A new report by The New York Times states that Apple rejected Spotify’s update to add audiobook support on its iOS app three times in the past month. The tech giant only approved Spotify’s latest update after it changed the language of its landing page in compliance with App Store rules.
Over the past month, Apple, the App Store’s gatekeeper, has rejected Spotify’s app three times, saying that its new audiobook offering broke Apple’s rules governing how developers can communicate with customers about online purchases.
Last year, Apple introduced multiple changes in the App Store policies. The company revised App Store all in-app purchases commission to 15% – 30% for developers and early this year, it allowed all reader apps providing previously “purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video” to include an in-app link to their website for users to set up or manage an account.
However, the tech giant did not let Spotify add an external link to its website for users to purchase audiobooks because the audio streamer was trying to circumvent App Store rules.
Spotify’s latest experience highlights how “Apple impedes competition and hampers rivals”
As per the report, Spotify involved its legal team and former start-up founder with a law degree, Nir Zicherman in the product development process to ensure that the new feature was in compliance with App Store rules.
But even then, Apple rejected the company’s update as it found that the audio streamer was trying to implement a workaround for its App Store commission.
An Apple spokesman said that the company had no objections to Spotify adding audiobooks, but he added that Spotify couldn’t do so by circumventing rules against providing web addresses and language that encourages customers to make purchases outside its app.
“We provided them with clear guidance on how to resolve the issue, and approved their app after they made changes that brought it into compliance,” he said.
Now, Spotify argues that the latest conflict over audiobooks is another example of how Apple impedes competition and hampers rivals.
Apple initially approved the new feature in Spotify’s existing app before later reversing course, sending Spotify into what it considered to be a Kafkaesque world where Apple simultaneously told the audio company that it could send customers emails about online purchases but couldn’t provide a button inside its app to request those emails.
After a series of rejections, Spotify said that Apple on Tuesday approved a version of its app with the audiobook experience.
Mr. Zicherman complained that the App Store review team approved the update after his team stripped the purchase button from the email customers would receive and added “You can’t buy audiobooks in the app. We know, it’s not ideal”, language on the landing page. And this behavior highlight how Apple creates hurdles for third-party competitors.
The challenges with Apple, which also sells audiobooks, contrast with Spotify’s experience on Google Play, a store for apps on the company’s Android operating system. Google approved Spotify’s Android app, allowing listeners to click a button and receive an email about how to purchase audiobooks online.
In 2019, Spotify filed a complaint at the EU against Apple’s uncompetitive App Store policies, and the new conflict fuels their estranged relationship further.