Apple Offered Special App Store API Access to Hulu and Other Developers

Today is the fourth day of the Epic Games v. Apple legal battle, and documents shared in the trial continue to give us insight into the App Store and Apple's business practices.

app store blue banner
‌App Store‌ Vice President Matt Fischer is on the stand answering questions from Apple and Epic lawyers, and one of the emails shared as evidence confirms that Apple has established special deals with major app developers like Hulu.

In 2018, a tweet from developer David Barnard commented about ‌App Store‌ subscriptions being automatically cancelled through the StoreKit API, questioning why there hadn't been more offers to swap billing away from the ‌App Store‌.

Matt Fischer asked Cindy Lin about it, and she explained that Hulu is a developer with special access to a subscription cancel/refund API.

Hulu is part of the set of whitelisted developers with access to subscription cancel/refund API. Back in 2015 they were using this to support instant upgrade using a 2 family setup, before we had subscription upgrade/downgrade capabilities built in.

Apple does not further detail who other developers with special access might have been in the correspondence, but these are not features that all developers have access to.

Apple has long said that the App Store provides a "level playing field" that treats all apps in the ‌App Store‌ the same with one set of rules for everybody and no special deals or special terms, but it's clear that some apps are indeed provided with special privileges.


Fischer was asked specifically whether Apple has given some developers special access to allow them to do things that other developers don't get to do, and Fischer said no, but he said that Apple sometimes wants to test a feature with a small group before providing it to all developers.


Prior to when ‌Epic Games‌ implemented its own purchase options and kicked off this entire legal battle, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney asked Apple for a special deal that would allow it to bypass the in-app purchase system, which Apple denied. Just this week Sweeney also said that he would have accepted special terms from Apple for lower ‌App Store‌ commission.

Top Rated Comments

dannyyankou Avatar
18 months ago
That doesn't sound like "level playing field" to me
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mihirdelirious Avatar
18 months ago
"We treat all developers equally."
So that was also a lie under oath.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Graphikos Avatar
18 months ago

Fischer was asked specifically whether Apple has given some developers special access to allow them to do things that other developers don't get to do, and Fischer said no, but he said that Apple sometimes wants to test a feature with a small group before providing it to all developers.
This makes sense to me, but it's also a really good way to go about explaining special access that might not have been as legit.

However, Apple does give choice companies/developers access to new APIs and whatnot all the time. Right? These are the companies that get on stage right after the announcements to show off what they could do with the new APIs.

So Apple allowed Hulu to access some otherwise restricted APIs while they were developing methods for the masses? Makes sense. You can read into the "level playing field" as much as you want but to push development there has to be testing and what better way can you test if not with actual, real-world apps and companies? It's the right thing to do... listen to what your developers need and work with them to improve the experience all around.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kennyt72 Avatar
18 months ago
It seems this level playing field has a few bumps on it
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Quu Avatar
18 months ago
It's clear that Apple has lied when they have said publicly all app developers are playing under the same rules. They did a special deal with Amazon they allowed special access to API's to Hulu etc

If you're big enough or create enough revenue Apple is willing to treat you differently. It's just the case that EPIC wanted too much while Amazon, Hulu and others were willing to accept the more minor exceptions Apple offered them.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
barkomatic Avatar
18 months ago
The whole "level playing field" is a joke. I'm not sure Apple will be forced to to include 3rd party apps outside of it's app store but it's starting to look like developers are going to get to be allowed to let people sign up in app for subscriptions without Apple getting a cut.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

Mac App Store General Feature

Apple's Arguments Against Sideloading on iOS: All Your Questions Answered

Thursday November 11, 2021 10:38 am PST by
Sideloading is a fancy word for downloading an app binary from non-official platforms or the open internet and installing it on a device like a normal app. The practice is allowed on Android, granting users the flexibility of downloading apps from official or non-official app stores and the open internet. The iPhone, on the other hand, is a polar opposite. Since the launch of the App Store...
wordle

Clones of Popular 'Wordle' Game Flooding App Store, Including One Charging $30 Per Year [Updated]

Tuesday January 11, 2022 1:39 pm PST by
If you're a regular internet user you've probably heard of popular web-based daily guessing game Wordle, created by Josh Wardle. The game, which is entirely free to play, was introduced last fall and has been spreading like wildfire. Wordle asks players to guess a five letter word by identifying which letters are in the word and are located in the right location. Players get six guesses per...
iOS App Store General Feature Dock

Indie Developer Dogged By Scammy Clone Apps Again Highlights the Holes in Apple's App Store Review Process

Monday February 21, 2022 9:29 am PST by
Apps that copy concepts and features from other apps are nothing new in the ‌App Store‌, but scammy like-for-like clones of genuine apps remain a perennial problem that Apple still hasn't resolved, as indie developer Kevin Archer recently discovered. Archer is responsible for 2Stable's Authenticator App, a feature-rich app that stores and generates secure two-factor authentication tokens...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic Games Appeals Ruling in Apple Lawsuit, Claims Court Made Errors

Thursday January 20, 2022 10:29 am PST by
Epic Games today kicked off its appeal of the judge's decision in the Epic v. Apple lawsuit, filing an opening brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Both Apple and Epic Games have decided to appeal the original ruling as neither company was satisfied with the outcome. Epic Games wanted the court to force Apple to support third-party App Stores, which did not...
app store blue banner epic 1

Epic vs. Apple Takes a Twist As 35 US States and Department of Justice Weigh in to Back 'Fortnite' Maker

Friday January 28, 2022 4:27 am PST by
Apple is stifling competition with its monopoly on app distribution through the App Store, attorneys general for 35 states told a California appeals court on Thursday. The joint statement was submitted into the appeals process that is ongoing following the judge's decision in the Epic v. Apple lawsuit, with the attorneys general siding with the "Fortnite" video game maker on the issue,...
fortnite apple featured

Epic Games Pays Apple $6 Million as Ordered by Court

Monday September 13, 2021 3:31 pm PDT by
Epic Games today paid Apple $6,000,000 in royalties, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said on Twitter. As part of the ruling in the ongoing Epic v. Apple legal battle, Epic was last week ordered by the court to pay 30 percent of the revenue that it collected from the Fortnite app using its illicit direct payment option. Back at the start of the dispute between Epic and Apple, Epic added a direct...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO: Judge's Decision 'Isn't a Win for Developers or for Consumers,' Fortnite Not Immediately Returning to App Store

Friday September 10, 2021 10:37 am PDT by
The year-long dispute between Epic Games and Apple reached a milestone with Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers delivering a middle-of-the road verdict that isn't quite what Epic Games or Apple wanted. Apple will not be required to support third-party app stores as Epic Games pushed for, but Apple will have to let developers offer "buttons, external links, or other calls to action" to direct customers to ...
app store blue banner epic 1

Epic Games CEO Renews Attack on Apple and Calls for Single, Universal App Store

Tuesday November 16, 2021 3:31 am PST by
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has today renewed his attack on Apple and called for a single, universal app store that works across all platforms (via Bloomberg). Last year, Epic's popular game "Fortnite" became the subject of heated litigation with Apple and Google over the rate of commission on in-app purchases. After Epic broke App Store rules by implementing a direct payment option, the game ...

Popular Stories

apple watch ultra hammer test

YouTuber Tests Apple Watch Ultra Durability With a Hammer: Table Breaks Before the Watch

Sunday September 25, 2022 2:27 pm PDT by
A YouTuber has put Apple's claims for the durability of the Apple Watch Ultra to the test by putting it up against a drop test, a jar of nails, and repeated hits with a hammer to test the sapphire crystal protecting the display. TechRax, a channel popular for testing the durability of products, first tested the Apple Watch Ultra by dropping it from around four feet high. The Apple Watch...
tim cook spring loaded event

Six Major Products to Expect From Apple in 2023

Sunday September 25, 2022 10:57 am PDT by
As we approach the end of a busy product release season for Apple with only new iPads and Macs left to be announced over the next month or so, we're also setting our sights on 2023. Apple is rumored to have several major products in the pipeline for next year, including new Macs, a new HomePod, a VR/AR headset, and so much more. Other than new iPhones and Apple Watches, which are expected...
Tim Cook Apple Event

Gurman: New iPads and Macs May Be Announced Through Press Releases, No October Event

Sunday September 25, 2022 6:50 am PDT by
Apple may decide to release its remaining products for 2022, which include updated iPad Pro, Mac mini, and 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, through press releases on its website rather than a digital event, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. In his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman said that Apple is currently "likely to release its remaining 2022 products via press releases,...
AirPods Max 2022 Colors

Ten Things AirPods Pro 2 Tell Us About AirPods Max 2

Saturday September 24, 2022 1:00 am PDT by
Upon the release of the second-generation AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max became the oldest current-generation AirPods product still in Apple's lineup. Introducing several new features like Adaptive Transparency and the H2 chip, the second-generation AirPods Pro may provide some of the best indications yet of what to expect from the second-generation AirPods Max. Almost two years later, rumors...
iPhone 14 Pro Sports Scores Dynamic Island

iPhone 14 Pro Features Live Sports Scores in Dynamic Island on iOS 16.1

Monday September 26, 2022 7:52 am PDT by
Earlier this month, Apple announced that iOS 16.1 will enable a new Live Activities feature that allows iPhone users to stay on top of things that are happening in real time, such as a sports game or a food delivery order, right from the Lock Screen. On the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, Live Activities also integrate with the Dynamic Island. Premier League match in Dynamic Island via Paul Bradford ...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

Some iOS 16 Users Continue to Face Unaddressed Bugs and Battery Drain Two Weeks After Launch

Monday September 26, 2022 7:34 am PDT by
Today marks exactly two weeks since Apple released iOS 16 to the public. Besides the personalized Lock Screen, major changes in Messages, and new features in Maps, the update has also seen its fair share of bugs, performance problems, battery drain, and more. After major iOS updates, it's normal for some users to report having issues with the new update, but such reports usually subside in...
iPhone 14 Pros in Hand Black Background Feature

Verizon iPhone 14 Pro Customers Reporting Cellular Connection Issues

Monday September 26, 2022 6:23 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro customers on the Verizon network in the U.S. are reporting issues with slow and unreliable 5G cellular connections and calls randomly dropping. Several threads on Reddit (1,2,3) and the MacRumors forums chronicle issues faced by Verizon customers and Apple's latest iPhone. According to user reports, signal strength on the iPhone 14 Pro is unreliable and weak, while other...
iphone 14 pro max deep purple

iPhone 15 'Ultra' Could Replace Pro Max Model Next Year

Sunday September 25, 2022 7:02 am PDT by
Apple is gearing up to possibly replace its "Pro Max" iPhone with an all-new "Ultra" iPhone 15 model next year, reliable Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman said today. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman said that for the iPhone 15, Apple is planning a revamped design alongside USB-C and a potential name change. Apple could replace its "Pro Max" branding, which it started to use...
apple watch ultra deuglify 1

Apple Watch Ultra User Mods Titanium Casing to 'Deuglify' Design

Tuesday September 27, 2022 8:05 am PDT by
An Apple Watch Ultra user has modified their new device's casing to add a brushed finish and remove the orange color of the Action Button in an effort to make it more visually appealing. The Apple Watch Ultra offers the first complete redesign of the Apple Watch since the product line's announcement in 2014, and while the design has been met with praise from many users, some have criticized...