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This is What the Apple Ruling Means for Streamers Who Use iPhone and iPad

Ben Bowman

Today, a judge ruled that Apple must allow iOS apps to open external links and in-app purchase mechanisms, after Apple announced a similar, but more limited change last week. That might seem like a small thing, but it will trigger a big change for people who download apps to their iPhones or iPad.

Some streamers like Netflix, removed the ability to sign-up directly in-app to avoid paying Apple a cut of their subscription revenue. That meant, if you wanted to initiate a streaming subscription, you would have to pay for it in a browser link, then download the app and sign in using those credentials. This ruling means you could download Netflix in the App Store and set up a new account without the extra step.

Why was this such a headache? Apple collects a 30 percent commission on all subscription fees during the first year after a user signs up for a service using an iOS app, and 15 percent every year thereafter. Companies opposed to that arrangement would simply block that option in their apps. Netflix stopped in-app sign-ups in December of 2018.

For Apple device users, this ruling will likely make life easier. You’ll be able to start a subscription within a freshly downloaded streaming app, or the app will automatically open a sign-up page in your browser.

Since all major streaming services offer iOS apps, you may not see much of an impact if you are an existing subscriber. You will experience less friction when signing up for new services, however. The ruling is a bigger factor for gamers who may see previously unavailable games arriving on (or returning to) the App Store.

The ruling from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers reads:

Apple Inc. and its officers, agents, servants, employees, and any person in active concert or participation with them (“Apple”), are hereby permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from (i) including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and (ii) communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.

Apple is likely to appeal the decision.

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