Apple is introducing a new feature that will ease the burden on app developers when it comes to resolving subscription billing issues. When an app’s subscribers have a payment method that fails, they often turn to the app developer for help. But the developer doesn’t address billing issues for their App Store apps – which are managed by Apple itself. This leads to some back and forth where the developer has to diagnose the problem and advise the customer on how to proceed so they can continue using the app. Now Apple says a new feature will instead warn users in the app when their payment method fails, meaning they’ll no longer have to bother the developer for help with this common problem.
The company announced in a blog post to its developer community that it will soon display an alert in a system-provided sheet in the app that will allow customers to update their payment method associated with their Apple ID.
The sheet informs the user of the app that there is “a problem with your current payment method” and that they should update it to “avoid interruptions to your subscriptions and purchases”. Users can then hit the big blue “Continue” button at the bottom of the screen to continue updating their payment method, such as entering the new expiration date for a credit card after the old one expires. There is also an option to “Add Payment Method” to switch to a new card.
In fact, developers don’t need to make any changes on their end to support the feature, Apple says — it will roll out automatically sometime this summer.
However, developers can now familiarize themselves with the sheet in the sandbox environment, where they can simulate billing issues to see how the system responds. Developers can also suppress the prompts using messages and display them in StoreKit if they wish.
The new system complements other features Apple has built around subscriptions, including machine learning-driven payment attempts and a billing grace period that allows customers to continue to access their subscriptions while Apple attempts to collect payment.
The feature will benefit both consumers and developers as it simplifies the process of updating their payment method and frees up the developer’s time to work on more technical issues. Of course, the launch also comes at a time when Apple is under investigation for antitrust issues over its high App Store fees, which has led many in the developer community to want to handle their own payments directly, outside of Apple’s platform. By adding a useful feature like this, Apple has a better chance of retaining smaller developers who want to eliminate the hassle of subscription management.