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Last week, the custom, automated subscription change people saw in Disney+ was surrounded by speculation. This week, we’ve had confirmation from Apple via Sarah Perez at TechCrunch:

An Apple spokesperson did not dispute the accuracy of the developers’ claims we presented and said this was part of a pilot test.

That’s excellent news.

A change like this deserves piloting. Even without this feature, there’s enough predatory pricing behaviour on the App Store to last a lifetime. Rolling out auto opt-in for subscription price increases to all developers would be a disaster that would further damage customer opinions on subscription pricing.

That said, it’s also not practical to expect every app to stick to one subscription price forever or lose all of its subscribers if they choose to make a change. What should the rules around these changes be? Don’t ask me! But I’m sure that determining those rules is a major goal of the pilot.

Where could Apple do better with changes like this? Communication. I’ve written about this before, and my opinions haven’t changed much since then. It would be a significant change to open up about pilot programmes and other experiments, but I’d welcome anything that helps stem the cycle of speculation and outrage.

I’m not saying that every internal discussion of a new idea needs an accompanying news post, but it’s probably time to say something by the time a pilot programme is live on the store. I’m also not saying this policy change would be easy. Apple is private-by-default and organisational change is hard.

I’m not teaching anyone at Apple anything by saying any of this. They know how this all works, and it doesn’t take a genius to have the idea to “communicate more”. I am saying that I believe it would be a net positive for third party developers, though.

Dave Verwer

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