If you’ve ever purchased a subscription in an iOS app and later decided you want to cancel, upgrade or downgrade, or request a refund, you may have had a hard time figuring out how to go about making that request or change. . Some people still believe today that they can stop their subscription fees just by removing an app from their iPhone. Others may unsuccessfully dig into their iPhone settings or the App Store to try to find out how to request a refund. With the updates Apple announced in StoreKit 2 at its Global Developer Conference this week, things might start to get a little easier for app users.
StoreKit is Apple’s development framework for managing in-app purchases – an area that has grown more complex in recent years as apps have moved from offering one-time purchases to ongoing subscriptions with varying levels, lengths and feature sets.
Currently, users who want to manage or cancel subscriptions can do so from the App Store or their iPhone settings. But some don’t realize that the path to this section from settings starts by tapping on your Apple ID (your name and profile picture at the top of the screen). They can also get frustrated if they don’t know how to navigate their settings or the App Store.
During this time, users can request refunds on their in-app subscriptions in a number of ways. They can search their inbox for their Apple receipt, then click the “Report a Problem” link there to request a refund if there is a problem. This can be useful in cases where you bought a subscription by mistake (or your child did!) Or when the promised features did not work as expected.
Apple also provides a dedicated website where users can directly request reimbursement for apps or content. (When you search for something like “request a refund apple” or similar queries, a page that explains the process usually appears at the top of search results.)
Yet many users are not technically savvy. The easiest way for them to manage subscriptions or request refunds would be to do so from within the app itself. For this reason, many conscientious app developers tend to include links to direct customers to Apple’s pages for managing subscriptions or refunds in their apps.
But StoreKit 2 introduces new tools that will make it easier for developers to implement this type of functionality.
A new tool is a subscription management API, which allows an application developer to display his customer’s subscription management page directly in his application, without redirecting the customer to the App Store. Optionally, developers can choose to display a “Save Offer” screen to present the customer with any discount to prevent them from canceling, or it can display an exit survey so you can ask the customer why they are. has decided to end their subscription.
Once implemented, the customer will be able to display a screen in the app that looks like the one they would visit in the App Store to cancel or change a subscription. After the cancellation, a confirmation screen will be displayed with the cancellation details and the expiration date of the service.
If the customer wants to request a refund, a new refund request API will allow the customer to start their refund request directly in the app itself, again, without being redirected to the App Store or another website. . On the screen that appears, the customer can select the item for which they want a refund and check the reason for making the request. Apple manages the refund process and will send an approval or denial of refund notification to the developer’s server.
However, some developers argue that the changes don’t go far enough. They want to be in charge of managing customer subscriptions and processing refunds themselves, through programmatic means. Additionally, Apple can take up to 48 hours for the customer to receive an update on their refund request, which can be confusing.
“They’ve made the process a bit smoother, but developers still can’t initiate refunds or cancellations themselves,” notes Jacob Eiting, CEO of RevenueCat, whose company provides tools for app developers to manage. their in-app purchases. “It’s a step in the right direction, but it could actually lead to more confusion between developers and consumers as to who is responsible for issuing refunds.”
In other words, since the forms will now be more accessible from the app, the customer may believe that the developer is handling the refund process while Apple continues to do so.
Some developers have pointed out that there are other scenarios that this process does not address. For example, if the customer has already uninstalled the app or no longer has the device in question, they will still need to be directed to other means of requesting refunds, as before.
For consumers, however, subscription management tools like this mean more developers can start putting buttons to manage subscriptions and request refunds right in their app, which is a better experience. Over time, as customers learn that they can more easily use the app and manage subscriptions, app developers may see better customer retention, higher engagement, and better reviews on the App. Store, Apple notes.
The changes in StoreKit 2 weren’t limited to APIs for managing subscriptions and refunds.
Developers will also have access to a new Invoice Finder API that allows them to search for in-app purchases for the customer, validate their invoice, and identify any issues with the purchase – for example, if there was refunds already provided by the Store application.
A new Refunds API will allow developers to find all refunds for the customer.
A new renewal extension API will allow developers to extend renewal data for active and paid subscriptions in the event of an outage, such as during customer support issues when a streaming service goes down, for example. This API allows developers to extend the subscription up to two times per calendar year, each up to 90 days in the future.
And finally, a new consumer API will allow developers to share information about a customer’s in-app purchase with the App Store. In most cases, customers start consuming content soon after purchase – useful information in the refund decision process. The API will allow the App Store to see if the user has consumed the in-app purchase partially, entirely or not at all.
Another change will help customers when they reinstall apps or download them to new devices. Previously, users had to manually “restore purchases” to sync the status of completed transactions with this newly downloaded or reinstalled app. Now, this information will be automatically retrieved by StoreKit 2 so that the apps are immediately up to date with everything the user has paid for.
While, overall, the changes are a significant update to the StoreKit framework, Apple’s reluctance to give developers more control over their own subscription customers is, in part, a testament to the desire to control purchases. integrated. Maybe that’s because he’s been burned in the past when he tried to let developers manage their own refunds.
As The Verge noted last month as the Epic Games-Apple antitrust lawsuit was underway, Apple previously provided Hulu access to a subscription API, then discovered that Hulu offered a way to cancel automatically. subscriptions purchased through the App Store when customers wanted to upgrade to more expensive subscription plans. Apple realized it needed to take steps to protect against this API abuse, and Hulu subsequently lost access. He has not since made this API more widely available.
On the other hand, having Apple, and not the developers, in charge of managing subscriptions and refunds means that Apple takes responsibility for preventing fraud, including fraud perpetrated by both customers and contractors. developers. Customers may also prefer that there is only one place to manage their subscription billing: Apple. They might not want to have to deal with each developer individually, as their experience would end up being inconsistent.
These changes are significant because subscription revenue contributes a significant portion of Apple’s lucrative App Store business. Ahead of WWDC 21, Apple announced that sales of digital goods and services on the App Store reached $ 86 billion in 2020, up 40% from the previous year. Earlier this year, Apple said it has paid developers more than $ 200 billion since the App Store launched in 2008.