Apple claps back at 'secret' app ad purchase claims, says supports more than 100 apps

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Apple has responded to claims that it "secretly" buys ads for third-party apps on Google and other platforms, allegedly driving users away from developer websites and to the App Store where it can collect commission fees.

Over the weekend, Forbes published a report citing multiple app developers who claim that Apple attempts to maximize profits by steering potential iOS app consumers away from developer websites and toward the App Store, where it can generate revenue from in-app purchase fees. Further, Apple supposedly purchases the spots without developer consent.

"Apple is trying maximize the money they're making by driving in-app purchases that people buy through the Apple Store," an unnamed source told Forbes. "Apple has figured out that they can make more money off these developers if they push people to the App Store to purchase there versus a web flow."

Apple clarified the situation on Monday, telling AppleInsider that allegations of the company "secretly" or "quietly" — words used in the report — buying ads without app makers' knowledge is a mischaracterization. The company is in regular communication with developers about the advertisements and said many are appreciative of the support.

The initiative, which has been running for at least five years, currently sees Apple purchasing ads in support of more than 100 apps across Google, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and TikTok in a practice the tech giant says is common among retailers. Each ad is clearly marked as being from the App Store, Apple says.

Some developers opposed to the practice claim Apple's placements are hurting business.

"You're building your growth based on what you think a customer is worth, and if a customer is worth 30% less, your margin is gone," one person said, according to Forbes. Another believes the customer experience suffers when purchasing through the App Store, saying, "When you buy with the developer, they have a relationship with you ... when you buy from Apple: sorry, you're Apple's customer, not ours, and if you have a problem with a subscription we can't really help them."

For its part, Apple says it provides an assortment of resources to help developers succeed on the App Store, including technological assets and advertising. On the latter, the company notes its App Store promotions program garnered more than 70 billion impressions through email, social media and advertising in 2020.