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Apple will let your subscription apps charge you more money without asking

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Apple has updated its App Store rules to make it so subscriptions can auto-renew without your explicit permission, even if the developer has raised the monthly or annual price. Before the rule change, users would have to manually opt-into a subscription renewal if it came with a price bump; now, that won’t necessarily be the case, though you’ll still be notified about the price change before it happens. Apple says it’s making the change to help avoid the situation where users unintentionally lose access to a subscription because they missed an opt-in message.

According to Apple’s Monday evening post, there are specific conditions that developers will have to follow if they want to offer what the company is calling “an auto-renewable subscription price increase.” For starters, it can only be so big — Apple’s rules say that if a developer increases a weekly or monthly subscription price by more than 50 percent, and that difference is over $5, it doesn’t qualify. For an annual subscription, devs can still raise the price by 50 percent, but can’t raise it more than $50 USD without requiring an opt-in.

Here are some examples of what that could look like: let’s say I have a subscription that’s $60 a year. The developers could raise it to $90 ($60 plus 50 percent), and it would auto-renew without me having to opt-in. If I have a monthly subscription that’s $15, and the developers wanted to raise it to $22, in theory I’d have to opt-into that — it’s less than a 50 percent increase, but over the $5 cap.

However, Apple’s wording leaves things a bit unclear: what if there’s an app that costs $10 a year, and goes up to $60 a year? Apple’s rules say, verbatim, that consent is needed if the price increase is:

More than 50% of the current price; and

The difference in price exceeds approximately $5 United States Dollar (USD) per period for non-annual subscriptions, or $50 USD per year for annual subscriptions.

Reading that literally, it means that both conditions would have to be true to require an opt-in. But the example scenario seems so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that’s what Apple intends. We’ve reached out for clarification on this point, and will update if we receive any.

The price can only be raised once per year without requiring an opt-in, which should help prevent scammy apps from slowly increasing their price by a buck or two every other month. Apple also says the price increase has to be “permissible by local law,” though that one was probably a given.

If any of those conditions aren’t met, you’ll still have to opt-in to the price increase, otherwise your subscription will lapse. Apple says that users will be warned about upcoming automatic renewals with price changes by “email, push notifications, and in-app messaging.” It’s worth noting that you could easily turn Apple’s logic on its head: if users were missing those renewal opt-in notices, wouldn’t they also miss these new price change warnings? But it does sound like they’ll be relatively in your face.

We’ve seen evidence that this change was coming — last month, TechCrunch reported that Apple appeared to be testing this change with a Disney Plus price increase. Developer Max Seelemann also posted a screenshot in March showing what one of the notifications looked like, though it’s not clear whether this the final design. At the time, Apple confirmed that it was “piloting a new commerce feature we plan to launch very soon,” and said that it would provide details. It looks like that day is here.

The screenshot from March shows that, near the “OK” button, there’s a link that says “to learn more or cancel, review your subscription.” Apple’s post on Monday says that it “will also notify users of how to view, manage, and cancel subscriptions if preferred,” a promise that would seemingly be fulfilled by that link.

From my point of view, Apple’s definitely making a trade-off here between consumer friendliness and convenience. There are probably a lot of people who will be happy that they won’t have to go and re-subscribe to a thing just because the price went up by a buck and they missed an opt-in prompt.

Personally, though, I like to know where every dollar is going — and since I almost always opt for annual subscriptions, it seems like I’ll have to be on the lookout for apps that could be going up in price by a pretty significant sum (that $60 subscription wasn’t a hypothetical example). There is an easy fix to this: let users pick whether or not they want the auto-renewing price increases instead of deciding for them. In my mind, that’d just be a toggle in the App Store settings that says something like “Always ask for opt-in if price increases,” and turning it on would make it like this change never happened.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s question on whether there were plans to add such a toggle.

Or, if Apple wanted to be really consumer-friendly, it could make it so subscriptions don’t auto-renew by default. As my colleague Sean Hollister pointed out in his piece on how Apple could show it cares about App Store users, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has a relevant quote (though at the time he was talking about privacy):

Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them.

With this rule change, Apple has moved one step further away from that.





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Period tracker app Flo developing ‘anonymous mode’ following Supreme Court ruling

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Flo, one of the most widely used period tracking apps, says it intends to launch a new in an effort to address privacy concerns in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. “We will soon be launching an ‘Anonymous Mode’ that removes your personal identity from your Flo account, so that no one can identify you,” the company said in a statement shared on Twitter. 

It’s not clear how this will work or when it might launch. We’ve reached out to Flo for more details on “anonymous mode.”

Period tracking apps have come under particular ever since a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked last month. Privacy advocates and legal experts have that data collected by period tracking apps, which is often shared with other entities, could be used to fuel investigations into people seeking abortion services. News of the Supreme Court’s decision led to renewed calls on social media for people to delete period tracking apps from their phones and remove their personal details from the services.

Notably, Flo itself has a messy history when it comes to protecting users’ privacy. The app came under fire after The Wall Street Journal reported the app was sharing users’ sensitive information, including details about their menstrual cycles and if they were trying to get pregnant, with Facebook, Google and other third-parties.

The company reached with the FTC in 2021 over allegations it misled users about how their data was handled. Flo said at the time that the settlement “was not an admission of any wrongdoing.” The company said in in May that it had “successfully completed” an independent privacy audit that was a requirement of the settlement.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.





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T-Mobile is happily selling customers’ app habits to advertisers

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T-Mobile’s advertising business is offering a new way for marketers to pry into your app-using habits. Ad Exchanger reports that the un-carrier’s new program is called App Insights, and it’s now fully operational after spending a year in beta. The program allows third-party marketers to buy T-Mobile customer data and centers around a key piece of information that it has unique access to: what apps you use.

Customer data is anonymized, and it’s pooled together with others of similar interests and behaviors, so companies can’t buy a specific user’s app history. Still, it’s creepy. The company’s advertising segment touts this offering loud and clear on its website, with the phrase “Apps speak louder than words” splashed across the top of the page. It also invites prospective clients to “leverage app insights, the strongest indicator of consumer intent.” That’s gross. Thankfully, you can opt out.

T-Mobile advertising with text reading apps speak louder than words

Ah, that old adage.
Image: T-Mobile Advertising Solutions

T-Mobile offers an Android and iOS app called “Magenta Marketing Platform Choices” that allows you to see which companies have your data and opt out entirely. You can also use App Choices if you don’t want to, you know, download a T-Mobile app to opt out of T-Mobile app tracking. According to Ad Exchanger, iOS users are excluded from the program even if they’ve opted in to app tracking.

This kind of creepy behavior from carriers isn’t new, and it’s not likely to get better. With companies like Google and Apple allowing people to opt out of tracking more easily, marketers are looking for different ways to peek into your online habits. Wireless carriers have eagerly jumped in to provide that information, and T-Mobile is only the latest to do so.



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Apple Music raises the price of its Music student plan in the US, UK and Canada

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Expect an Apple Music student plan to add slightly more to your college debt. As developer Michael Burkhardt and 9to5Mac have noticed, Apple has quietly raised the price of Music’s student discount from $5 per month to $6 in the US and Canada, and from £5 to £6 in the UK. It’s not clear exactly when or why the change occurred (we’ve asked Apple for comment), but it appears to have occurred within the past two days.

The student tier was introduced in 2016 and offers the full functionality of Apple Music to those who qualify, just at a more affordable price. You currently get Apple TV+ as a bonus, but this is a “limited-time offer” that could vanish at any moment. In May, Apple hiked prices in countries like India, New Zealand and South Africa.

The increase makes Apple Music a tougher sell. Spotify Student Premium is still priced at $5 per month in the US as of this writing, and it includes Hulu’s ad-supported plan as well as Showtime. While there are still some reasons to pick Apple Music over rivals (such as tighter integration with Apple hardware), it might not be so enticing if you’re trying to wring every last drop of value out of your subscriptions.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.





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