Apple to let app developers offer free or discounted subscriptions via offer codes

Technology

Apple will soon let developers offer discounted or free subscriptions via new offer codes, the company has announced. Developers will be able to distribute these one-time use codes physically or electronically, which Apple says could help them acquire new subscribers, retain existing ones, or “win back” lapsed customers. Apple says the feature is coming “later this year,” and will be available to customers using iOS 14 or iPadOS 14.

App developers have previously been able to offer discounted pricing or introductory offers for subscriptions on Apple devices, but the new codes should give developers more granular control.

According to a new section added to Apple’s developer documentation, developers will be able to distribute the codes either in-person or online. For example, codes could be made available alongside the purchase of a product or sent in an email. Customers will be able to redeem them on the App Store, via the web, or directly in-app. An example screenshot posted by Apple (above) shows an offer redemption screen that gives one month of a subscription for free, before reverting to its usual $4.99 a month pricing.

The new functionality comes as Apple is facing fierce criticism from the likes of Epic Games, Hey email developer Basecamp, and others, over a perceived Apple Tax. With a few exceptions, developers are required to use Apple’s built-in payment infrastructure, which means having to give the company a 30 percent cut of any subscriptions or in-app purchases. The new offer codes don’t fundamentally change this model, but they should give developers a little more flexibility over how they attract and retain subscribers.