Back in February, Apple launched the in-app subscription service for the App Store, which allowed publishers of content-based apps to sell subscriptions for content such as magazines, newspapers, music and video to users using the App Store billing system.
However, at that time Apple also updated its App Review Guidelines, which required publishers to make the same in-app subscription offer as the one made outside the app.
This did not go down too well with publishers as Apple takes a 30% cut of the revenue when a user buys subscriptions inside the app, which would be on top of the revenue it needs to pay content providers.
After facing a lot of criticism for its policy, Apple reversed its in-app subscription policy for content based apps couple of weeks back. The change in policy meant that publishers can offer content at whatever price they want. It is also no longer mandatory for them to offer subscriptions via in-app purchase because they offer paid subscriptions outside the app as long as they don’t point users to external purchasing mechanisms.
All Things Digital has just reported that Hulu has updated its Hulu Plus application to remove the link to the new subscription page on their website to comply with the policy before the June 30th deadline.
“All Hulu had to do was strip out the link that sent potential subscribers to its Web site, because Apple’s new rule will ban “apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app.”
You can checkout the screenshot of the welcome screen before and after today’s update:
Old version of Hulu Plus app with the external link pointing to the website
New version of Hulu Plus app without the external link
According to All Things Digital, other service providers such as Netflix etc. will also use a similar solution. It will also be interesting to see how Amazon will comply with the policy.
Frankly, the external link to the website from the application didn’t provide the best user experience, but the user experience for a new user in the updated app feels broken, due to lack of any information on the welcome screen. Though we understand the need to charge for services, it’s a pity that Apple decided to charge publishers of content based apps as much as 30% for in-app subscriptions, as the most ideal solution from a user point of view is to be able to buy subscriptions from the App Store through in-app subscriptions.
At the end of the day it’s users who have to deal with the crappy user experience. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.