Apple Tightening iOS In-app Purchase Rules

Apple plans to start strictly enforcing a policy starting on March 31 that requires iPhone, iPod touch and iPad apps that offer out-of-app content purchasing to include an in-app option as well. The new policy came to light earlier this week when Sony publicly complained about its ebook reader app rejection.

iOS app developers have begun receiving email notification of the enforcement change, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The change will have the biggest impact on companies that sell books and magazines, like Amazon and its Kindle ebook reader app. Amazon routes customers out of the Kindle app on their iPhone or iPad and into Mobile Safari where they access a custom ebook store. The purchases they make there automatically appear in the Kindle app.

By requiring companies to include the option to make purchases without leaving the app, Apple will be able to take its usual 30 percent cut — but only for purchases made within the app. Customers will still have the choice to use company’s Web interfaces for purchases just as they always have.

Apple will have to roll out its in-app subscription service for magazine publishers soon, too, if it expects companies to comply with the new rules. The subscription feature was introduced on Wednesday during News Corp’s The Daily iPad magazine launch.

So far, the feature is available only in News Corp’s app, but Apple said it would have more news about subscription support for other publishers soon.

Apple’s new enforcement policy could potentially push some companies to abandon the iPad and iPhone. Although with the popularity of iOS devices, there’s a good chance most publishers will sign on instead of risking loss of a large customer base.