Skip to main content

Apple says it won't back down on blocking this popular new app

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has reaffirmed its commitment to blocking future updates of new email service Hey for iOS - an app the company says it should never have approved in the first place due to violations of its terms and conditions.

Owned by software company Basecamp, Hey will not be allowed to provide users with updates and patches until Apple is satisfied the service complies with its policies surrounding in-app purchases. Apple will also refuse to push the Hey application to its MacOS store until such a time. 

Currently, users cannot access the Hey iOS app until they have activated a subscription via the Basecamp website. Apple is demanding Basecamp allow Hey users to sign up for the service directly via the app, which would then see Apple qualify for its infamous 30% cut of the subscription fee.

In a letter delivered to Jason Fried, Basecamp CEO, Apple explained the Hey app is in breach of App Store Guidelines 3.1.1, 3.1.3(a) and 3.1.3(b). These clauses dictate that only in a select few scenarios may an app allow users to unlock features or functionalities via a route other than in-app purchases, none of which apply to Hey.

To remedy the violations, Apple has asked the company to revise the app to allow subscriptions to be purchased in-app, or to alter its functionality to allow users to register alternative email accounts with the service. The current subscription model sees users charged for a year’s access to the platform and an @hey.com email address, and does not support alternative providers (such as Gmail).

Having spent two years in development, Hey launched an invite-only preview on the App Store this week. The app is set to go live for public use next month, but uncertainty now looms large over the official launch.

Apple antitrust investigation

Apple’s management of its App Store has come under increased scrutiny this week - and only in part due to the Hey controversy. The company is also facing a major antitrust investigation over its fee structure, which some believe is anti-competitive and serves to squash developers with smaller profit margins.

The EU probe was prompted by a complaint submitted by Spotify last year, which accused Apple of imposing restrictions on rivals to its music streaming service, Apple Music.

Apple has also been accused of inconsistency in the enforcement of the guidelines it is using to deny Hey access to its ecosystem. Neither Amazon nor Netflix, for instance, are required to funnel their subscription processes through their applications.

“Because of the market power that Apple has, it is charging exorbitant rents - highway robbery, basically - bullying people to pay 30 percent or denying access to their market,” explained Rep. David Cicilline, Chairman of the US House antitrust subcommittee.

“It’s crushing small developers who simply can’t survive with those kinds of payments. If there were real competition in this marketplace, this wouldn’t happen.”

David Heinemeier Hansson, Basecamp CTO, took to Twitter to express his dismay over the decision to reject Hey’s appeal, with Fortnite developer Epic Games and Tinder parent company Match Group chiming in to offer support.

“Wow. I’m literally stunned. Apple just doubled down on their rejection of HEY’s ability to provide bug fixes and new features, unless we submit to their outrageous demand of 15-30% of our revenue. Even worse: we’re told that unless we comply, they’ll REMOVE THE APP (sic),” Hansson tweeted.

Despite the mounting opposition to its ‘Apple Tax’ and wider gatekeeping practices, Apple reportedly has no intention of altering course or amending the rulebook.

Via The Verge