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Apple is letting Tesla skip millions of dollars in App Store fees

Credit: Twitter

Tesla's Elon Musk has previously said he'd go to war rather than pay App Store fees, but Apple appears to have long since surrendered one particularly significant charge.

Apple's App Store rules are many and complicated, and they have been criticized as a "de facto global tax" by Musk and others, chiefly firms who want to run their own stores. But Tesla is seemingly flouting one clear in-app payment rule, and Apple is allowing it.

According to Gizmodo, the issue centers on the Tesla iPhone app's "View Live Camera" feature. Tesla charges $10 per month for features such as a web browser, and that is legitimately excluded from Apple's fees because the browser runs in the cars, not on iPhones.

However, as part of that tier of premium features, it's possible to use the Tesla iPhone app to monitor cameras in the owner's car. A Tesla owner paying this monthly fee can access the camera from the app, and talk to its occupants directly from the iPhone.

So if thieves steal a Tesla, the owner can watch them drive away and verbally point out the error of their ways, all through the iPhone app — for free. Or at least, without Apple getting anything.

This is one feature in an app that otherwise does not appear to transgress Apple's App Store rules. Nonetheless, this one feature does appear to break those rules and it seems unlikely that it was missed by the App Store review team.

In November 2022, Elon Musk tweeted in his typical dramatic fashion that he would go to war rather than pay Apple 30%. He soon deleted the tweet, and two days later was given a tour of Apple Park by Tim Cook, after which he's not been criticizing the App Store.