Hey CEO’s Open Letter to Apple Highlights the Lack of Choice on the App Store Hurting Relationship with Customers

Apple has managed to create quite a controversy this week by refusing app updates for the Hey email app until it gets around to adding IAP support. This has led to a number of app developers expressing their displeasure on App Store policies and Apple being heavily scrutinized for its behavior. Now, Hey’s CEO Jason Fried has written an open letter on the App Store payment policies and how it impacts an app developer’s relationship with its customers.

In the open letter, Hey’s CEO says while money is a large reason behind this entire issue, there’s another issue at play here as well. Many developers and people following the entire matter thought that this was all about money, but the fundamental issue is actually something different. It is about a lack of choice. Apple does not allow app developers to use other third-party payment services and how it comes between the customers and the app developers.

When Apple forces companies to offer In App Purchases in order to be on their platform, they also dictate the limits to which you can help your customer. This has a detrimental impact on the customer experience, and your relationship with your customer. It can flat out ruin an interaction, damage your reputation, and it can literally cost you customers. It prevents us from providing exceptional customer service when someone who uses our product needs help.

So, how exactly does Apple come in between the app developers and customers? As the open letter notes, once an app developer signs up for the App Store and lists their app on sale, the customers of the app technically become that of Apple. They pay Apple and in turn, Apple pays the app developer. Similarly, all customer requests including credit card changes, refunds, etc. are handled by Apple and not by the app developer itself.

The Hey.com founder, who is also the co-founder of Basecamp, makes some interesting points about how they regularly make billing exceptions for Basecamp for its customers. There’s also the problem of lock-in since Apple’s payment processing system is only available on iPhones.

Let’s say someone signs up for HEY on an iPhone, pays with Apple’s IAP system, and then decides to switch to an Android phone. Billing is entirely messed up now. They can’t update their credit card through the HEY app on Android because their billing info is stored with Apple. And we can’t help them. Who wins there? Apple wins. This creates immense lock-in when all your service subscriptions are tied to a single platform. If you change your phone, do you now also have to change your email address?

Ultimately, the Hey co-founder wants Apple to give developers the choice to bill customers through their own systems since it is their business and not Apple’s business.

[Via Hey]