The New York Times has written a great dive into mobile apps that harvest data off your device, such as location data. Many of these companies feel entitled to harvest and store your data for things like location when you give consent for location access, and are in the business of selling that data to advertisers.

The book ‘1984,’ we’re kind of living it in a lot of ways.

Bill Kakis, a managing partner at Tell All

I’ve been removing a lot of the native apps I’ve relied on recently in favor of mobile web apps. I won’t let Facebook run code natively on any device I own, precisely because I know they go out of their way to capture every scrap of data they can. Running Instagram in a mobile web browser provides a much stronger sandbox, limiting the amount of data they can steal dramatically.

Apple and Google have largely destroyed any real marketplace for paid apps that don’t need to rely on selling data, and app review mechanisms have been unwilling or unable to protect customers from it. They deserve a huge share of blame for the status quo being what it is.


Fortnite Skipping the Google Play Store

This is a real power play. Epic Games is planning to push Fortnite outside of the Google Play Store by asking users to install an APK file. This will help them run around the exorbitant 30% fee that Apple instituted and Google adopted for their app stores. This isn’t the first alternative app platform to appear on Android; companies like Baidu, Tencent,, the open source F-Droid, and even Amazon have their own stores. But it is probably the first that will get major mainstream attention (and installs) in the west. Fortnite is big enough; this will probably work.

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Apple, who just yesterday announced a $53 billion profit in a single quarter (driven largely by the iPhone and its App Store), is shutting down the affiliate program for the App Store. Meaning blogs that cover the App Store and highlight great apps will no longer be able to get paid for driving traffic. With only 60 days notice, Apple will stop paying developers for the traffic they’re already sending and just take the money for themselves.

I don’t know how to view this as anything other than a “screw you, we got ours” move. Apple has the cash to run this program into perpetuity. With the App Store in the millions of apps, there is always room for more voices of curation, because the most valuable marketing is word-of-mouth. Developers won’t see lower rates and customers won’t see lower prices. There is no upside to anyone here except Apple, the richest company on the planet. It doesn’t make any sense.

Eli Hodapp of TouchArcade:

I don’t know how the takeaway from this move can be seen as anything other than Apple extending a massive middle finger to sites like TouchArcade, AppShopper, and many others who have spent the last decade evangelizing the App Store and iOS gaming.

Federico Viticci:

I am personally not that affected because we saw this coming years ago and we adapted – but it’s a huge blow to small publications, indie devs, and others who rely on this to earn commissions. Sad.

Daily reminder that if you truly want your favorite blog to stick around, make sure to support them directly, whitelist them for ads, buy through their podcast sponsors, etc.

Shawn King:

This has the potential to kill sites like Touch Arcade that use the revenue from App Store affiliate links to stay afloat. I think Apple’s stated reasoning for this action is utterly ridiculous and complete bullshit. But it also shows the danger for any site or business to rely too much on one source of revenue.

Greg Pierce:

The affiliate program was not huge for me, but it was a nice small check every month. I imagine this will particularly hurt small blog/news sites that do a lot of app coverage, however.

App Subscriptions and Premium App Experiences

Today Apple announced some plans to allow apps to offer subscriptions, where you pay periodically for software. Many indie developers were quick to praise it, as support for subscriptions was something asked of Apple for years (which were only officially supported in certain types of apps, like news periodicals). Opening new business models is definitely a welcome thing, as it is currently super difficult to make a living as a small developer on the App Store.

However, I worry that Apple is chasing the wrong idea here. The App Store is now 8 years old, and the race to the bottom on pricing is well documented. Today, the vast majority of apps that get downloaded are free up-front, not paid. With over 1.5 million apps on the store, for seemingly any task you might want or game you might be curious about, there is a free variant made by the same developer or someone else. The mainstream consumer has been well trained to skip right past apps that charge a price for entry, and for better or worse, people scoff at the idea of paying for apps.

So, if mainstream users are already unwilling to pay once, why would they pay for an app monthly or yearly?

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Much ado has been made about the idea of App Store apps getting discounted upgrades, where you buy an app once, and then pay a discounted amount for an upgrade. This idea is not new; for many years, developers sold apps under a model known as shareware. In an era when software was harder to use and people feared viruses, this model thrived among technically-savvy people who tended to spend more money on technology. The generally-accepted model in the Apple world has a fair bit of complexity, involving trials (some time-based, some feature-restricted), serial numbers or license files, and periodic requests for more money. Then the App Store came and replaced it outright with a new, simpler model that favors a traditional retail-style system of cheap software that you pay for once. It’s far more straightforward and easier to understand; if you want the app, you buy it, and then you own it.

Developers who have thrived under the old model have complained for a long time that they want discounted upgrades to make a return to iOS. Along with it comes the added complexity of managing different tiers of ownership, both technically and mentally. Apple has not offered this, instead opting to make major updates available as a separate, standalone app that existing users pay for in full, as was done recently with Logic Pro X. To me, this is far and away a better and simpler approach to handling upgrades in an era when non-technical people buy software.

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