Much has been said in the last week since Tim Cook went up in front of congress. While there are many things Apple needs to change about the way the App Store operates, I want to talk about something that really bothers me. What Apple says. Or more accurately, doesn’t.

Images of the App Store
This makes money. Apple shouldn't shy away from this fact.

Apple makes around $15bn a year on the App Store. (They made $50bn on the App Store last year very rough maths of their 30% makes that $15bn) We know they are, they know they are, the figures bear that out.

Instead, they repeatedly frame it as some sort of altruistic thing they’re doing to allow all these amazing developers to create a business. It’s not. A least, that’s far from the only reason. These apps make the iPhone and iPad special. Apple NEEDS them to make their devices really, truly desirable.

just say it!

No one begrudges you for wanting to make money. You’re a business, this is how businesses work. You make money off the services you provide. When the store launched, Steve Jobs said they didn’t want to make money off it. That has obviously changed. Things move on. And that’s ok.

Image of the Amazon Prime Video app
Amazon negotiated a deal for their Prime Video app.

It came out through emails that Apple had done a separate deal with Amazon to get the Prime Video app on the store in return for Apple being the sole seller of Apple products on Amazon. This in return for Amazon only paying 15% instead of the 30% on the App Store.

Some people are shocked about this. I’m not. Again, this is business. You want something, another company wants something. You hash out a deal to make it work. Nothing new there.

just say it!

Deals happen every day, this whole secrecy thing makes you look like you think this is wrong. Even if you don’t. It looks underhanded and leaves a bitter taste in developer’s mouths.

Image of Microsoft’s xCloud service
Not coming soon to iPhone - Microsoft's xCloud

Before the App Store, you had to find a website for software. You had to pay on a separate page, you had to download the package and install. Etc, etc. Frequently you might have to just trust what you were downloading was ok and compromised.

The App Store makes the experience much better, simpler and Apple can make sure users are properly protected because Apple has the control. This is undoubtedly a good thing.

However, if you’re wanting to submit or use a type of app and Apple turns around and stops you, (like this week’s hot topic, game streaming with Microsoft’s xCloud) shouldn’t they be clear and say why publicly?

Apple did release a statement which was a bizarre mix saying what you can do on the App Store and also completely ignoring the actual issue.

just say it!

Maybe there’s a privacy issue. Or a battery issue? If you just say no it makes it look like you don’t want them on because you’re prioritising your own service (like Apple Arcade) or revenue. But what are the actual, bullet-pointed reasons for not allowing them on? Being vague is unhelpful and just creates more questions.

silence isn't always golden.

Apple isn’t going to be as blunt as I’m suggesting, as that would be terrible PR, but it’s still clear that Apple’s silence or vague and sometimes disingenuous statements make them seem like the money-hungry corporation that I don’t believe they are.

Of course, Apple is admirably very vocal and communicative in other areas such as privacy, environment, equality, diversity and youth coding. So why not this? There are many great things about the App Store business, but these are getting lost amongst all this negativity.

Ultimately, Apple now has a real opportunity to say something. To change the narrative. Unfortunately, as we so often see from them, they will probably just keep quiet. Say nothing. And that’s the root problem. When it comes to not revealing the next great product; secrecy and silence are great. But when it comes to policies and dialogue between Apple and customers & developers (who are themselves, customers), silence and - even worse - responding in vague non-answers is the worst way to go about it.

Either way, these issues aren’t going away. Apple needs to change its approach.