ProtonMail Compares Apple to Mafia, Says App Was Forced Into In-App Purchases in 2018

Apple's dispute with "HEY" wasn't the first time the Cupertino company tried to force an email app into adding in-app purchases, according to ProtonMail CEO Andy Yen.

protonmail
Yen told The Verge that back in 2018, ProtonMail was forced to add in-app purchases to its app, which had been in the App Store since 2016. ProtonMail at the time had a paid email service but did not offer it in the app, with the ‌App Store‌ version being available for free.

For the first two years we were in the ‌App Store‌, that was fine, no issues there," he says. (They'd launched on iOS in 2016.) "But a common practice we see ... as you start getting significant uptake in uploads and downloads, they start looking at your situation more carefully, and then as any good Mafia extortion goes, they come to shake you down for some money.

Apple apparently told ProtonMail "out of the blue" that it was required to add an in-app purchase option to stay in the ‌App Store‌. Similar to the situations with HEY and Wordpress earlier this year, ProtonMail had a mention of paid plans in the app, which prompted Apple to ask for the same subscription options to be offered via in-app purchase.

Yen says that ProtonMail complied in order to save its business, complaining that there's no way to get a "fair hearing" with Apple. ProtonMail was unable to update the app for a month-long period, and Apple threatened to remove the app from the store if the company did not comply.

They are judge, jury, and executioner on their platform, and you can take it or leave it. You can't get any sort of fair hearing to determine whether it's justifiable or not justifiable, anything they say goes.

When in-app purchases were implemented on iOS, ProtonMail raised the prices for a subscription through Apple by 26 percent to pay for the extra cost as it was unable to pay for the extra 30 percent margin.

Yen believes Apple's 30 percent fee harms privacy-centric apps because it's difficult for a paid app to compete with free apps like Gmail while also having to pay ‌App Store‌ frees.

Apple in September changed its App Store rules to avoid situations like the dispute with ProtonMail. Apps are now allowed to offer free standalone apps that are companions to paid web-based tools without an in-app purchase requirement, and there's also a new process that lets developers challenge App Store rules and decisions.

Following Apple's ‌App Store‌ rule change, Yen told The Verge that ProtonMail plans to remove its in-app purchase options, but he's wary of Apple's new rules and will test out the changes on another app, ProtonDrive, ahead of time. Apple in a statement to The Verge said that it "doesn't retaliate against developers" and instead "works with them to get their apps on the store."

ProtonMail is one of the participants in the "Coalition for App Fairness," a group advocating for "freedom of choice and fair competition across the app ecosystem." Members include other companies disgruntled with Apple's ‌App Store‌ practices, including Spotify, Epic Games, Tile, and Basecamp (the makers of HEY).

Top Rated Comments

Hurmoth Avatar
9 months ago
I thoroughly enjoy using Apple products, but I'm not beholden enough to any one tech company that I cannot see when they're in the wrong. Just like the Apple/Epic case, both sides are wrong for their actions.

Less fanboys and more level-headed thinkers is what we need in the world.
Score: 47 Votes (Like | Disagree)
justperry Avatar
9 months ago

The complaining and whining is meaningless when Yen does what he says he think is unreasonable. If you don’t like what Apple says, then do something different.

These after the fact cry babies are nothing but noise.
Apple changed the rules, there was no problem for a few years, so calling them cry babies is unfair imo.

For the first two years we were in the App Store, that was fine, no issues there," he says. (They'd launched on iOS in 2016.) "But a common practice we see ... as you start getting significant uptake in uploads and downloads, they start looking at your situation more carefully, and then as any good Mafia extortion goes, they come to shake you down for some money.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
9 months ago

So, Yen wants Apple to provide distribution, promotion, hosting/CDN, dev tools, etc for his app but he wants it all for free, while monetizing the app outside the store?
Ok then, sure, no problem.
Everything you mentioned is covered by the dev fee, so it ain't all free. According to Yen, Apple was fine with the relationship until Proton Mail gained some notoriety and then came looking to cash in. Now how accurate is Yen's version? Idk, and Apple hasn't said anything one way or the other. They did change their policy. Read into that what you will. Regardless, your description of the situation remains inaccurate.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
9 months ago

The complaining and whining is meaningless when Yen does what he says he think is unreasonable. If you don’t like what Apple says, then do something different.

These after the fact cry babies are nothing but noise.
You either didn't read the article or didn't understand what you read. Apple has changed it's stance requiring IAP in the apps, so it's seems there was a bit more there than nothing but noise.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
9 months ago
That’s a bit rich coming from ProtonMail when they’ve apparently been holding the blue iPhone 11 hostage!
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Squuiid Avatar
9 months ago
So, Yen wants Apple to provide distribution, promotion, hosting/CDN, dev tools, etc for his app but he wants it all for free, while monetizing the app outside the store?
Ok then, sure, no problem.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

16 inch macbook pro m2 render

When Can We Expect the Redesigned MacBook Pros Now?

Wednesday June 16, 2021 7:11 am PDT by
With no sign of redesigned MacBook Pro models at this year's WWDC, when can customers expect the much-anticipated new models to launch? A number of reports, including investor notes from Morgan Stanley and Wedbush analysts, claimed that new MacBook Pro models would be coming during this year's WWDC. This did not happen, much to the disappointment of MacBook Pro fans, who have been...
YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Says iOS Picture-in-Picture Coming to All US Users

Friday June 18, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
After a long wait, YouTube for iOS is officially gaining picture-in-picture support, allowing all users, non-premium and premium subscribers, to close the YouTube app and continue watching their video in a small pop-up window. In a statement to MacRumors, YouTube says that picture-in-picture is currently rolling out to all premium subscribers on iOS and that a larger rollout to all US iOS...
2021 back t0 school

Apple Launches 2021 Back to School Promotion: Free AirPods With Eligible Mac or iPad Purchase

Thursday June 17, 2021 4:56 am PDT by
Apple today launched its seasonal back-to-school sale for the upcoming school year in the United States and Canada, offering students free AirPods alongside purchases of select Macs and iPad models. Similar to last year's promotion, this year's offer includes free AirPods alongside the purchase of a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, the new 24-inch iMac, the Mac Pro, Mac mini, and the new M1-powered ...
applecare lower prices

Apple Lowers Prices of AppleCare+ Plans for M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro

Thursday June 17, 2021 7:33 am PDT by
Apple today lowered the prices of AppleCare+ plans for MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro models equipped with the M1 chip. Coverage offered by the plans, as well as accidental damage fees, appear to remain unchanged. In the United States, AppleCare+ for the MacBook Air now costs $199, down from $249. The new price applies to both M1 and Intel-based MacBook Air models, although Apple no...
maxresdefault

Video: 20 Annoyances Apple Fixed in iOS 15 and macOS Monterey

Friday June 18, 2021 11:36 am PDT by
With iOS 15 and macOS Monterey, Apple is adding several quality of life improvements, which are designed to address some of the complaints that people have had with these operating systems for years now. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In our latest YouTube video, we're highlighting some of our favorite "fix" features that address long-running problems in iOS and...
Top Stories 63 Feature

Top Stories: Beats Studio Buds Announced, Apple Watch Series 7 Rumors, and More

Saturday June 19, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
The Apple news cycle started to move beyond WWDC this week, but that doesn't mean there still wasn't a lot to talk about, led by the official debut of the much-leaked Beats Studio Buds that might give us a hint of what to expect for the second-generation AirPods Pro. With no hardware announcements at WWDC, we also took a look at when we might finally see the long-rumored redesigned MacBook...
m1 v intel thumb

Intel Processor Market Share May Fall to New Low Next Year Due to Apple Silicon

Friday June 18, 2021 2:06 am PDT by
Intel may see its market share fall to a new low next year, in large part thanks to Apple's decision to move away from using Intel processors in its Mac computers and instead use Apple silicon. Apple announced last year that it would embark on a two-year-long journey to transition all of its Mac computers, both desktops, and laptops, to use its own in-house processors. Apple is expected to...
space gray magic accessories trio

Apple Stops Selling Magic Accessories in Space Gray

Friday June 18, 2021 9:16 am PDT by
Apple this week stopped selling its Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse 2, and Magic Trackpad 2 accessories for the Mac in a Space Gray color, around three months after discontinuing the iMac Pro, which also came in Space Gray. Last month, Apple listed the Space Gray accessories as available while supplies last, and the company has now removed the product pages from its website...
maxresdefault

Apple CEO Tim Cook: Sideloading Apps Would 'Destroy the Security' of the iPhone

Wednesday June 16, 2021 10:49 am PDT by
Apple CEO Tim Cook this morning participated in a virtual interview at the VivaTech conference, which is described as Europe's biggest startup and tech event. Cook was interviewed by Guillaume Lacroix, CEO and founder of Brut, a media company that creates short-form video content. Much of the discussion centered on privacy, as it often does in interviews that Cook participates in. He...
3nm apple silicon feature

Apple Supplier TSMC Readies 3nm Chip Production for Second Half of 2022

Friday June 18, 2021 6:59 am PDT by
Apple supplier TSMC is preparing to produce 3nm chips in the second half of 2022, and in the coming months, the supplier will begin production of 4nm chips, according to a new report from DigiTimes. Apple had previously booked the initial capacity of TSMC's 4nm chip production for future Macs and more recently ordered TSMC to begin production of the A15 chip for the upcoming iPhone 13,...