 20 years.


A percentage works fine, but you need a competitive market for that percentage.

> And Apple absolutely does increase your reach. Not in any important technical sense, but by creating a low-friction, high-trust environment, which results in a much larger market for apps than would exist if purchasing required users to type their credit card numbers into your web site and download and run an installer.

Plenty of companies will charge 5% or less for low-friction high-trust payment processing, and the auto-install is trivial.


Centralization significantly contributes to reducing friction and increasing user trust. Note that even on platforms that do allow competing app stores, market leaders can command similar percentages (e.g. Steam on Windows). This is why.

If Apple opened up the platform, developers wouldn't be paying 5% to Uncle Bob's Discount App Store instead of 30% to Apple, selling just as many units, and pocketing the difference as profit. They'd quickly discover that users preferred to buy from one or two trusted app stores, and that the better move was to pay whatever they had to pay to be present in those stores.


Centralisation, aka natural monopoly.


The minimum transaction cost for a 99 cent purchase is much higher than 5%. It’s likely over 10%, even for Apple.

Traditional pricing, including value-based, only works in an actual competitive market where customers have more than two realistic options. In the case of the app market, it's basically cartel pricing where both providers charge the exact same amount.


Is it? I mean almost everyone is at least somewhat familiar with cloud services, SaaS, DBaaS etc. All of those services have established pricing models and it isn't based on X% of what your business charges.

Apple could easily charge $100 for an app to be reviewed the first time and $50 an update to cover review, and the rest is very marginal. What Apple is doing is rent seeking on other people's work, plain and simple... it isn't even based on the profit margin against that work.

Not every application is a game on a console that will see millions in sales to make up for development costs. Consoles only see dozens of games as competition, the Apple store sees thousands. It's not an Apples to Apples comparison (pun intended).


I can see manual app review getting costly, but Apple somehow doesn't wage war against free-to-user apps, nor they put limits or fees on excessive app releases. They're only upset when someone else makes money without giving them a cut.

This is exactly where most of the cost of operating the app store comes from. I'm not going to comment on how much of Apple's fees go to paying this, but testing software to release standards is expensive.

I remember 20 years ago, just to get started on a PS2 title, you had to pay sony a crazy dev fee just to get your SLUS code (I remember someone telling me it was about USD$50k). Then all of the devkits cost about USD$20k, and then sony still took a big chunk of your sales price.

How exactly would you like Apple to handle free apps, which still need to be tested and vetted? What if there was a $10k dev charge for each round of testing? How many free apps do you think there would be in the app store? Its true - all of the paid apps are subsidizing the free apps in the app store. If Apple didn't squeeze out other payment processors, every paid app would turn free, they'd use Square or something to sell people in-app purchases instead, and then the whole ecosystem would fall apart.

I guess another question we can ask is what are they testing for? Sony was exacting - there were strict rules about stability and content that had to be met. Your title couldn't stall on a waiting screen for longer than a period of time (I remember having to optimize our start-up on one title to meet this requirement). Even the terminology you used had to be correct - there was a list of acceptable names you could use to refer to the console parts like the controller - like you could call it "PlayStation 2 Dualshock Controller" but not "PS2 Dualshock" and stuff like that.

On the one hand, Apple isn't as exacting, but on the other hand presumably they're testing for other things you wouldn't have to worry about on a PS2 like calling dlopen on forbidden dylibs or sending the addressbook contents to a server. I'm sure that a lot of this is automated, but some of it will require a human to interact with.


The PS2 apparently saw 3800 release titles. This is compared to 957,390 games in the Apple Store. That is a lot more to compete against to recoup development costs.

Personally, I'd be okay if Apple charged a nominal fee ($100) to do an initial review to add to the app store, another fee for updates ($50) and say 5-10% of margins on a sliding scale... that would hinder some indie dev, but not be outrageous and cover some of that review cost, while not squeezing everyone out like a cartel.


But you’re still stuck with a collapsing ecosystem. $100 isn’t even close to the cost of testing an app in the App Store. The App Store doesn’t scale - you need humans inspecting the program and using it and they need a bit of time to do that. For decent testing you’ll pay $100/hr and it’ll take a few hours at least. I don’t know how you’d do an all-in customer-protecting test round of an app for less than $2000. Which means no more free apps. Or, you continue to subsidize free apps with income from non-free apps which means taking a cut of things like in-app purchases.

I’m not saying that 30% is the right number - it’s probably way too high (maybe?) - but if you want free apps, you can’t let anyone use their own payment processors because it’s a revenue hole and you literally won’t have any revenue that doesn’t go down it.


Do you really believe that Apple is doing much more than automated testing of applications submitted, especially with the many thousands of "free" apps that apple isn't getting any revenue for?

Yes - they have to, at least just to navigate around in the app.

> Marginal cost of developing App Store is nearly zero per app.

And the marginal cost of copies of software is nearly zero, and yet developers still want to get paid, no?

> Apple doesn't increase your reach. They merely let you through an artificial barrier they themselves have created.

The important bit is they created it. And the barrier exists because things are better inside than outside. They made the iPhone, got people to add their card info and normalized paying actual money for 0s and 1s. The BATNA for developers is not "Apple opens their platform", it's "try getting customers to hand you CC info to buy your app on the WWW".


Yes, 100% agree with you. Even the user experience of the App Store seems deliberately crippled - it sometimes won't even show a specific app you search for by name! The idea seems to be force developers to spend even more money with Apple to promote their app on the App store.


That sort of accounting has never worked. Countless internet companies have gone bankrupt because they thought the marginal cost of supporting customers was zero, multiplied that by their customer base and thought that meant their cost base was zero. Turns out that’s not a convincing argument to use to people you owe money to.

A coupe of years after the App Store launched I’m pretty sure one of Apples execs said it cost over a $billion a year to operate. That will only have gone up since then.


App store absolutely does increase your reach. Find me another way to sell software to 175 countries in local currencies with full local tax compliance.


> Apple doesn't increase your reach.

That's nonsense - your app may not get presented on the front page of the app store but it appears in search results, in similar apps and depending on your category can appear in top 100 lists. I've published apps that got consistent downloads from a little App Store SEO - far more than any internet SEO and marketing did.


> I hate it that as an iOS user, I'm sold to you as Apple's product.

I disagree. As a user, Apple has, over the last decade-plus, earned my trust that the software I decide to run on my device won't...

* brick the device * stay on the device in any manner if I delete it * access my private data without my consent * intrude upon the experience of any other app(s) except by way of easily-managed notifications

... etc.

As a developer, the App Store is how you explicitly inherit that inbuilt trust from users. One can't put a price on that, because there's no fungibility in trust. It must be earned.

Apple can, and does, however put a price on sharing that trust, as well as the ongoing infrastructure, tooling, and processes needed to maintain it: a flat cut of revenue.


Data does stay on iOS devices after deletion via keychain, and if the developer so chooses, they can sync your data at all times on their server to make sure it never, ever, goes away.

There is a rich tradition of extracting private information off of mobile devices. It's one reason why free apps are pushed more than equivalent websites all the time (ex: reddit, imgur) , because the dataset for adtech is far more richer. Some databases and system APIs are under a user alerted permission, but that isn't unique to an app store or review, it's an OS implementation detail. Same with sandboxing apps.

You have little access over running a network filter on iOS devices, and apple has had a history of rejecting VPNs that act as so.

You can still have all that you put on your list, but without an app store.


> Apple doesn't increase your reach.

it does, but via restricting others' reach due to the barrier of the app store.

It's like a lottery ticket - if apple decides to feature your app, you will get a lot of business and have a lot of success (provided your app is actually any good).


I can distribute terabytes of my free apps every month without paying a penny to Apple. And all the time getting support, tools, etc from them.

And Apple has thousands of highly paid employees providing all those services to us, it’s misguided to assert its just the cost of bandwidth and servers.

The $100 is a screaming deal for us iOS developers.


> I can distribute terabytes of my free apps every month without paying a penny to Apple.

Very few apps do that.

> it’s misguided to assert its just the cost of bandwidth and servers.

Good thing they didn't make that argument.


Apple does increase your reach, the vast majority of customers would have no idea where to look for an app if they even had the desire to find one outside of those the big social sites create.

We don't know Apple's investment in the app store, from maintaining it to enhancing it. To blow it off as marginal is disingenuous at best.

I take no issue with app developers creating and selling an app off the app store. I don't think Apple should be able to interfere with that. I do believe they have the right to restrict another app distributed within the app store from being able to sell apps itself. That would be like Steam allowing Epic to install from its app to sell additional games/apps through the Epic store.


It’s funny how, as someone who builds cloud services, I thought your statement was going in the opposite direction until the end. $100 will buy a _ton_ of hosting that is more than adequate to run most indie app downloads for a year.

The counterpoint to my claim which you stated is that the App Store also provides reach and marketing, which are quite pricey. I agree that they are expensive services, but can you even name one example in the past 5 years (literally about half the life of the ecosystem) where the App Store promoted an indie developer into success?


> $100 will buy a _ton_ of hosting

It’s not just about hosting, they also provide basically the entire software stack you’re using. Pricing that is difficult but I don’t think it should be disregarded.

> but can you even name one example in the past 5 years (literally about half the life of the ecosystem) where the App Store promoted an indie developer into success?

There are tons of apps that got popular due to App Store editors choosing to promote them. For example, getting App of the Day nets you a 1700% boost in downloads: https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/24/apples-app-of-the-day-feat...


>It’s not just about hosting, they also provide basically the entire software stack you’re using. Pricing that is difficult but I don’t think it should be disregarded.

The entire Software stack are included in the iPhone purchase price, and as of 2018 they are included in Apple's Services revenue on a per unit cost including but not limited to OS, Siri and Maps.

The software stack argument makes sense in consoles where they are selling at cost or barely break even from a BOM / Hardware perspective. But Apple is making industry leading profit margin on all front. So Apple is double dipping, as Apple like to call it in the case against Qualcomm.


The software stack argument would be fine if there was an alternative. There isn’t. For one reason or another apple says everyone needs to use their stack. When people buy apple devices they’re buying that simplicity and security that comes from apple controlling the whole software stack. If they want that “feature” they can do that but then to charge developers for it when they can’t use an alternative I find ridiculous.

I find the marketing argument silly. All apps pay the fees (well paid apps). Not all apps are promoted (almost by definition). You’re not paying for marketing. You could stretch to argue you’re paying for a slim chance to be promoted, sure. I think that’s a weak argument however given there’s millions of apps and only a couple featured at any time.


Of course there is an alternative. Android.


And android does have alternative stores. Amazon, F-Droid and even directly side-loading applications. Not everyone takes advantage and most sales go through the Google Play Store, but it still happens. Apple offers none of that.

AFAIK, Google also doesn't charge for dev-tools or access to dev options. I admit, however, it's been several years since I've done any app development for either, and then it was mostly a wrapper around a browser control with some custom integration for use with NFC.


> It’s not just about hosting, they also provide basically the entire software stack you’re using. Pricing that is difficult but I don’t think it should be disregarded.

What if I don't want to use their "software stack"? Frankly, as developer, I'd rather spend my time developing than learning Apple specific ecosystem. Heck, React Native and Flutter do me just fine. Develop once and run everywhere.

In the end what does that $99/year license get me? A fancy certificate to publish on their only app store?


Those frameworks still depend on their APIs though.


Because Apple requires them to. If I wanted to ship a PWA in a Firefox-based shell using no iOS-specific APIs other than required (rasterize using OpenGL ES + Skia, Mozilla's JS interpreter, etc) they wouldn't let me because I'm required to use their browser and JS runtime, among other things. And they've deprecated OpenGL, so now you have to use their custom graphics API too.


I pay more for iPhones partially because the ecosystem is not yet fully crapped up with C++ programs with bad UIs, and I think Apple would argue this point too. You’re fully allowed to draw your UI with Metal though, and MoltenVK supports iOS. Many iOS games use almost no platform UI components.


Sure, but the argument becomes circular, doesn't it? They deserve X% because you use their APIs, and they force you to use their APIs. Congratulations? If it's so expensive to develop/maintain those APIs that they can't afford to part with them for less than 30%+cost of hardware, maybe they shouldn't require you to use them?


You’re not required to use them though, as I just explained. What you can’t do is write to memory and then execute it, because that’s a security risk.


That's not a security risk, it's a "makes App Review potentially pointless" risk.


How is it not a security risk?


How is it one? It’s not like the ability to JIT magically lifts the platform sandbox.


It’s their prerogative to force the issue. Switch to Android if they won’t listen to petitions.


I got one better, add an extra "Apple Tax" to the apps on the app store.


Gawd, why do you want to inflict crappy web UI framework on an innocent iphone ?


React Native and Flutter are lowest common denominator frameworks that make for lousy apps. My experience was so bad that I no longer even respond to recruiters for companies using React Native.

Apple should charge non-native apps a large premium to be on the store. They degrade every users experience.


> It’s not just about hosting, they also provide basically the entire software stack you’re using. Pricing that is difficult but I don’t think it should be disregarded.

You paid for that already when you bought the Mac that's mandatory for developing on iOS.


The iOS software stack is certainly not what people are paying for when they buy a Mac.


People pay for the simplicity and (arguable) security of apple devices that comes with a tightly controlled software stack. They buy the device with the expectation that 3rd party software will be made for it that they can use. Apple then says you need my software stack to develop that 3rd party software.


> they also provide basically the entire software stack you’re using.

Without giving developers a choice to use a different software stack this doesn't mean much. You first have to buy an expensive Mac in order to use the free iOS development tools.


They run stories every single day including about indie developers.

About the $100 - yeah getting some droplets is not a cost. Maintaining them. Scaling them. Writing say, a sync solution, or even data storage solution, THAT is the cost and goes well beyond $100 of course.


Most apps don't need that marketing anyway. Developers have many ways to drive users to their apps without relying on Apple's mercy.


I feel like the $100 is just supposed to be a token amount to provide a speed bump for tire-kickers, spammers, etc.

If they were serious about it as a revenue stream, it would make sense to go with something more like the UE4 model, where it's free up until the point where you're a big fish, and then a more aggressive fixed fee kicks in.


I'm not sure that most of us have issue with the $100 cost of entry... even if it were $100 for each app for store submission and a lesser fee for updates to offset the review costs even. The issue comes down to if you spend even a modest amount of time/money on development of something to jump into a vast sea of competition, where someone searching for the name of your app specifically cannot find you and to add insult to injury takes 30% if your gross before you're even able to recoup costs and there's no way to work around their distribution or payment models.

Take Netflix for example, which doesn't run on Apple's distribution network... Should Apple have to pay for part of the deployment of all the assets and feeds? They don't... the margins are already thin and Apple frankly doesn't deserve 30% of that recurring revenue.


I think I agree with you, but it's interesting because you're actually making two points which are kind of the opposite of each other— on the one hand arguing that it's hard to pay the 30% before costs are recouped, but then also arguing that it's unfair to pay the 30% in perpetuity long after Apple's fixed costs (review, etc) have been recouped.

I think if anything this kind of thing makes the case for explicitly having multiple tracks— maybe an enterprise one where you pay a 5-7 figure fixed annual fee (for support, timely review, policing of the store for phishing/knockoff apps that target your own, ensuring a direct hit for explicit searches) and then either a single-digit percentage of revenue or for free "portal" apps, some other way that Apple is compensated for user engagement. And then a totally separate indie track where all the revenue is yours up to X, after which some kind of sliding scale kicks in.

In reality, there are almost certainly enterprise deals going on behind the scenes (or at least mostly behind the scenes, cough Epic) and the details of those are almost certainly very proprietary, due to how the negotiations would occur. But having at least one option for which the details are public would be nice.


$100 probably is also a speed bump for open source developers who do not want to charge users.


AudioKit is churning out high-quality, open-source apps, despite that.


The purpose is gatekeeping, and setting a minimum basis of quality. If the annual fee was $0/year developers would be worse off due to the flood of low-quality applications.

This is exactly what happened on Steam when the platform was opened to anything for a $100 submission fee - quality tanked and revenues even for established Indie developer have declined significantly.


I was doing some back of the napkin math earlier today to figure out just how much bandwidth Fortnite on the App Store has done over it's lifetime.

Assuming 116 million ios users with a 2.5 to 5gb depending on the device. That's 580 petabytes just for the initial download, not to mention updates probably push it into the low single digit exabytes range.


So what, Apple should bill them some bandwidth fees? Make them host it themselves maybe?


No the argument above is that those 580 Petabytes should be covered by the $100 developer program membership.

How much does 580 PT cost at AWS?


If you needed to serve petabytes of data, you'd be throwing a lot of money away on storage and traffic costs using AWS over other solutions.


~445k in s3 costs according to aws calc, using a naive "there is 1 object in the bucket, it's been fetched 116 million times, and that used 580PB of fetch bandwidth."


$100 seems like basically zero for an app developer. Half an hour's billable work. Seems completely insignificant?


who's making $200/h on apps? not indie app devs


Anyone working on apps at a big company in the US. I guess lots of indie developers work in their spare time while doing that kind of job full time?


>I have mixed feelings about this ... the yearly fee is $100 - i feel that is very much out of balance with what you get back in terms of cloud services, distribution, marketing, reach, etc.

Then the carrot the fee unlocks in terms of access to these services should speak for itself, without the stick of having no other choice.


> they will actually run the numbers

Are we assuming that after more than 10 years of App Store, Apple didn't run the numbers and/or is taking a bad deal ignoring its bottomline for some reason?


Wouldn't that also allow for competition FOR developers? Alternate cloud services, alternate distribution, tools, etc?

remember apple has not only a monopoly on apps but a monopsony as well.


They could scale costs based on how many downloads if they really wanted to. Make an exception for totally free apps.


Because Apple decided that only software they approve of can be used on machines they sell unless the user explicitly allows software Apple hasn't accepted (via ctrl-click). On iOS, Apple decided that users can't allow untrusted software at all. Users still end up paying $400-$1400 for phones that run this software, so the 'free market' has decided that users want a software model like this (otherwise Android would be an even bigger player in the US than it is now).


People still paid $1400 for PCs in 1999, nothing stopped US govt from suing Microsoft for bundling IE - let alone not allowing users to run "unapproved" software.


Microsoft had a considerably larger share of the worldwide market.


But they weren’t a monopoly. Buy a Mac.


The US gov really cares about the US market. Apple owns half the mobile US market (possibly even more in revenues and way more in profits)


Apple has nothing like the MS market share, though.


In US phone market, they do and this isn't just about monopoly per-say but what it means to "own" a computing device if you can only run manufacturer approved applications on it.


No, in the US phone market they do not have anything like Microsoft’s share of the PC market.

And if you don’t feel Apple gives you sufficient ownership, why not just buy something else?

It’s a boring question to keep asking, but nobody actually seems to want to answer it.


Can you name two viable alternatives to iOS? I can't.


I can buy something else. In fact I did. The problem is that if you are making a product which will be consumed from a phone you have to support iPhone users and do everything Apple wants you to do.


To solidify this point, the majority of phones in the US run on iOS. iOS has 52.4% of the mobile operating system market on phones[1].

If you're selling an app, it's even more important to support iOS users because the App Store is responsible for three times as much revenue as the Play Store[2].

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/266572/market-share-held...

[2] https://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2020/01/in-2019...


Yeah, 52% means that Android is nearly matched marketshare wise. The mobile situation is nothing like Windows’s share when Microsoft was sued for antitrust violations: the desktop market share of windows is still like 70%, 20 years ago it was like 97%.


From the US government[1]:

> Courts do not require a literal monopoly before applying rules for single firm conduct; that term is used as shorthand for a firm with significant and durable market power — that is, the long term ability to raise price or exclude competitors. That is how that term is used here: a "monopolist" is a firm with significant and durable market power.

[1] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/competition-guidance/guide-a...


> Courts do not require a literal monopoly before applying rules for single firm conduct; that term is used as shorthand for a firm with significant and durable market power — that is, the long term ability to raise price or exclude competitors. That is how that term is used here: a "monopolist" is a firm with significant and durable market power.

You quoted selectively. It goes on:

> Courts look at the firm's market share, but typically do not find monopoly power if the firm (or a group of firms acting in concert) has less than 50 percent of the sales of a particular product or service within a certain geographic area. Some courts have required much higher percentages. In addition, that leading position must be sustainable over time: if competitive forces or the entry of new firms could discipline the conduct of the leading firm, courts are unlikely to find that the firm has lasting market power

It is clear that A) Apple is not a monopoly and B) the market is very competitive


But Appoogle together clearly form a duopoly that does have monopoly power over the market. And they both charge 30% to App devs for the privilege of selling Apps on their respective platforms: coincidence or price collusion? Well it certainly looks like collusion from where I'm sitting.

(Yes, yes: Apple has just cut the rate for small devs. The big sellers still have to pay 30% though.)


Apple has cut the rate for 98% of sellers.


This isn’t a problem, it’s just reality. An app dev needs to support the platforms. You are still free to use something else.


[flagged]


Not sure if you're trolling, but that's not a rational option for most.

I've described elsewhere in thread why switching is not an option for me; Apple has slowly trapped me in their ecosystem of Apple TV, Apple Watch, Macbook, Homepod, my BMW which will only talk to an iOS device, iMessage, HomeKit

They don't provide any external APIs to interact with these products so other platforms/systems could make such a switch less painful.


There's something profoundly silly about this.

I feel your pain: Apple slowly lured you into spending thousands of dollars on high-quality products which work smoothly together, and then they went and changed the EULA on you and now you can't install non-App Store software on it!

Only that didn't happen, of course: the rules have always been the rules, you just don't like them.

Which is fine, actually, complain all you want. But the victim act is hilarious. "My luxury car will only talk to an iPhone! I should sue!"


I personally switched to Apple products because they more or less Just Worked and they prevented me from fiddling with them: the big issue with Android phones for me was that, since I would always root and mod them, they’d always fail at inopportune times: by making this sort of tinkering not an option, Apple phones are just more reliable for me (and, sure, this is partly my fault but, from my perspective, the locked-down status of iDevices is a feature that lets me treat them like appliances)


He didn’t say his luxury car will only talk to an iPhone. BMWs will of course connect to any Bluetooth phone.

He said only an iPhone will properly display album art on the screen of his luxury car as he drives.


I’m certainly not trolling.

You’re not trapped. Over time switch to another provider. Or all at once.

They sell you a service and device with terms. If you don’t like it, get out of that ecosystem.

Certainly don’t use the power of the federal government. Do you like monopolies? Because that’s how you get monopolies.


"They sell you heroin if you don't like it - quit"


A lot of people (e.g. libertarians) would agree with that statement.


They're pretty close in the US mobile phone software market.


Microsoft had 90% market share. And in the end they settled.


By offering the user a choice for the browser, which is exactly what I want from Apple - a choice for app store, or the default maps app.


[flagged]


And yet Apple is forcing the lack of choice in an app store.


So? It’s their platform.


from a European point of view, the market belongs to the people, not Apple and thus they must play by the rules the State set, for and on the behalf of the people.


And quite literally a choice for a browser, because Apple mandates that all browsers on the App Store use Safari on the backend, which means that Chrome and Firefox are just skins over Safari on iOS.


This would be huge because Safari is missing so many APIs and leaves users on an unusable browser when they stop getting OS updates.


This would not be huge, because iOS devices don't stop getting updates for 6-8 years, by which time it is very unlikely that third parties would bother making a special browser app just for that unprofitable 0.1% slice of the market.


But don’t you think — it’s their phone, they have spent billions of dollars developing it, shouldn’t they get the choice of how their own product should work?

It’s not like the user doesn’t know what they are buying. It’s not like Apple doesn’t have strong competitors. It’s not like the app developers are like, “Oh, 30%?! I didn’t know!”

People want the product that Apple is making. They buy it knowingly and willingly in droves.

Look at the M1, the culmination of decades of hard R&D, beating Intel at their own game.

You want to tell this company — which is absolutely killing it and creating absolutely tremendous value for consumers the world over — you want to tell them how their own device should work?!

Explain to me why the free market has not spoken, and spoken clearly in favor of the products that Apple has brought to market for their customers. Why in the world should the US Government say that what this truly amazing company should do in their own code and product roadmap.

Honestly, it’s a travesty in the making. What Apple has accomplished — coming back from the brink — is one of the greatest success stories in the history of capitalism.

Why, why in the world should the US Government — a true paragon of incompetence — dictate terms on how they should run their lawful, competitive business.


>> But don’t you think — it’s their phone, they have spent billions of dollars developing it, shouldn’t they get the choice of how their own product should work?

No. Its MY phone from the moment I bought it. If I want to change some aspect of how it works that's up to me.


The phone doesn’t magically just work the way you want it to, and the functionality you personally desire doesn’t come without trade-offs and consequences to Apple, to other developers, or to other users.

You’re saying that because you bought a single iPhone that Apple now essentially reports to you. That YOU get to decide how Apple spends millions of dollars in its R&D, and that you get to decide how their software should function.

What makes you their master just because you freely chose to buy a single unit of a device from them? A device that, by the way, has sold billions of units.


You're way off base.

If a customer buys a phone, no investment or R&D is required by Apple to support other search engines, apps, browsers or payment systems.


It would actually require a massive investment by Apple to actually support all of those things as tested, enabled, documented, secured, stable, and fully supported (by the help-desk) features of their product.


Calling the work apple would need to do a "massive investment" is disingenuous at best.

On the other hand, you knew these restrictions before purchasing it and still continued with the transaction.

I understand both perspectives here but I don't think one is objectively right.


Most farmers buy John Deere, doesn't mean they shouldn't fight for their right to repair (which btw is an issue with Apple as well).


This is a little harder to deal with because often its not obvious what repair issues you will have in the future or what will stuff up and be difficult to replace. The restrictions on ios are obvious and you would notice them within your 2 week return period.


Then buy another brand which is easier to repair. You buy the tractor with eyes wide open.

I agree with you that repairability would be nice, but some brands prefer not to do that. Let other brands drive them out.


>But don’t you think — it’s their phone, they have spent billions of dollars developing it, shouldn’t they get the choice of how their own product should work?

Maybe? But then they're not selling it, they're leasing it, and they need to say that.


A mistake then as well. Buy a Mac if you don’t like Microsoft’s approach.


What free market? It's a duopoly.


It’s a duopoly, where one of the players offers people the thing that people are asking for I.e sideloading and alternative app stores.

Instead of choosing that product, many people here complain that the other company doesn’t give them what they want.


Doesn't really matter: if you are making a phone app or service (especially one that has any sort of network effect), you need to support both ecosystem which means you must submit to Apple's ukases.


Nope, only when targeting one of the countries where Apple market presence is actually relevant, which are just a couple of tier 1 countries.


The choices are extremely limited if you want a small handset. I don’t even know if there is a Google phone as small as iPhone minis.


I assume it won’t be long before there is a Samsung Galaxy mini.


That player also has a history of tracking, fingerprinting and privacy violations that not everyone is comfortable with, especially relating to a device that has as much control over you as a smartphone.


>That player also has a history of tracking, fingerprinting and privacy violations that not everyone is comfortable with

Forcing Apple to change their financial incentives would likely make them look to the value of tracking, fingerprinting and privacy violations too.


that's a bit of a false dichotomy though.

it is not like these 2 products were identical except for sideloading.

They don't have the same hardware, Apple has an unlimited ad budget, if you want to chat with somebody using iMessages, you are pretty much limited to iOS, you can't transfer app purchases between platforms, etc


If you go into subscription settings on iOS devices, they show a "try out apple music" ad -- you think this position is available to Spotify/others? They don't pay 30% on top of sales to boot.

Same thing with Google, they cross promote their own new properties everywhere in Gmail (left pane) and Google.com but no one else has access to those locations, they can destroy thousands of small business through this practice.


Honestly it is almost funny how Google has been mostly unable to successfully launch new products while they have the capacity to promote them to virtually all of the global north.

In particular with Play Music .. not going to complain, I don't think that this market needs another FAANG product but wow, failing to promote that service is one epic blunder.


Google has an unlimited as budget too. Indeed it has access to advertise on properties that Apple can never purchase access too.


Exactly! And it's a bad kind of duopoly. It's not like I'm customer and I only have two choices. Here, I only two choices and I pretty much to use them both since if I drop one I loose a lot of potential customers.


Just because the people are generally happy with 2 options? If enough people cared about extra app stores, someone would create an alternative as there would be money to make.


and they did, Cydia was a thing when people could jailbreak iPhones. And I definitely remember some of my less tech savvy friends using non-Apple-approved tweaks back in 3GS/4/4S days.


Sorry, I don't use a mac -- could you clarify about ctrl-click to accept? Can you bypass the approved developer check box in system preferences with a right click on the `.app` folder?


Effectively - if you don't have "only app store" selected in gatekeeper, you can bypass the 'unidentified developer' option as well as the message when an app isn't notarized.

https://support.apple.com/guide/mac-help/open-a-mac-app-from...


Macs famously only supply one button, so right click and control-click are two names for the same thing.


Macs ceased to "famously supply" only one mouse button about a billion years ago.


Once you launch an app around the restrictions you don't need to do it again.


Yes, you can.


I will believe that the market is truly free when I see multiple start-ups attempt to upend Apple's business model and fail to do so.


What’s not free about it? Just because they are popular doesn’t mean the market’s not free.


There are lots of factors in choosing between Android and iOS. Besides, two choices don’t make a competitive market.


However please note that they publish the whole development toolsuite needed for free without obligation. This was not the standard behavior of commercials OS in the 1990's. (not sure who pulled this first)

So the 100$ annual fee is more like a contribution to be recognized as a professional developer with extended support and services. Heck if you work in a team you don't even need one account per developer.

This somehow guarantees that each account is linked to an identifiable real world entity and that bad actors won't massively create fake account for free to muddy the water around illicit activities.

So by imposing a relatively modest fee they improve both traceability and avoid spamming behavior. This sound like a sensible design.

PS: I'm amazed by how on the same thread people can complain that the 1 million $ threshold for rebate is cruelly low AND that a 100$ entry fee is an unbearable tax. Internet trolling at it's finest!


> they publish the whole development toolsuite needed for free without obligation

The hardware is not published for free. The minimum entry fee into, say, iOS development is 100$ plus the cost of a Mac Mini.


Blimey apple is so hard onto us poor honest developers. Why don't they give a Mac to every human being so we all got equal opportunities to code?

(That would actually be a great thing to do, but 2020 reminded me hardly that we don't live in a fairytale)


That's not my point. The point is there is no technical reason for requiring a Mac for, say, iOS development. I get that they don't want to straight-up port XCode to Windows or Linux, but nowadays you could run it as a cloud service. The price of admission for something like that would certainly be less than keeping up with Mac hardware. They don't do it because it runs counter to their business model.

The yearly fee is NOT to pay for any costs; the fee is a tactic to keep low-effort spammy app developers out, and therefore to reduce the load on the review team. The $99 fee does not cover the costs and expenses that Apple does and has done for you as an app developer. Dropping it would not affect their revenue directly, but it would open up the floodgates of random app submissions.

One could argue that the Mac hardware itself that you need to develop iOS apps is a similar barrier to entry though.


99$ could be a fees to show "true effort" for some developers in the world, while for others it could a monthly salary.

Also how can an app that has 500M downloads cost more to review than an app that has 500 downloads (considering both are paid apps and Apple charges 30% per download)?


> 99$ could be a fees to show "true effort" for some developers in the world, while for others it could a monthly salary.

Yup, that's why they do it...


It doesn't matter what the theoretical intent of the fee is. (Which would be impossible to prove either way.) They make a billion dollars from those fees.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/should-apple-raise-its-99-deve...


Should? If you do the math, It doesn’t amount to much. Maybe it will cover the iTunes connect, but certainly not the OS


The OS should be the cost of doing business because frankly apple should COMPETE for developers.


The "yearly fee" could pay for it, it'd just be several billion per year. Their existing business model is the one that's best for Apple, users, and small developers.


So the developer of a free app used by 100 people should pay the same fee for app store distribution as the developer of a $10 app used by 50m people all over the world?


Is the cold rational Apple answer that you signed a contract when enrolling as an Apple Dev?


A contract can be declared unenforceable in court if it is against public policy: https://www.upcounsel.com/what-contracts-are-considered-to-b...

The goal should be to make Apple's app store model against public policy.


> The goal should be to make Apple's app store model against public policy.

Policy should not be written to attack an individual company that for some reason you've got a beef with.


It's not just Apple, I think the fight shouldn't be about just fee but allowing 3rd party stores and applications that don't have an approval stamp from Apple.

Imagine, if your Tesla refused to move if you didn't use Tesla approved tires which cost 30% more because Tesla charges the tire manufacturer 30% for approving them?


> Imagine, if your Tesla refused to move if you didn't use Tesla approved tires which cost 30% more because Tesla charges the tire manufacturer 30% for approving them?

Fine by me. Their business what they charge and how their product is designed, not mine.

As long as there's a competitor. And there is.


Not fine by me regardless of monopoly status, and I believe it should be not fine by public policy either.


Not fine for a company to sell you a device on their own terms?


If you don't like the Apple ecosystem, feel free to ignore it. Just pretend it doesn't exist.


I can pretend Apple's ecosystem doesn't exist, but I can't pretend that all of the negative externalities of Apple's ecosystem don't exist.


Not for iOS realistically speaking. You have to switch to Android, your only other choice, and suddenly all your other Apple devices don't really work that well.


Yeah except compatibility like that has never been a legal requirement and I’m not sure how it could become one either.


Yes realistically speaking. Of course if you switch to a competitor things aren’t going to integrate as well. Perhaps you can immerse yourself in that ecosystem.


If you have to switch to Toyota it’s not going to do everything as well as your Tesla, otherwise Tesla wouldn’t exist. That’s a silly argument.


My argument is for interoperability and better 3rd party access to APIs within the OS.

My argument is not that Android doesn't function as well, I quite liked it infact but all my other apple devices basically lost half their functionality without an iPhone and Apple won't give access to 3rd party developers or itself make those apps for Android.

Apple won't even let 3rd party apps integrate with the system like their own do - which is why I wanted to shift away from an iPhone in the first place. Not because I hate or like Android, but because I can replace whatever parts of Google I don't like


OK, fair. The goal should be to make models like Apple's app store, regardless of the corporation, against public policy.


Why? If someone wants to offer that it’s fine. But to force it is an unjustified intrusion into the market.


It's actually a completely justified intrusion into the market.

To answer questions posed by others since I'm apparently posting too fast:

The reasons governments should intervene are well-elaborated in the blog post under discussion.

Governments worldwide already have plenty of control over what terms corporations can sell their wares to people on. For example, in Europe you must offer at least two years of warranty.

Corporations are government-granted legal fictions, so a government is free to impose whatever constraints it wants on corporations. In return, corporations get plenty of benefits like the ability to declare bankruptcy and not have it hit the pocketbooks of its executives. I would be fine with a regime where if a corporation doesn't abide by the rules, its executives become personally liable for debts, for example.


By what standard are you claiming justification besides “it has been done before”?

> so a government is free to impose whatever constraints it wants on corporations

Sorry this is just stated, not justified. I happen to think that the government should not have unilateral control.


It's the truth. Unilateral control is the reality, and I'm interested in exploring how to harness it to improve the lot of humanity.

For example, I think Stripe should be able to compete with Apple to be a payment provider on Apple's platform.

As I said, I would be a fine with a world where if Tim Cook doesn't want to play by the government's rules, he is jointly and severally liable for Apple's debts. There are real benefits that come with being a corporation. There need to be responbilities to society as well.


> It's the truth

I realize that the federal government /can/ do things, it's whether they/it /should/ do them.

"I want them to" and "It's been done before" don't fly. These are contracts between willing participants, none of which have been broken. The federal government would be overstepping proper bounds to interfere.

> Unilateral control is the reality

Yes. Which is why we should minimize the regulation coming out at the federal level.

> There need to be responbilities to society as well.

They owe you nothing. They provide a product, you either buy it or you don't.


But why?


You can just distribute it yourself. Just pick a different platform.


You can distribute an iOS app yourself. Give the user the source code. Then then give them instructions on how to build the app with xCode and deploy it to their iOS device.


Except we can’t deploy apps without a dev account. Corporate fanboys are the grossest.


You can use the App Store effectively for free, just do what Amazon Kindle or Netflix does and have a separate website, without linking to it from the app.

This is completely about the kind of splurge in app purchases that are terrible for consumers.


What Amazon and Netflix do would absolutely not be allowed for a regular no-name developer.


First, Epic is hardly a no name developer. But secondly a great deal of apps work like this both big and small. The limitation is you can’t make purchases though an app by say asking for credit card numbers or put purchase links to your website from the app.

There are well known and detailed App Store rules about this stuff, if you want details just look it up. For example all those 2 factor authentication app fits this model where it’s meaningless to download the app without a subscription.


Yeah because regular no-name developers like Epic can't read the damn rules. It's quite simple. If you don't want to get booted off the app store then follow the rules. The rules are very easy to follow.

If you offer a multi platform "content" app on iOS then users should always have the option to create a subscription account directly on their iOS device. It's perfectly fine to create an account on a different platform and use it in the iOS app but this should neither be required, nor be directly advertised in the app.

Seriously, don't make random stuff up. Amazon and Netflix don't receive preferential treatment. If you want to make your own streaming app on iOS you can do that today as long as you follow the rules.


Unless Apple decides they won’t let you. This only works for “Reader” apps. For reference, see Basecamp’s Hey! offering.


Isn't that what Epic tried to do?


No, they tried to do in app purchases within the app.


Sigh. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to. You should go write an app for something else.

You can’t distribute it yourself for precisely the same reason you can’t distribute a game to PS5 yourself, or for reasons you could never distribute apps to blackberry or some other device.

As for the yearly fee covering costs, sure, you have a point. But remember, Apple could arbitrarily increase prices on that fee instead. Apple could charge directly for the tools. They could just tack on the 15% or 30% for the annual developer license for apps that some money-making m, non-free angel to them. We’d end up in the same argument.

An app is not just a bunch of bits strung together. An app needs to have a commitment of support behind it.

Part of “supporting” an app is using only the languages, compilers, apis, payment processors and distribution systems authorized by the manufacturer.

And please don’t bring up PC software. PC app marketplace is a shitshow. Platforms like steam have made it more reliable recently. But they’re still not tightly integrated into the OS as they ought to be.

If you really want users to control the entirety of the digital device then Linux & it’s partners are truly a worthwhile competitor. The fact that Apple’s device marketshare is larger just implies that the a significant chunk of human society (not skewed towards engineers or people in tech) agrees with Apple’s policy.


I just want to be able to run and distribute my own apps. It’s ridiculous and just plain criminal that this is not possible. Apple does not own my device and does not get to dictate what I do with it. Phones are so locked down that they are a real threat to personal computing and software engineering. The day where apple stops indies from publishing apps is near.


This is where antitrust attention needs to be laser focused.

Our freedoms are at stake, and this should be our rallying point.

The iPhone is a general purpose computer (email, photos, dating, payments, reminders, docs, web, games, etc.) and computer manufacturers should not be allowed to control the only means to run software on computers they sell.

This is less drastic than breaking the company up into constituent parts. But honestly we ought to also be asking ourselves why a computer manufacturer gets to be a film studio and distribution chain.


Currently the iPhone is a great device for almost everyone on the planet and the trust their users have in the 3rd party apps is a big part of that.

If Apple made it easy to put custom apps on the device it would mean you could more easily be tricked into installing malware and so reduce the trust in the security.

The iPhone is as popular as it is today due in no small part to how they have policed the App Store.


Android has over 70% market share.


According to [1], Android makes up 60% of the US smartphone market share; but you're comparing many different brands of phones, all of which use Android, to the iPhone which isn't exactly fair.

You can see that the iPhone is still has the largest smartphone market share in the US.

Also, bear in mind that Android phones thrive in less rich countries like Mexico [2] or the Philippines [3]. The price of the iPhone is perhaps the largest burden for these people, but I'm willing to speculate that if given the choice, most would favor iOS over Android.

[1]: https://www.counterpointresearch.com/us-market-smartphone-sh...

[2]: https://www.statista.com/statistics/867948/market-share-smar...

[3]: https://gs.statcounter.com/vendor-market-share/mobile/philip...


Well, I'm from India and I still prefer Android to an iPhone. It is lightyears ahead in customization, which I prefer the most.


And significantly more malware than iOS has.


Malware can't do all that much but drain your battery with Android's sandboxing unless you're rooted.


I thought there was a significant adware problem, rooted or not?


You can easily find the app responsible for any push notification and uninstall it. Not sure about other avenues.


> unless you're rooted.

There we go :)


You can run custom / 3rd party software without being rooted. Not that rooting should be impossible.


What did you mean by this one?

A big reason for me to switch to Android was this. I'm reasonably tech savvy, but still it was becoming painful to manage all sorts of app permissions on Android. Not to talk about all kinds of tracking that Google does by default some of which may even be impossible to turn off.

Between me and Apple I'm reasonably clear about the business transaction. I pay to buy a high margin device. In turn Apple assures me that they have a vested interest to do what's best for me (i.e., my privacy, no trackers allowed etc.,).

With Android we have bewildering choice of hardware/forked-Android and what not which come with pre-burned apps and app stores that one can't get rid of.

Google Pixel comes closest to iPhone but at that price point I might as well buy iPhone as Apple has better track record of respecting user's privacy.


We are. Just don’t buy an iPhone.

You never seem to explain why that freedom doesn’t suffice.


Because it is essentially a duopoly, and switching platforms is not as easy as just not buying an iPhone.

For example, I recently broke the screen on my iPhone 7 and for this exact reason (not being able to run some Apple unapproved applications on my device) wanted to switch to an Android, but when I tried one out for a couple days

* My BMW would not show music cover art because only Apple had a deal with them in early 2010s

* iMessage no longer worked and I had to maintain an iPad for communicating to friends who only use iMessage and Facetime

* Macbook was suddenly a lot less interoperable with the phone - the easiest way to transfer photos was to push them to Google photos and download them on the mac

* Homepod speaker would no longer be controllable from my phone

* Apple obviously won't publish AppleTV(Remote) or HomeKit apps for android


In other words, you love and love paying for literally everything about Apple's platform, but you still haven't figured out what you are paying for, and you think you should get all the benefits of that platform (including the benefits accrued by it being a walled interoperable garden that doesn't suck), magically, even if you want to use other hardware and other platforms.

Sorry, but it just doesn't work that way.


That's exactly my point, I don't love and love everything about Apple's platform and I want to move away but they won't let my Android device interop with Homepod or Homekit or Apple TV.

I just realized too late, what exactly I paid them for - it wasn't the device - it was the "experience" and I regret spending every penny on this experience because it is essentially a sunk cost now.


BMW not supporting Android is not Apple’s problem.

iMessage is for Apple devices. You are free to choose from SMS, What’s app, and all the others.

You should be able to transfer files by plugging in your Android to the MacBook via USB. Something that you can’t do with an iPhone in the same way.

The rest are all Apple products in Apple’s ecosystem.

I pay to use Apple because the ecosystem is closed.


Nor am I saying it is, I'm telling you why switching is not an option for me which is what the parent comment asked.

I'm slowly reducing my reliance on Apple and have already abstained from getting the new watch or adding homepod minis to my current apple tv and homepod setup. And hopefully, as these devices weather out I will definitely make it a priority to not buy into a closed system like this again.


This seems wise.

I made the same move away from Google about 5 years ago. It took me a year or so, mostly because it took a while to unthread Gmail from everything.

That we can do this means we do in fact have a choice.


Yes, but that choice is getting harder with time. What happens when home automation and car automation is also controlled by these tech giants?

What if some day your account was banned because you said something against the "community guidelines" of Apple? Will your car, phone, TV still work? Will Apple buy them back?


“What if some day your account was banned because you said something against the "community guidelines" of Apple?“

That is a fictional what if.

More importantly, it would be a field day for lawyers.


That's already happening with facebook (oculus) and google as well (what happens to your android device? what about the photos you had stored on the cloud? what about all the sign-in with google?)

Don't see any lawyer field day yet.


Oculus is an extremely niche product, barely out of the experimental stage.

Can you point to cases where people have been locked out of their Android phones?

If so, I’m surprised lawyers aren’t involved.

It’s not clear though, what this has to do with app stores.

If we think companies shouldn’t be able to lock us out of their products for speech violations, that seems like an important consumer protection that should apply to all companies.


Homebridge will allow you to add almost any device to Apple Home. If they don’t have a plug-in you can build one yourself.


> You are free to choose from SMS, What’s app, and all the others.

But none of the others are allowed to integrate into the phone the way imessage does.

This "choice" is such a complete lie and I've heard it repeated so many times it's actually starting to make me angry.


What integration does iMessage have that the others do not?


- iMessage is built into the sms/MMS GUI and opportunistically "upgrades" sms chats to iMessage chats. This alone is a huge deal and makes me wonder why you would even ask this question.

- Everyone with an iPhone will have an account (the phone is practically unusable without one.)

- The app is built into the OS, when combined with the previous 2 integrations that makes it the only thing most iphone users are willing to use unless they have a very very good reason not to.

- I think the sharing UI has some special imessage-only shortcuts


The first three are all the same as saying ‘it’s pre-installed’

The fourth hasn’t been true for a long time.


A carrier can pre-install whatsapp, it still won't show up with normal text messages in the messages app but iMessage will.


Why are ‘normal text messages’ somehow a big deal?


Because that's what people use first.

How is this so hard for you to understand, iMessage gets shoved in people's faces and is activated automatically. It's extremely anticompetitive and isolates people not on apples platform. It's far worse than anything microsoft did in the 90s.


How exactly is anyone ‘isolated’? There just doesn’t seem to be any basis for saying that that.

All it does is improve the use experience for people who do use Apple’s platform. They are just as able to communicate with people who have SMS as they were before and vice versa. You are going to need to explain this ‘isolation’.

Literally billions of people use competing messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook messenger.


- You're not forced to create a Facebook account to use your phone

- Switching operating systems doesn't prevent you from receiving messages in Facebook groups you were in.

I'm not going to respond again because I don't think you're reading my responses. If you can't understand that ask your parents or caretaker for help.


It's not just preinstalled, it forces you to make an account to use the phone and inserts itself into what was previously the most popular messaging system in the US. If apple did something like this with the mail app everyone would probably completely flip out, the only reason they don't is because SMS was already terrible.


Based on your tone you are implying that for these reasons, and possibly more, Android is basically an unusable alternative.


At least your USB-C Apple Macbook charger could charge the Android. (Not your Apple iPhone I'm afraid.)


Flawed argument similar to the one used around privacy: People who don’t have anything to hide should not worry about big brother.

Well, turns out that you are telling me that companies with ungodly amounts of power and influence should be allowed to dictate our rights. This is why we desperately need regulation that puts consumers first.


Is that really the same type of argument? While I don't think, "Don't buy apple products then" is really a great argument it's not the same as the privacy argument. You do have other options. I don't have other options than to be spied on by the US government.


You can move to another country. /s


How does this solve the problem where my family refuses to switch to a reasonable problem and I can't even talk to them without pirating an apple OS?


The problem seems to be with your family’s refusal, no?


Can't you phone her?


Sure, but I'm left out of the group chat if I don't leave my OSX VM running.


This is just as true for Facebook or Google or any messaging system. There is nothing special about Apple in this regard. It’s just a feature of current messaging technologies.

I stopped using Facebook earlier this year, and I am missing out on a bunch of social groups the contain people I know in real life.

What we need to do is build technology that doesn’t these downsides.


While we're at it, we can also just stop paying credit card swipe fees too by paying cash as well and avoid artificial preservatives by growing our own food, and while we're at it we can bicycle everywhere in order not to exhaust Carbon into the air.

Or as a democratic country, we can debate the laws and rules in which we would like businesses to follow for the privilege of selling products in the market and so they do not unhealthily, dominate the market.


Nobody is forcing you to buy an iPhone. All of the other examples are in fact increasingly popular things to do.

Sure - we are debating it here. It just doesn’t seem like there is any real argument being made why people are forced to choose Apple.


You can still use a flip phone and a desktop PC running arch Linux.

Most users , even some of us can accidentally break a Linux install. Saving me from myself is what IOS effectively does. Look at the Android fortnite fiasco with users installing the wrong app and getting malware on their phones.

Even open source smart phones exist. Your more than free to custom write your own software on them.


Assuming Apple is ever kept at bay, they'll just ratchet up their already prevalent "soft coercion" tactics (warnings, unforced security errors, etc.)

The question is literally: 1. Comply fully and lose billions in revenue 2. Figure out a way to continue cheating the system

We have decades of data setting a precedent that this specific company will choose Option 2 unless absolutely forced to fundamentally change.


I do believe that once I buy a device it's mine. I have jailbroken iPhones and an iPod Touch before, they were my devices and I did as I saw fit.

On the other hand I don't feel I have the right to dictate to anyone else what sort of products they may or may not sell, or how they work, beyond health and safety, accessibility, etc. I don't see that I have a right to tell Nintendo that they must write software to support side loading games for my Switch for example, or demand via government regulation that Sony can't charge a fee for developers to create games for the Playstation. As long as I know up front what the features and services are that come with my purchase, I have a free choice whether to accept them or not.

In particular, I certainly don't think I have the right to tell other members of the public that they should not have the option to buy those products on those terms if they wish. What right do I have to interfere in the product design of popular products, used by millions of people that are perfectly happy with them? Especially if that will force the company involved to change it's business practices and charging structure in ways those customers would not be happy with.


[edit: I missed that the parent comment was scoped to iPhone, rather than the OP story about Macs.]

You can distribute [macOS] apps directly to customers.

From Apple's site:

"While the Mac App Store is the safest place for users to get software for their Mac, you may choose to distribute your Mac apps in other ways. Gatekeeper on macOS helps protect users from downloading and installing malicious software by checking for a Developer ID certificate. Make sure to test your apps with the latest version of macOS and sign your apps, plug-ins, or installer packages to let Gatekeeper know they’re safe to install. You can also give users even more confidence in your apps by submitting them to Apple to be notarized."

https://developer.apple.com/macos/distribution/


The parent comment is talking about phones.


Thanks. Edited to reflect.


You can do whatever you want with your phone, that doesn't mean Apple has to support it.


Yeah sure, let's just blast that silicon with some focused ion beam to overwrite the public key that the bootloader is signed with. It's that simple, right? Everyone could do it.


Just take a step back and think about how absurd what you just said was.

After market mods aren't easy to do in any industry. We don't force Ford to support lifted F150s or aftermarket radios.

You're basically saying "This is a dog, and I'm mad its not a cat and it can't be easily changed." When you can just get, you know, a cat.


Where do you get a mobile device that's not a walled garden? It's just that Google's is designed with a gate slightly ajar. Continuing with your pet analogy, it's as if you could only get a dog or a cat, and it only eats food made by one specific manufacturer. You can convince the cat to eat almost whatever you have, but the dog won't budge. Want a parrot or a hamster? Tough luck.

I wholeheartedly agree with the OP article. You made a device, then you sold it. You shouldn't get to control it after sale because you no longer own it. Plain and simple.

I don't care about manufacturer "supporting" something. I bought it, it's mine now, I'm on my own, and please don't get in my way of modifying the thing I bought because I have the right to do so.


You're positing an example but not refuting mine - again, tell me, how is a cat supposed to be a dog?

> I wholeheartedly agree with the OP article. You made a device, then you sold it. You shouldn't get to control it after sale because you no longer own it. Plain and simple.

Apple didn't just "make a device" though. They don't make just hardware - they make software w/ hardware. The product is the whole experience. Expecting them to change how they design their product for the masses (that LOVE THEM), because you can't do exactly what you want, is wrong.

> I bought it, it's mine now, I'm on my own, and please don't get in my way of modifying the thing I bought because I have the right to do so.

YOU CAN do what you want with it. If you were perhaps smarter, you could hack into it and make it do whatever you want. You can throw it right off a bridge if you want! Congratulations. But Apple IN NO WAY is required to make it EASIER for you to throw it off a bridge. Sorry.


My point is, Apple purposefully engineered the product to give them more access to it than you'll ever get. It took them extra effort to do this, it's easier to make a device/OS without DRM than with it. You can't exactly hack it because that would require millions of dollars worth of equipment and some very specific knowledge.

I'm not renting it. I'm not licensing it. I'm buying it.

> Expecting them to change how they design their product for the masses (that LOVE THEM), because you can't do exactly what you want, is wrong.

That would empower their users. Developers would be actually making MORE apps for the platform because they would have the confidence that they'll be able to get that app into the hands of users one way or another. I've seen some stories of someone doing a lot of work making an app only to have it rejected because its very idea didn't resonate with the review team. There's nothing they can do to bring it into compliance — countless hours of work were wasted.


In other words - the engineered a product that is much harder to break, is more private, and is harder to hack. All things most customers want.

> I'm not renting it. I'm not licensing it. I'm buying it.

I buy a cat. I can't complain about it not being a dog. I bought it. I didn't "license" the cat, I didn't "rent" the cat. But I still can't make it into a dog, despite the fact that I own it.

Go ahead, hack it, if you can. All the power to you. That's your right. You can't impose your absurd dev geek worldview on everyone else. That's just wrong. If you want, make a competing device. But you won't.

The App store doesn't need more apps. No one complains about lack of apps on the app store. Androids are flooded with crap apps - I'd rather keep it the way it is.


How, exactly, limiting what YOU can do with YOUR OWN device translates into more security? I want to see people ask "oh, if only I had no ability to install apps unless the manufacturer of my computer approves them". Haven't seen any yet. As they say, if someone hits you on the head every day since childhood, you would come up with all sorts of reasons why it's a good thing, and then miss it if they stop.

"But people might get scammed by bad actors." They can as well get scammed on the web which Apple devices are capable of accessing. Or over text messages. Or over phone calls. Or in real life.

Your analogy about cats and dogs is wrong, by the way. Being either kind of animal is an intrinsic property of it that can't be changed. You choose one or the other. It's not like someone took an "universal" animal that is initially capable of morphing into a cat or a dog, purposefully locked it into being a cat forever, and then called it an iCat sold it to you for $999.99. On the other hand, an iPhone is inherently a general-purpose computing device, that was purposefully and artificially locked into only running software that was pre-approved by Apple, thus limiting what its user can do with it (without owning an electron microscope, anyway).


Pixel phones come with an unlockable bootloader so...


That's what I refer to when I say about "gate slightly ajar". The thing is, you only unlock the bootloader that boots the main OS kernel, on EL1. There are more higher-privileged exception levels in an ARM CPU, and Google makes use of those to implement anti-consumer features like the dreaded SafetyNet or DRM. Your main OS is considered "untrusted", and you never get to run any custom code with highest possible privileges, a.k.a TrustZone — only Google and phone manufacturer do. Magisk is a dirty hack which will stop working whenever Google feels like flipping the switch to make use of their TrustZone firmware.


You clearly missed his point


This is the right answer. Apple’s not going to arrest you for jailbreaking your phone and running your own software. But they’re not obligated to go out of their way to support it either.


It’s not that they don’t go out of their way to support it. They actively try to stop it. All jailbreaking is, is gaining root privileges on the device. They could just add a little toggle button saying use at your own risk, we don’t support it.

By making it so hard to jailbreak and so hard to install apps not from the App Store, they make jailbreaking not the answer.


Their goal/feature/product, whatever you want to call it, is to create something secure enough that grandpa can’t get tricked into getting owned. Anything at all that allows people to disable security becomes an immediate threat for that type of user. If the side effect is that they prevent people from jailbreaking then so be it because they have no desire or obligation to support those users.


Yes, let's add a potentially system breaking switch to a consumer phone.

Believe it or not, the world doesn't revolve around the software geeks.


> Apple does not get to dictate what I do with it

Sounds like they already do...


> I just want to be able to run and distribute my own apps

A niggle and not contradicting your main point.

You can run and distribute you own app. You can even share it with a few hundred people (maybe a couple thousand?).

What you can't do is distribute it in the App Store or effectively sell it outside the App Store.

Again, more a niggle and not disputing your point.

> The day where apple stops indies from publishing apps is near.

This point I will dispute. Apple isn't going to stop Indies from publishing apps. Apple loves developers (though sometimes they show it poorly) and knows they are the life-blood of the platform.


Apple loves developers

Apple loves money, and realises that without developers they won't make as much. A subtle but important difference.


> A subtle but important difference.

Subtle, different, but irrelevant in this context. Apple needs developers as much as developers need Apple. There will never be a day where Apple boots all Indies from the App Store. They would just as soon change the policies on locking the doors on their retail stores at night.


Can you point out a company that doesn't love money?


Users don’t care about indie crap as long as they get their Facegram and Instabook.

The harsh truth is that indie devs need access to Apple’s users, not the other way around.

And so you have to play by the policies that attracted those users to Apple in the first place, which includes the App Store with all its glorious kinks.


> The harsh truth is that indie devs need access to Apple’s users, not the other way around.

This is simply not true.

Instagram was the project of indie developers. Likewise many of the big apps which exist on iOS. The vast majority of software on iOS is small niche tools which are either fun to use or useful tools.

Apple knows this and they know they need indie developers supporting their platform.

I realize there are a fair number of situations where it doesn't seem that way. But there are a lot of times such as this where it's more than clear they do.


I thought I was the only one thinking similarly on HN


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