Apple has made major changes to how the App Store works

Apple will make changes to the way the App Store works after an investigation by regulators.

The company is set to relax some of the rules that have been accused of being anticompetitive and stifling other companies’ apps.

Those apps that provide content – such as Netflix, or Amazon’s Kindle – will now be able to show links to their websites so that users can sign up for paid accounts directly.

Until now, Apple had required that all such apps go through directly, and the companies were banned from even suggesting to users that they could sign up in other ways.

The concession is part of a deal with Japan’s anti-trust regulator, which said the change was enough for it to close a five-year investigation into Apple that focused on video and music apps but did not consider games.

Japan is far from the only country with official investigations into Apple, its rules over the App Store, and whether competitior apps are being unfairly held back. The company is still being scrutinised by regulators in the US, Europe, UK and elsewhere.

The ban on providing links was lifted for what Apple calls “reader apps”, though the change really refers to any apps that allow users to buy and consume content. The category includes many of the iPhone’s most high profile apps, including Netflix and Spotify.

The change is set to take effect early next year and will be applied globally, said Apple, which will retain ultimate say over which apps qualify as reader apps.

Some companies said the concession was not enough.

“A limited anti-steering fix does not solve all our issues,” Spotify Technology said in a statement. The music streaming company is pursuing an antitrust complaint against Apple with European Union competition authorities.

Apple‘s App Store forms the core of its $53.8 billion services segment, and it collects commissions between 15% and 30% from in-app purchases.

Its rules for game makers have been among its most contentious, particularly the practice that Epic Games is contesting of not allowing developers to take other forms of payment inside apps.

That case may determine whether Apple can retain control over what apps appear on its devices and whether it is allowed to charge commissions to developers.

Responding to Apple‘s latest announcement on its App Store, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney accused Apple of trying to appease with insufficient piecemeal measures.

“Apple should open up iOS on the basis of hardware, stores, payments, and services each competing individually on their merits. Instead, they’re running a literally day-by-day recalculation of divide-and-conquer in hopes of getting away with most of their tying practices,” he said on Twitter.

An official with Japan’s Fair Trade Commission stressed that the scope of its investigation did not cover games.

“There is a possibility of there being an investigation into games too,” he told a media briefing.

Apple has a 46.5% share of Japan’s smartphone market in which more than 30 million are sold annually.

The iPhone maker’s latest concession is the second in as many weeks. It reached a deal last week with a group of developers in the United States in a class-action lawsuit, ending a ban on them telling users in email messages about payment alternatives.

Additional reporting by Reuters


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