Offering Subscriptions

Offer a seamless experience for digital subscriptions in your apps. In-app purchase APIs provide a simple, powerful way to implement subscriptions in apps on all Apple platforms and in all App Store categories.

About Auto-Renewable Subscriptions

Auto-renewable subscriptions give users access to content or services from within your app on an ongoing basis. At the end of each subscription duration, the subscription will automatically renew until a user chooses to cancel it.

Auto-renewable subscriptions provide a simple way to offer free trials to users. When users sign up for a subscription with a free trial, their subscription begins immediately but they won’t be billed until the free trial period is over. You can select one of the following durations for a free trial: 3 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year.

85% Revenue After One Year

The revenue structure for auto-renewable subscriptions differs from other business models on the App Store. Within a subscriber’s first year of an auto-renewable subscription, you receive the traditional 70% of the subscription price at each billing cycle, minus applicable taxes. After a subscriber accumulates one year of paid service, your revenue increases to 85% of the subscription price, minus applicable taxes.

Days of paid service continue to accumulate when users upgrade, downgrade, or crossgrade within a subscription group. Even if a user cancels and resubscribes within 60 days, they will still accumulate days of service from the point where they lapsed. If they resubscribe after the 60-day grace period ends, their days of paid service starts over, and you receive 70% of the subscription price until one year of accumulated service passes. Each time a user cancels, a new grace period begins.

As part of your overall subscription marketing plan, consider ways to win back lapsed subscribers with targeted messaging, such as email or in-app messaging, to communicate the value of your subscriptions and encourage users to resubscribe.

Subscription Groups and Service Levels

A subscription group is a set of in-app purchases that you can create to provide users with a range of content offerings, service levels, or durations to best meet their needs.

Subscriptions within a subscription group are mutually exclusive, meaning that users are only able to subscribe to one option within a group at a time. If you want users to be able to purchase more than one subscription at a time, you can put these in-app purchases in different subscription groups.

User Options

Users can manage their subscriptions in their account settings on the App Store. For each subscription they will see all the renewal options the subscription group offers. They can easily move between service levels and choose to upgrade, downgrade, or crossgrade as often as they like.

For each in-app purchase, create a user friendly, self-explanatory name that differentiates it from other options within the subscription group. Ensure that you use distinct terms to describe the app name, the subscription group name, and the subscription in-app purchase name to avoid repetitive wording. Where possible, keep your subscription offerings simple so that users can make a choice easily.

Ranking In-App Purchases

Within each subscription group, you can determine the upgrade, downgrade, and crossgrade path by ranking each in-app purchase. Your subscription levels should be ranked in descending order, starting with the one that offers the highest level of service. For more details on how to use iTunes Connect to rank your subscription offerings, watch this demo from the WWDC session Introducing Expanded Subscriptions in iTunes Connect.

When Service Level Changes Go Into Effect

Immediately

  • Upgrades of any duration
  • Crossgrades with the same duration

At Next Renewal Date

  • Downgrades of any duration
  • Crossgrades with different durations

Offering Subscriptions to Multiple Apps

You can offer auto-renewable subscriptions to access multiple apps in your portfolio. Each app must be approved to use auto-renewable in-app purchases and must be published under the same developer name on the App Store.

In iTunes Connect, you’ll need to set up separate and equivalent auto-renewable in-app purchases in each app offered in the multi-app subscription so that users can subscribe from any app. To avoid users paying multiple times for the same offering, you are responsible for verifying that they are subscribers in one of the apps before showing any subscription options. To do this, consider maintaining an account management system in which users create an account with your business to sign in to each app.

Territory Pricing and Expanded Price Tiers

Apps with auto-renewable subscriptions can offer territory-specific prices and have access to 200 price points across all currencies. You can set the prices you think are suitable for subscribers in different markets, and you have the flexibility to price your subscriptions at parity if they’re available elsewhere. The iTunes Connect pricing tool can help you manage pricing based on current exchange rates. If there is a tax change or currency adjustment in a particular region, the price of subscriptions will generally not be affected unless you decide to pass the change on to your users.

Any time you increase pricing for existing subscribers, they will have the opportunity to agree to the increase, which may result in lost subscribers if they do not accept the change. Before you make any pricing decisions, research your target market’s pricing expectations and weigh the potential impact of raising the price against retaining existing subscribers.

If you want to change the price of a subscription in a specific market, it’s important to understand which markets are tax inclusive before you take action. For example, if you decide to lower the subscription price for users in Germany, the revenue you’ll receive will be the purchase price minus the European Union’s value added tax (VAT) and minus Apple’s commission. If you use the default pricing in the iTunes Connect pricing tool, tax rates are already considered for you. For more information, review Schedule 2 of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement, which describes territories that have different tax treatments.

Keep Subscribers at Their Existing Price

Apps using the auto-renewable subscription model can keep active subscribers at their existing price while increasing the price for new users. You can have an unlimited number of subscribers preserved at their existing price.

When users upgrade, downgrade, or crossgrade within a subscription group, they will pay the current price of the new subscription and will not keep their existing price.

If you have several cohorts of subscribers at different prices and you want to move all subscribers to the current price, start from the top down and increase the price for users paying closest to the current price first, then the next closest, and so on. This method ensures that users are not prompted with multiple notices to accept higher prices.

It’s important to note that this feature can’t be used to offer time-based introductory pricing. For example, you can’t offer a three-month subscription at an introductory price of $2.99 and then raise the price to $3.99 because it will raise the price for all users at $2.99 regardless of how long they have been at this price. Offering free trials or a freemium experience are alternative ways to introduce new users to the subscriptions available in your app.

Communicating Price Increases

With iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, users will enjoy even better tools to manage their subscription purchases, including how they consent to price increases. Whenever you increase the price of a subscription for existing subscribers, Apple will inform all affected subscribers and ask them whether they agree to the new price. If they do not agree or take no action, their subscription will expire at the end of their current billing cycle. To ensure that your subscribers enjoy uninterrupted service, consider channels such as in-app messaging and your mailing list to encourage subscribers to take action so that their subscription continues.

App Submissions

We are excited to open this business model to apps of all types and provide you with new opportunities to grow your business and support your customers. When incorporating auto-renewable subscriptions into your app, be sure to follow the updated App Store Review Guidelines.