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.


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

(View all)
Avatar
3 weeks 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)
Avatar
3 weeks 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)
Avatar
3 weeks 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)
Avatar
3 weeks 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)
Avatar
3 weeks 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)
Avatar
3 weeks 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

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Google Reportedly Pays Apple $8-12 Billion Per Year to be Default iOS Search Engine

Sunday October 25, 2020 2:59 pm PDT by
The United States Justice Department is targeting a lucrative deal between Apple and Google as part of one of the U.S. government's largest antitrust cases, reports The New York Times. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the Mountain View-based company used anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and advertising markets to ...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Six-Foot Drop Test Results: Ceramic Shield More Durable But Not Damage Proof

Monday October 26, 2020 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro feature a new Ceramic Shield screen that Apple says offers 4x better drop performance. To test that claim, Allstate Protection Plans put the two models through a range of breakability tests and recorded the results. In a face down sidewalk drop test at six feet, the iPhone 12 suffered small cracks and scuffed corners and edges, leaving sharp grooves in ...

Bloomberg: New AirPods and AirPods Pro Coming in 2021, AirPods Studio Delayed, Third HomePod Model Also Possible

Monday October 26, 2020 3:34 am PDT by
Apple plans to update its AirPods line next year with two new models including third-generation AirPods and second-generation AirPods Pro, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on two new models: third-generation entry-level AirPods and the second version of the AirPods Pro earbuds, according to people familiar with the plans. ...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...