Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Amazon Prime Video Now Allows In-App Purchases and Rentals With Its Own Payment Method Thanks to Special Apple Entitlement

Nick Statt, the Verge:

Amazon’s Prime Video iOS and Apple TV apps now let customers make in-app purchases, including renting and buying films and TV shows. The change marks a huge shift in Amazon’s approach to the App Store, which mandates a 30 percent cut on all in-app purchases. Prior to the change, Amazon would not allow you to rent or buy content on the Prime Video app, instead, directing users to a web browser to avoid the App Store fee.

Now, when users log in to the Prime Video app, there should be a message reading, “Browse, rent, or buy new release movies, popular TV shows, and more — now within the app.” (Big thanks to George Watson, who tipped us off to this change.)

Ryan Jones:

Amazon Prime Video now avoids Apple’s payment system and ostensibly the 30% fee. You pay directly to Amazon.

Change was made server-side without an app update. This is huge news either way.

Guilherme Rambo:

The Prime Video app has a special “com.apple.storekit.request-data” entitlement. This reminds me of the “requestData” property on SKPayment, which has been “Reserved for future use” for a long time. Hmmmm…

Rambo isn’t kidding — that entitlement has been around since iOS 3.

Apple’s statement, as posted by Benjamin Mayo:

Apple has an established program for premium subscription video entertainment providers to offer a variety of customer benefits — including integration with the Apple TV app, AirPlay 2 support, tvOS apps, universal search, Siri support and, where applicable, single or zero sign-on. On qualifying premium video entertainment apps such as Prime Video, Altice One and Canal+, customers have the option to buy or rent movies and TV shows using the payment method tied to their existing video subscription.

This is bizarre, undocumented, and, as far as I can figure out, has never previously been acknowledged.

Apple’s statement does not seem to fully reflect exactly what is going on here. The features described as being part of an “established program for premium subscription video entertainment providers” — a phrase that, I think, needs more words — do not appear to be unique to apps that are allowed to bypass Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism. The Netflix app on tvOS, for instance, is part of universal search; CBC’s Gem app integrates with the Apple TV app but uses standard iOS in-app purchases, not its own. So those “benefits” are not unique to the listed apps: Prime Video, Altice One, and Canal+.

What does appear to be entirely unique to those apps is that they are allowed to bypass Apple’s in-app purchase regime, contrary to the App Store rules:

If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, (by way of example: subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version), you must use in-app purchase. Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc. Apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.

Why is Amazon Prime Video allowed to use a non-Apple payment method for its movie purchases and rentals, but not for subscriptions? Why is this entirely undocumented? Why did it take until today to enable this for Amazon Prime Video, and not something that has been available all along for the app?

Most of all, why has this notoriously immutable App Store rule turned out to be something that can be bypassed, if only by an invitation offered to a few apps?

Update: Apple provided a slightly different statement to the Verge stating that this new policy only applies to individual purchases, not subscriptions. No clarification was provided on how a developer would go about joining this program, though it seems like the “benefits” that Apple described in its statement — AirPlay support, universal search, and the like — are something a developer has to agree to integrate in order to get this special entitlement.