Paulo Andrade

Keeper of Secrets

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The Developers Union
May 22, 2018
4 minutes read

A few days ago The Developers Union launched its first campaign advocating for free trials on the App Store. I want to acknowledge the 4-person team behind it for taking the initiative.

If we, developers, want to do something about sustainability on the App Store1 I can’t think of a better way than to band together and ask Apple for changes in a single voice.

There are plenty of articles and papers suggesting that unions played an important role in reducing wage inequality in the past. So one begs the question, can we do something similar with the App Store?

Certainly the relationship dynamics between Apple and 3rd party developers aren’t the same as the employer–employee relationships in the sixties… You won’t see developers going on strike. But you will see developers abandon the App Store and the Mac App Store entirely.

It’s in Apple’s interest to have a healthy App Store ecosystem. Apple knows this. That’s why I believe developers should rally behind this effort and make clear and concise requests to evolve the App Store into a better place for everyone: Apple, the customer and ourselves — the developers.

Free Trials

This project was developed quietly by the small team mentioned above, and later on opened up for some beta testing. The initial request is for Apple to support free trials. It’s a noble and certainly useful request, which I assume was decided by that initial team. And I sincerely hope Apple’s acknowledges it.

But if I have anything to point out is that this request isn’t as encompassing as it probably should have been for the debut of The Developers Union. Subscription-based apps, for example, already have the option for a free trial. Games are firmly placed in the free with In-App Purchases domain. And many apps, including my own app Secrets, opted for a Freemium model. And in respect to Secrets, I’d probably still opt for Freemium even if free trials were in place.

Marketing on the App Store

With over 2 million apps there’s a lot of competition on the App Store. It’s paramount that developers have their own marketing strategy if they want to survive. Submitting an App to the App Store is only half the battle.

Tim Cook announcing 2 million apps on the App Store at WWDC 2016

Tim Cook announcing 2 million apps on the App Store at WWDC 2016

Even with the new App Store and daily articles featuring apps, it’s still up to developers to get their app off the ground. Be it search ads, sponsored blog posts, content marketing, Adwords, etc. There will always be a cost to implementing your own marketing strategy.

Back in 2016 when Apple dropped its 30% cut to 15% for subscriptions older than 1 year, John Gruber reported:

In Schiller’s words, this is “in recognition that the developer is doing most of the work” with any app that is so good that the user remains a paid subscriber for over a year. This change is effective starting this Monday — any app that already has subscribers will start splitting revenue with Apple 8515 on subscriptions that are at least a year old.

I believe the same line of thinking applies here. If the developer is doing most of the work of bringing in a customer, Apple should reduce their share to 15%.

All paid apps, either upfront or via IAP, could benefit from this measure. This would help offset the marketing costs developers have outside the App Store. It only seems fair.

And if you look at the iTunes Affiliate Program, you’ll see that the mechanisms to track where a customer comes from are already in place. Currently, anyone who’s an affiliate can earn a small commission by referring to any app, song or movie on Apple’s stores:

As an affiliate, you can earn a commission on revenue generated by encoded links. Commissions are eligible on sales for up to 24 hours after a user clicks on your iTunes link.

Movies, TV, Mac Apps, Mac In-Apps, iBooks, and paid apps earn a 7% commission rate while iOS In-App purchases and iTunes Music earn a 2.5% commission rate.

So, as a suggestion for future petitions, I would like to see The Developer Union make this request:

If the developer of an app brings his own customer, all revenue from that customer should be split 8515.

I believe it’s a fair request with a relatively easy implementation on Apple’s part and with absolutely no impact on the customer.


  1. When I mention the App Store I’m referring to all Apple App Stores in general: iOS, Mac, TV, and Watch. [return]


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