Google Delays IAP Requirement After Antitrust Suit

Posted on July 17, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Google, Android with 17 Comments

What a difference an antitrust lawsuit makes. Google on Friday said it would delay the implementation of Play Store requirements for developers that would require them to use its in-app payments (IAP) system, similar to what Apple requires on its own App Store.

The timing is interesting. On July 7, 37 attorneys general, representing 36 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, sued Google for antitrust abuses related to the Google Play Store. Google’s response to this suite was both sad and humorous, and it contains outright lies and largely irrelevant counterpoints. But it’s pretty clear that Google is taking this suit—and other similar lawsuits—seriously.

“Last September, we clarified our Payments Policy to be more explicit about when developers should use Google Play’s billing system,” Google explains, referring to the in-app payments (IAP) system in Google Play, which requires developers to use its payment system. “While most developers already complied with this policy, we understood that some existing apps currently using an alternative billing system may need to make changes to their apps, and we gave one year for them to make these updates.”

Google cites the impact of the “global pandemic” as a key reason for backing off from the previously announced date at which developers will finally be forced to use only its IAP system. But it’s pretty clear that antitrust uncertainty played a stronger role, just when Apple suddenly switched its 30 percent vig system down to 15 percent last summer—also while under the threat of antitrust action—and then Google quickly followed suit.

Developers who would like a deadline extension will need to petition Google.

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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Google Delays IAP Requirement After Antitrust Suit”

  1. scovious

    Google is so sheisty. It's a shame the alternative OS is so draconian in their policies. If either operating system allowed alternative App stores without outright blocking them or without handicapping the entire phone then either major mobile OS provider could be as anti consumer and anti developer as they wanted and the market would objectively support the best store. Hopefully that's what the antitrust lawsuits mandate.

    • will

      I do not think Apple should allow another App Store, that would just be bad IMO. What I do think Apple could do is a few things: First lower the fees to something reasonable to cover costs and a little extra, such as 15% year one apps and 7% for year two apps with subscriptions or purchases, and 5% for top tier subscription apps as examples. Second, allow apps to mention you can purchase directly from their respective sites. Three, make it easier and secure to allow people to side load apps that meet certain requirements if desired. Four, allow subscription services to us apps to deliver content such as Xcloud and Steam without issue.

      Just a few of those would go a long way IMO.

      • wright_is

        Being an Android user and having just bought an iPad, it is amazing how many apps are "broken" on the iOS side - Kindle and Audible, being the most obvious examples.

        On Android, if I finish a book, I just go to the store and get a new book - either with a credit, from Kindle Unlimited or I buy one. On the iPad, I have to dig out my Android phone and buy it there, because the store doesn't exist in those apps... I can't even buy them in the Amazon app on the iPad, only the paper versions!

        I'm assuming, if Google gets its way, those apps will be broken on the Android side as well, going forward.

      • peterc

        There isn't a high street or maine street in the world that can say you cant open a store here like google and apple do on their "platform".

        The law should be simple. Anyone can open a store and present their business offering to the buying public. It may incur a fair fee to the platform provider set by legislation. Thats it. Simple.

        Stores live or die by their service, price, commission rates, quality etc etc....

        • toukale

          Except those stores you speak of don't relied on platform vendors to work on API and provide them access to such tools for free. If its that easy why aren't those folks create their own platform so they don't have to play by those platform rules.

          • wright_is

            Except they do. They rely on the platform provider (owner of the building/mall, the local council, state and federal resources) to provide the building, telephone lines, the roads etc. to get the product there and payment providers, like banks and credit card brokers to accept payments for those goods. It might not be "a" single platform, in the sense of Apple or Google, but they still have to pay for the infrastructure to allow them to do business.

            But, if they aren't using Apple's bandwidth (using their preferred CDN) and they aren't using Apple's payment services (using their preferred payment provider, which probably charges well under 5%, instead of 15% or 30%), then they are spreading the load. All that is left is the "rental" of the real estate.

            A lot of people would still stick with the Apple App Store, because they can simply pay with Apple Pay, they don't have to worry about other payment systems, security etc. I find the system is very user friendly and easy to use, but it also has major drawbacks. I use an Android phone and an iPad. If I finish an Audible book on the phone, I just tap on the Store icon in the app and buy the next book, the same with Kindle, for example. On the iPad, I have to go and look for my Android phone and buy the new book there, because the Kindle, Audible and Amazon apps all do not sell the books on iDevices*.

            That makes the whole experience more broken on Apple than on Android, something which Apple users are usually adamant is the other way round.

            (*) Yes, I know, technically, I could open the web browser on my iPad, open a new tab, go to the Amazon/Audible store, log on, select the book, go to the checkout/one click, re-enter the password and I have bought the book, go back to the Audible app, refresh the library and download the book... Or I can search for the book in the Audible app on my Android phone and hit the buy now button, hit the "view in library" button and hit download, okay, on the iPad, I still need to refresh the library after I finish the pain-free transaction on the Android phone.

            • ivarh

              Amazon has gotten a deal with apple allowing the purchase of audiobooks using subscription credits on ios. This happened at least more than a year ago. You can't however buy a subscription or purchase audiobooks for cash.

              • wright_is

                Hmm, on the iPad, Audible is showing me 2 credits and the only thing I can do is add it to my wish list.

          • peterc

            I certainly don’t think it’s easy nor should it (platform access) be provided without paying fees to platform providers, and it should be all conducted under the scrutiny and jurisdiction of a proper regulatory body with actual powers to enforce market rules.

            The market place has to be openly available….simple.

      • lvthunder

        #3 is not possible. First easy and secure are on opposite sides of the spectrum. You also can't allow just anything to run from anywhere and expect security.

        If you allow developers to tell people you can get it cheaper on the website every app will do that and Apple will be forced to run the App Store at a loss.

        • nbplopes

          #3 it is possible, they do it on macOS.

          Apple would not be force to run at a loss as they don't run at a loss in the mac. Even if they opt for no sideload, they could still charge for app hosting, app marketing, review service and licensing ... they just need to come up with tiered service like happens in any cloud service. MS does precisely that with the Windows Store.


          • lvthunder

            MacOS is not as secure as iOS.

            • nbplopes

              Using customer assets as products, data assets or other forms of assets is a thing that needs to be regulated.

            • nbplopes

              I would argue otherwise. Never had a security problem with macOS.

              Furthermore have the freedom to choose App Store only, Sideload with Dev Apple signed certificates and just go on my own.

              Freedom of choice is at the center of security and privacy. The idea that a securitarian system, tellling you what you can “read” or not because it can pollute either your mind or your wallet, the second meaning trust only one, is the path to a very dangerous system.

              The core market problem is that this system is being employed in multiple ways. Apple and co are institutionalizing it wrapped and in fear, eulas and gray área practices. Removing control over your assets. Facebook and co by attempting to removing control over your data … wrapped up again in Eulas.

              They are at it … removing users control of what it theirs, transferring to them, saying “trust us” only “us”.

              Google, Apple, Facebook … are all at it. All are using their customers and their customers assets as products.

              • wright_is

                In court, Apple threw macOS under the bus, claiming it was insecure and iOS needed to be the way it was to ensure that iPhones and iPads remained as secure as they are and didn't become a malware infested wasteland, like macOS...

                macOS is very secure, but the ability to download software from unreputable locations means it is up to the user to keep it secure. iOS tries to keep things secure by forcing the App Store on users - although it is far from perfect, when it comes to keeping malware at bay. Also, look at the news over the weekend about the Israeli outfit selling a product built on exploits it won't share with Apple, to infect iDevices (and Android, but we are discussing Apple here).

  2. Brett Barbier

    Apple could do this at an absolute minimum to take a lot of pressure off of themselves - any paid service/app category that they have a competing product in (music, ebooks, video streaming, etc.), their competitors should be free to use a 3rd party payment processing service with no cut for Apple. Even if the competitors had to use a pop-up with a web-based way to sign up from the app, this would be a great step.

    It's ridiculous that an Amazon customer can buy a paperback version of a book in the Amazon app, using Amazon's payment processing system within the app, but cannot buy a kindle version. And Amazon can't even tell customers using the app and browsing books that they can go to their website to order the kindle version.

  3. spiderman2

    Classic scroogle