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I'm building a book app where you can read one book for free, but if you pay, you have access to all the books until the end of your subscription (30 days).

My query is regarding this item in the App Store review guidelines:

3.1.1 In-App Purchase:

If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, (by way of example: subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version), you must use in-app purchase. Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc. Apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.

I understand I can't use an external link to pay, but:

  • Do I need In-App purchases?

  • Can I use external payments like Stripe?

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Yes, as per App Store terms & conditions, for in-app consumables, you are limited to using the payment method linked to users Apple ID which can be used via In-App Purchase.

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    it's not exactly for consumables, eg if you have a ecommerce app you can use Stripe o what you want because buying a phone will not unlock any feature/premium content. But for this use case yes, i have a subscription/premium content unlock use case so i guess it must use in-app purchase. – David Rearte Apr 20 at 13:42
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No. You don’t need in app purchases if you can just have a log in to identify people that already have a subscription external to the app.

See 3.1.3(a) “Reader” Apps of the review guidelines.

Yes - if you are a valid reader app and not required to offer IAP alongside the external purchase, you can then use stripe or anything else on your external payment system, but you have to host, design, collect everything externally.


You are not prohibited from having an external payment or subscription like Netflix or many other apps do. Some are blended like Major League Baseball where there is IAP for people who want to pay (and of course IAP pays Apple a cut per the agreement on purchases and subscriptions that you have available in your terms as a developer). And people can bring a paid subscription and log in from external to the app, and those pay nothing to Apple.

Everything hinged on strict adherence to what Apple defines “unlock within the app” which is in summary (as I understand it):

  • There can be no link or mention in the app how to find the actual payment terms. You can offer a sign in, but you can’t say it’s for payment.
  • You can’t have functionality that unlocks to mimic IAP or use the API or payments through Apple.

Tons of apps have trial subscriptions when they use IAP - look at Omni Group for OmniGraffle and such.... I believe you will run afoul of Apple review if you deliver everything and then force someone to pay later if that “pay later” isn’t explicitly IAP using Apple as the payment processor, but you can find that out by initially shipping no paid functionality and only do the log in.

For this potential wrinkle, see 3.1.3(a) and 3.1.3(b) and 3.1.5(a) of https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/

Then once your app is approved, let Apple review know you have a question for a future change. They will tell you exactly what’s allowed and what’s not during review in my experience.

  • +1 by the netflix idea, in their ios app you can't register/login as guest, it's just for already paid users. They say nothing about how to pay so they are ok with terms. But i don't thinks there are a way to use Stripe for this use case, it's ok for purchases like unit products but for subscriptions/premium content they are very explicit i think – David Rearte Apr 20 at 13:38
  • @DavidRearte exactly. You are so not putting stripe SDK or a web view in the app. People will need to use safari to pay you online and not in the app to make the Netflix model work, even then, you should probably just price it as IAP for your first 1,000 paying customers and then decide how much the cut is really hurting you. I don’t see many people benefitting for less than 100,000 customers if you go subscription model since the cut reduces after 12 months. – bmike Apr 20 at 16:38

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