Apple and Spotify are at loggerheads again as Spotify tries to break into the audiobook market, The New York Times reports. Apple has reportedly rejected Spotify’s latest app update three times in the past month.
Over the years, Apple and Spotify have had a long-running dispute over Apple’s App Store policies, with many public conflicts over app and subscription fees and app rejections due to Spotify’s attempts to circumvent the up to 30 percent cut Apple takes from purchases.
Apple says Spotify is again trying to circumvent its App Store rules, and the Cupertino company says Spotify’s audiobook update doesn’t comply with guidelines that cover how apps can communicate with users about purchase options outside of the App Store.
Apple last year agreed to change App Store rules to allow developers to use communications such as email to share information about payment options available outside of an iOS app, but Spotify has run into problems trying to implement the feature . With the rule change, Spotify wanted to direct customers to buy books online so they could listen to them in the app, rather than Apple cutting audiobook sales.
Apple has apparently told Spotify it can email customers about online purchases, but Spotify is unable to offer an in-app button to request emails. The feature was designed with the involvement of Spotify’s legal team, and Apple initially approved the update in September, but later reversed course and rejected subsequent updates.
Spotify designed a nine-step audiobook purchase process that involved the customer tapping the audiobook and displaying a lock screen above the play button. By pressing the play button, customers received a page where they could request information on how to purchase the book via email, and the email offered a link to purchase the book.
An Apple spokesperson told MacRumors that Apple “has no issues” with reading apps like Spotify adding audiobook content, but that Spotify did not follow Apple’s guidelines for in-app communications that would direct users outside of the app.
The App Store was designed as a great business opportunity for developers, and we fully support initiatives to introduce new features in apps that provide lasting value to users. We don’t have a problem with reading apps that add audiobook content to their apps, connect users to websites to sign up for services, or communicate with customers externally about alternative purchase options. Spotify’s app was rejected for failing to follow guidelines for including explicit in-app communications to direct users outside of the app to make digital purchases. We gave them clear instructions on how to fix the problem and approved their app after they made changes to bring it into compliance.
After several rejections from Apple, Spotify released a version of the app that removes information about how to purchase the audiobook from Spotify’s website, which Apple approved. Spotify now informs users that there is no option to purchase an audiobook in the app. “We know it’s not ideal,” Spotify says in the app’s text.
Spotify filed a regulatory complaint with the European Union in 2019 over Apple’s App Store practices and runs the anti-Apple website “Time to Play Fair”. Spotify continued to meet with European regulators, but the case has not yet been closed. Spotify has also sided with Epic Games in the Epic Games v. Apple legal battle, participating in the “Coalition for App Fairness” along with Epic Games, Tile, and others unhappy with Apple’s “anti-competitive” policies.