Auto-renewable subscriptions give users access to content, services, or premium features in your app on an ongoing basis. At the end of each subscription duration, the subscription automatically renews until a user chooses to cancel it.
Great subscription apps justify the recurring payment by providing ongoing value to users and continually innovating the app experience. If you’re considering implementing the subscription model, plan to regularly update your app with feature enhancements or expanded content.
Many types of apps can take advantage of subscriptions, including apps that offer new game levels, episodic content, software as a service, or cloud support. Other appropriate subscriptions include apps that offer consistent, substantive updates, or access to libraries or collections of content. You can offer subscription in-app purchases alongside other in-app purchase types.
To offer subscriptions (a type of in-app purchase) you’ll need to implement StoreKit APIs in your app, configure your subscriptions in App Store Connect, and assign them to a subscription group (a group of subscriptions with different access levels, prices, and durations). After creating your subscriptions, include details such as a name, pricing, and description. Ensure that the subscriptions are available across all device types that your app supports. Consider including a way for subscribers to see the status of their subscription, along with upgrade, crossgrade, and downgrade options, and a deep link to easily manage or turn off their subscription from within your app. Make sure to follow our design and review guidelines. To get ready, do the following:
- Watch the In-App Purchase and Subscriptions Videos.
- Refer to the StoreKit API documentation in the In-App Purchase Programming Guide.
- Learn how to configure your subscriptions in App Store Connect Help.
Understanding Guidelines for Subscriptions
Before creating your subscriptions, make sure you know about the requirements and best practices that will help you deliver a great user experience. The guidelines below provide details on what your subscriptions need to include and how they should be presented in your app, as well as information on making changes to existing subscriptions, offering free trials, and more.
Creating a Subscription Group
Each subscription you offer must be assigned to a subscription group. A subscription group is made up of subscriptions with different access levels, prices, and durations so users can select the option that best fits their needs. Since users can only buy one subscription within a group at a time, creating a single group is the best practice for most apps as it prevents users from accidentally purchasing multiple subscriptions.
If your app needs to offer users the ability to buy multiple subscriptions — for example, to subscribe to more than one channel in a streaming app — you can add these subscriptions to different groups. Users who buy subscriptions in multiple groups will be billed separately for each subscription. Keep in mind that if a user moves from one subscription group to another, their renewal date will change and their days of paid service will reset. Multiple subscription groups are not recommended for apps in which users would expect to have a single active subscription.
Keep your offerings simple so users can easily understand their options. For each subscription, create a user-friendly, self-explanatory name that differentiates it from others in the group. Use distinct names for app, the subscription group, and each subscription to avoid confusion.
Ranking Subscriptions Within the Group
If you offer more than one subscription price tier within a group, each subscription can be assigned to a level. This ranking determines the upgrade, downgrade, and crossgrade path available to subscribers. Rank your subscriptions in descending order, starting with the one that offers access to the most content, features, or services, regardless of duration. You can add more than one subscription to each level if the offerings are equal.
Users can manage their subscriptions in their account settings on the App Store, where they see all renewal options and subscription groups, and can choose to upgrade, crossgrade, or downgrade between subscriptions as often as they like. When a user makes a change in their subscription level, the timing of the change varies depending on what has happened:
Upgrade. A user purchases a subscription that offers a higher level of service than their current subscription. They are immediately upgraded and receive a refund of the prorated amount of their original subscription. If you’d like users to immediately access more content or features, rank the subscription higher to make it an upgrade.
Downgrade. A user selects a subscription that offers a lower level of service than their current subscription. The subscription continues until the next renewal date, then is renewed at the lower level and price.
Crossgrade. A user switches to a new subscription of the equivalent level. If the subscriptions are the same duration, the new subscription begins immediately. If the durations are different, the new subscription goes into effect at the next renewal date.
Pricing Subscriptions for Each Territory
Auto-renewable subscriptions can offer up 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.
Pricing Tool. The App Store 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. 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. The default pricing in the App Store Connect pricing tool is inclusive of applicable taxes that Apple collects and remits. For more information, review Schedule 2 of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement, which describes territories that have different tax treatments.
Offering Subscriptions to Multiple Apps
You can offer auto-renewable subscriptions to access multiple apps. Each app must be approved to use auto-renewable in-app purchases and published under the same developer account.
Use App Store Connect to set up separate and equivalent auto-renewable subscriptions for each app included in the multi-app subscription so that users can subscribe from any app. To avoid users paying multiple times for the same offering, make sure to verify that they are active subscribers before showing any subscription options. For details on how to determine whether a subscription is currently active, see Using Receipts.
You can also create an app bundle to group multiple subscription apps into a single download at a reduced price. App bundles can include up to 10 of your iOS apps or up to 10 of your macOS apps.
85% Net Revenue After One Year
The net revenue structure for auto-renewable subscriptions differs from other business models on the App Store. During a subscriber’s first year of service, you receive 70% of the subscription price at each billing cycle, minus applicable taxes. After a subscriber accumulates one year of paid service, your net revenue increases to 85% of the subscription price, minus applicable taxes.
Here’s how it works:
- Auto-renewable subscriptions on all Apple platforms are eligible.
- Includes paid introductory periods (pay as you go, pay up front).
- Excludes free trials and bonus periods.
- Upgrades, downgrades, or crossgrades between subscriptions in the same group do not affect the one year of paid service.
- A move to a subscription in a different group resets the days of service.
If a subscription is no longer active — for example, due to a cancellation or a billing issue — the days of paid service stop accumulating toward the one year of paid service needed for an 85% proceeds rate, unless the user renews within 60 days.
By allowing users to try your subscription at the moment they’re most interested in its value, you increase the likelihood that they will subscribe. There are several ways you can provide a preview of the subscription experience.
You can offer a discounted price or a free trial to new subscribers of an auto-renewable subscription so they can experience the value of your subscription before paying full price. Users are eligible for one introductory price within a subscription group. You can provide one of the following offers per subscription, per territory.
Free trial. New subscribers access your subscription for free for a specific duration — for example, a one-month trial for a subscription with a standard renewal price of $4.99 per month. Their subscription begins immediately, but they won’t be billed until the free trial is over. This offer may be useful if you want to give users the ability to try your app’s full subscriber experience at no immediate cost to them.
Pay as you go. New subscribers pay an introductory price each billing period for a specific duration — for example, $1.99 per month for three months for a subscription with a standard renewal price of $9.99 per month. Once the duration is over, they’ll be billed at the standard renewal price. This offer may be useful if you want to attract price-sensitive users with a recurring discount without having to offer that discount for the lifetime of the subscription.
Pay up front. New subscribers pay a one-time introductory price for a specific duration — for example, $9.99 for the first six months of a subscription with a standard renewal price of $39.99 per year. Once the duration is over, they’ll be billed at the standard renewal price. This offer may be useful if you want to offer an extended introductory experience that gives users time to enjoy the subscription before the next renewal.
Promoting Subscriptions on the App Store
You can promote your subscriptions directly on your App Store product page so users can easily find them and start a purchase or introductory offer even before downloading your app. Choose to promote up to 20 in-app purchases at a time to help you effectively increase discoverability for content within your app. This can be particularly effective for letting new customers know about introductory offers.
Clearly Describing Subscriptions
An effective subscription purchase flow makes it simple for users to get the product or service they’re interested in. Use consistent messaging and include clear terms so users can easily recognize the value of the offer. A lengthy sign-up process will lower your subscription conversion rate, so keep the purchase flow simple and only ask for necessary information. In addition, the following details must be included in your subscription’s sign-up screen:
- Subscription name and duration, and the content or services provided during the subscription period
- Price, shown in local currency for the territories where the subscription is available
- A way for current subscribers to sign in or restore purchases
In the purchase flow for a free trial, clearly indicate how long the free trial lasts, the price billed once the free trial is over, and the renewal terms. Make sure users know that once the free trial is over a payment will be automatically initiated for the next subscription duration, and that they can cancel at any time.
For users to stay subscribed to your app, they need to continue getting value out of the subscription. Update your app regularly with new content and feature enhancements to help encourage subscribers to maintain their subscriptions.
When written thoughtfully, notifications can help users want to keep their subscriptions. To create a positive experience that subscribers engage with, make sure your notifications serve a clear purpose and deliver meaningful information. For example, when you update your app, consider letting subscribers know about new content that they may find interesting. Or, you might send encouraging notifications that remind subscribers to perform a task in your app that they have committed to doing. Notifications should not be used as a reason to launch the app or for advertising, promotional, or direct marketing purposes.
Allowing Users to Manage Their Subscriptions
A subscriber’s needs may change during a subscription period. Consider letting them view their subscription status through a link in your app to the Manage Subscriptions section of their App Store account.
For details on linking to Manage Subscriptions, see Handling Subscriptions.
Using Receipts to Retain Subscribers
Receipts for auto-renewable subscriptions include real-time information about a subscriber’s status. Use receipt validation with server notifications to determine a subscriber’s current status (such as new, renewed, or lapsed). This information will help you identify and act on the following.
Voluntary Churn. If a user cancels their subscription, you can update their subscription status in your user database by either polling the receipt or using server notifications. You can then use this information to display discounted pricing or targeted messaging. For example, you might present a promotional offer to encourage a user to resubscribe.
Consider providing a way within your app for subscribers to let you know why they canceled their subscription so you can better serve your users’ needs.
Involuntary Churn. When billing issues arise — for example, an expired credit card — enhanced receipt information helps you act accordingly and reinstate service once the issue is resolved. You can help resolve the issue by sending an email or a message within the app asking the subscriber to update their payment method with a link to the Payment Information area in their App Store account. Apple will attempt to collect payment for 60 days. If the subscription is renewed within 60 days, the days of paid service will resume from the renewal date.
To avoid interruption to days of paid service, you can enable Billing Grace Period in App Store Connect. Subscribers retain full access to your app’s paid content while Apple attempts to collect payment for either 6 or 16 days, depending on your subscription duration. If the subscription is renewed within this period, there won’t be any interruption to the days of paid service or to your revenue.
If a user resubscribes after 60 days, the days of paid service will reset and you will receive 70% of the subscription price until one year of paid service passes.
Price Increase Consent. When you increase the price of a subscription and Apple asks affected subscribers to agree to the new price, you can keep track of their consent status before the change takes effect. If they haven’t agreed to the increase, you might promote a different service level or content offering before the subscription expires.
Promoting Your Subscriptions with New Offers
Apps with auto-renewable subscriptions can offer a discounted price for a specific duration for existing or previously subscribed customers. These offers provide the flexibility to create unique promotions to grow and retain your customer base. They can help win back subscribers who have canceled their subscriptions or promote an upgrade to another subscription at a special price. Once the promotional period ends, the subscription auto-renews at the standard price.
Like introductory offers, these offer types include pay up front, pay as you go, and free trials. You’ll decide the business logic for each offer. You can have up to 10 active offers per subscription, so you can determine which offers are the most compelling and useful to customers. Make sure to consider the implications of having multiple offers in effect.
Comparing Promotional Offers with Introductory Offers
|Promotional Offers||Introductory Offers|
|Primary Use||Retaining and winning back subscribers||Acquiring new subscribers|
|Customer Eligibility||Existing or previous subscribers within the app. Customers who have not subscribed within the app cannot complete this type of offer.||New subscribers within the app|
|Customer Redemption Limits||You determine how many offers a customer can redeem||A customer can redeem one introductory offer per subscription group|
|App Store Connect Limits||10 active offers per subscription||One offer per subscription, per territory|
|Offer Configuration||You control when and in what territories each offer is available and present the offers through StoreKit||You control start date, end date, and territory through App Store Connect|
|Displays on the App Store||No||Yes, when promoted|
|Compatibility||iOS 12.2, macOS 10.14.4, tvOS 12.2 and later||iOS 10, macOS 10.12.6, tvOS 10 and later|
Using receipt validation, you’ll be able to identify subscribers who have turned off auto-renewal so that you can act quickly with the right offer and win them back before the end of their current subscription period. You can also start thinking about win-back and upgrade campaigns that make sense for your business, and what each user journey looks like. For example, consider the offer that will be most effective for users who cancel during a free trial versus users who cancel after spending time on an active subscription.
To get started:
- Set up your server to validate receipts and receive status update notifications.
- Generate access keys in the Users and Access section of App Store Connect.
- Create a promotional offer on your app’s in-app purchase page for each product in App Store Connect.
- Determine your business logic and implement StoreKit APIs available in Xcode 10.2 or later.
Please note that if your goal is to attract new users, you can use introductory offers and promote the in-app purchase on the App Store. Promoted in-app purchases appear on your product page, can display in search results, and may be featured on the Today, Games, and Apps tabs. Other subscription offers cannot be used by new customers or promoted on the App Store.
To learn more, watch the WWDC video Subscription Offers Best Practices.
You can keep an unlimited number of active subscribers at their existing price while increasing the price for new users. If you choose not to preserve the price for existing subscribers, they must agree to the increase, which may result in lost subscribers if they do not accept the change.
If you have several cohorts of subscribers at different prices and want to move all subscribers to the current price, increase the price for users paying closest to the current price first, then the next closest, and so on. This ensures that users are not prompted with multiple notices to accept increasingly higher prices. Before you make any pricing decisions, research your target market’s pricing expectations and weigh the potential impact of raising the price against retaining subscribers.
How Price Increases are Communicated. When you increase the price of a subscription, Apple informs affected subscribers via email and push notification and asks them to agree to the new price. If they do not agree or take no action, their subscription expires at the end of their current billing cycle.
Subscribers on an introductory offer, such as a free trial, agree to have their subscription renewed at the regular price and are not required to take additional steps to continue their subscription. If users upgrade, downgrade, or crossgrade within a subscription group, they will pay the current price of the new subscription.
Measuring Performance with Sales and Trends
You can gain a quick understanding of how your subscriptions are performing by territory, duration, and subscription type with Sales and Trends in App Store Connect.
Subscription Summary Page. Learn which subscription events — such as renewals, conversions, and cancellations — have been the most frequent over the last 30 days. For example, if you offer multiple introductory offer types, such as a free trial and a pay upfront offer, you can assess the effectiveness of each by seeing which has the higher conversion rate. And you can assess how many subscribers are generating higher net revenue proceeds following a year of paid service.
Subscription Retention Page. Compare retention rates of cohorts across different territories and durations to see which cohorts retain the highest percentage of users. For example, looking at the data for all subscriptions that started in a certain month, you can see how many are still active after one renewal period, six renewal periods, and so on.
Subscription Report. See your overall subscription business — such as active subscriptions, subscriptions with introductory prices, and billing retries — as of a certain date. This data can help you measure your performance across your apps and subscription offerings. For example, you can easily see how many active subscriptions you have across different subscription options. Additionally, you can see how your subscription base has grown over a certain period by downloading and aggregating reports over time.
Subscription Event Report. View aggregated data about subscription activity, including upgrades, renewals, and introductory price conversions. For example, you can use this data to understand the percentage of subscriptions that upgrade to a higher service level by territory or device type. You can also see the number of cancellations as well as certain reasons for cancellation.
Subscriber Report. Get transaction-level data about individual subscriber activity using anonymously generated, unique Subscriber IDs. The Subscriber ID is used to indicate a customer’s transactions with you, and stays the same across their subscriptions in any of your apps. With subscriber report data, you can understand how certain subscribers are interacting with your subscription business — for example, you can see the subscription lifecycle of individual subscribers over time and understand their behavior.