Oh Apple, you little scamp! You love it so that everyone is so confused about the in-app purchase rules. Your coy little games have everyone from Amazon to Microsoft walking on eggshells. Do you love the kerfuffles you cause in the marketplace? Your products have always made splashy entrances and the world has been hanging on your every word. The confusion and questions related to your in-app purchase rules have waxed and waned, but never fully exited the public conversation. I'm sure it is all according to plan that your dance of ambiguity stays ever alive.

Foreplay… Foreplay… Foreplay…

Much like a single-minded segment of men around the world, App developers keep asking "how do I get around the in app purchase fees?". And much like different single-minded segment of men, companies walk, ever so blithely, into the app store not even knowing what the commitment really means. And much like the nuances of communication between courting pairs, much goes unasked and unanswered as each party tries not to reveal too much.

As the rules stand right now (and yes, they are always subject to change) Apple takes a 30% cut of all "in-app purchases". Despite how it sounds, "in-app purchase" does not mean "a purchase made from inside an app". Apple's definition of in-app purchases come in a three flavors:

  • Features and content inside an application or game
  • Media purchases like books, periodicals, movies, etc.
  • Subscriptions to online services

You Haven't Seen Anything Until You've Seen Everything

Are you creating an obsession in your users that you intend to profit from? Do you want to sell a version of your game where the avatar wears a funny hat? Do you plan on selling access to new levels? Do you plan on selling advanced features in your productivity app? Do you plan on selling any virtual thing to be used or seen in your app at all? Then make sure you have planned to give Apple 30% of your sales revenue. Angry Birds players think that the birds are angry at the pigs, but I think they are angry at Apple for having to give one third of the in-game revenue away.

Are you a content publisher looking to create a media empire that you intend to profit from? Do you want to sell a series of videos or e-books through one simple to use app? Do you want to move from the world of physical media like books and DVDs to the world of virtual media with no variable manufacturing or shipping costs? Then make sure you have planned to give Apple 30% of your sales revenue.