While a segment of the Apple community continues to erupt in angry and passion over the companies fight with Epic Games, Apple may soon be getting a taste of its own medicine.
Currently, Apple operates Apple Music on Android, launched in November of 2015 its the tech-giants way of reaching out to a user base who perhaps doesn’t like its hardware, but admires its services. Apple distributes Apple Music via the Play Store, which in theory requires it to follow the rules and policies put in place by Google Inc. also known as Alphabet.
This week Google double-downed on apps in the Play Store that circumvent its own in-app purchasing system. Like Apple, Google offers an easy system for developers to implement into their apps that allow users to purchase subscriptions or add-ons with the developers keeping 70% of the revenue, and the companies taking 30%. That cut for Apple has come under intense scrutiny on the claims of it being monopolistic and anti-competitive due to the restrictive nature of iOS.
In a blog post on Monday, Google clarified its in-app purchasing policy with a massive announcement. The company is giving developers such as Netflix and Spotify who use their own payment method for in-app purchases until September 30th, 2021 to implement the Play Store’s system. While Netflix and Spotify are getting much of the spotlight for having to switch, under its current definition, so will Apple Music, as Daring Fireball’s John Gruber explains:
This whole blog post is rather opaque. Basically they’re saying two things. First, big whales like Spotify and Netflix that have been using their own credit card processing in their Android apps need to switch to Google’s system for the apps they distribute via the Play Store by next year. Most reports are mentioning Spotify and Netflix here, but unless I’m missing something this policy change (or as Google claim, “clarification”) will also apply to Apple Music — the Android version of which charges users who sign up directly. The fact that Apple forces all subscription streaming services to use Apple’s in-app payments on iOS but doesn’t use Google’s on Android for Apple Music has been a source of much heckling.
It’s hard to imagine that if Google does provide a break for Apple and not require it to use its in-app purchasing system, developers such as Spotify and Netflix would demand the same. Apple for example provided Amazon an exemption to get Amazon Prime Video onto the App Store.
Whether or not Google follows through with a similar scheme for Apple remains untested and unknown. However, Google says in its blog post that it applies its policies “equally to all apps distributed on Google Play”. If Google does indeed force Apple to use its own in-app purchasing system, Apple could comply which would be a sweet taste of irony. Or, Apple could opt to do what developers are currently asking Apple to let them do, distribute apps beyond the App Store.
On Android, Apple could distribute Apple Music via an APK file, or via the phone manufacturer’s own independent app distribution platform such as the Galaxy Store for Samsung or App Gallery for Huawei. However, given the current narrative around Apple and the App Store, it’s hard to imagine Apple doing either of those two things. Apple is more than likely to comply with Google’s policy if required.
While Google is not currently under any major investigation or legal action pertaining to the Play Store, its blog post on Monday is a clear way to veer away from any potential issues. In multiple cases, Google takes aim at Apple amid its fight with Epic Games. For example, Google says that Fortnite still remains accessible to Android users despite it not being available on the Play Store via Epic’s own store or Samsung’s Galaxy Store. Apple however offers no alternative way for Epic to distribute Fortnite to users following its removal from the App Store.