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iOS app makers will soon be able to discount subscriptions for current and past customers

iOS app makers will soon be able to discount subscriptions for current and past customers

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Apple will soon give iOS and Mac App Store developers the option to offer discounted subscriptions to current and past customers, as noted by MacRumors and TechCrunch. As it stands now, limited-time subscription rates can only be part of introductory promotions; once you’ve signed up for a service or app, you’re stuck having to pay the regular subscription cost after the discount expires. And developers haven’t had any way of changing that — say, to entice former subscribers back in — without lowering the monthly fee for everyone. You can't take advantage of an introduction offer twice, in other words.

But that’s set to change soon with iOS 12.2: Apple will enable developers to offer promotional subscription discounts to lapsed and current users. So they’ll be able to temporarily drop the price whenever they want (during the holidays, app / game release anniversaries, etc.) instead of only at the beginning when customers first join. Apple is also allowing for more flexibility: developers can run up to 10 different promotional prices on a single subscription. So people who let their in-app subscription expire might be offered a more aggressive, tempting promo discount than existing customers.

App makers will be able to see which users have disabled auto-renewal and serve them the promo subscription that’s likeliest to draw them back in. This also lets devs A/B test several discount options, meaning you might get a promo offer that’s less expensive or pricier than another user of that app. Promo subscription rates will not be displayed in the App Store, so customers won’t be able to plainly see if other users are getting it better. But again, these prices are for a set, specific amount of time; they still eventually switch over to the standard monthly charge.

The expanded promotional discounts come after Apple took steps to make life easier for iPhone and iPad owners trying to access and manage their subscriptions. Last month, the company also instructed developers to make their subscription plans clear and easy to understand when presenting them to customers. But Apple also has to keep devs happy, and these new promo subscription tools are one way to do that. The sizable chunk of each subscription that Apple keeps for itself is a big part of why the company’s services business has soared over the last few years.