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iOS developers want to push Apple on free trial policy and App Store revenue cut

Thirty-five iOS developers have formed a group to call on Apple for better treatment of app developers, starting with an expansion of its free trial policy by the time the company celebrates the 10th anniversary of the mobile software marketplace this July. Eventually, the coalition says it wants to demand Apple negotiate better terms for App Store revenue cuts, which have remained at a 70-30 split since the advent of the store in 2008.

The group, which calls itself the Developers Union, is not a standard labor union, and its website clarifies that fact by stating, “This is a non-union union created to bring developers and supporters together for better App Stores for all by focusing on issues that best serve those who create and use apps.” There are no dues, and there is no indication the group is seeking representation with an existing labor union for the purposes of collective bargaining.

The organizing members of the Developers Union, three of which reside in Boise, Idaho, include Glassboard and Vesper maker Brent Simmons; filmmaker Jake Schumacher, who directed the documentary App: The Human Story; product designer Loren Morris; and iOS developer Roger Ogden. Thirty-one other developers are listed on the website as supporting the cause, alongside 39 apps. The website also lists the option for new members to add their app to the cause and identify publicly as a supporter.

In the past few years, Apple has received pushback from some app makers over its hardline stance on App Store revenue cuts and its resistance to more flexible ways to distribute software, including free trials. Only last year did the company finally introduce the ability for users to preorder apps and for developers to offer free trials and discounts on subscription services.

That was after a more major structural change to the App Store’s revenue model in fall 2016 when Apple told developers they could keep an additional 15 percent of in-app purchase revenue if a user was subscribed to a service through the App Store for more than 12 months. Prior to that, Apple fought with companies like Amazon, Spotify, and others over the App Store revenue cut, which led those companies to push users to the web to avoid paying the 30 percent fee. To this day, Amazon forces users to purchase some digital items like Prime Video rentals through its website and not the Amazon or Prime Video apps. Apple was not immediately available for comment.

Still, without support from big names like Amazon and Spotify, it’s not likely that the Developers Union will be able to make Apple concede on elements of the App Store it considers integral to its growing services business. That division last year earned more revenue than AirPods, Apple TV, the Apple Watch, and iPad sales combined.

Here is the Developers Union’s mission statement in full:

Dear Apple,

We believe that people who create great software should be able to make a living doing it. So we created The Developers Union to advocate for sustainability in the App Store.

Today, we are asking Apple to commit to allowing free trials for all apps in the App Stores by the tenth anniversary of the App Store this July. After that, we’ll start advocating for a more reasonable revenue cut and other community-driven, developer-friendly changes.

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