The on-going tension between WeChat and Apple has finally gone public after the WeChat team announced a halt to the “tipping” feature due to the App Store’s policy on in-app purchases (IAP), our sister site TechNode Chinese is reporting.
Originally, the WeChat team encouraged Official Account owners to use QR codes embedded in posts from Official Accounts, allowing users to transfer funds to authors’ individual accounts. These codes began to appear yesterday afternoon. However, the latest announcement states that all tipping functions have been disabled on the iOS version of the app.
The tipping QR codes no longer appear on the iOS version. The Android version of WeChat has not been affected.
WeChat launched a cash reward feature for WeChat official accounts in 2015, enabling authors of popular posts in some Official Accounts to receive tips through the reward function. WeChat itself doesn’t take a cut from these financial transactions. The new feature, meant to encourage the creation of original content, has become a source of revenue for some authors.
A WeChat insider revealed that the difference on the matter lies in whether the cash reward feature is viewed as a service purchasing behavior. It seems Apple considers the feature as a purchasing behavior of readers for their favorite posts, while WeChat deems it as a sole cash transfer to individual accounts.
Apple made updates to the terms and conditions of its app store last June, requiring that “apps may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than IAP”, under its 3.11 In-App Purchase terms.
As such, iOS device users can only make payment through App Store’s in-app purchase if they want to purchase any content such as music or novels. Through this payment method, Apple charges a 30% commission on all in-app purchases from its iOS app developers. Thus, authors who provide original content to WeChat official accounts will see their rewards income cut 30% off if the reward feature is connected to App Store’s IAP mechanism.
WeChat’s “Reward” button actually falls into the category of the “external links”, while the alternative reward function plan it proposed is “other calls”, both obviously in violation of Apple’s rules.
The matter is a sign of anxiety that has been gnawing Apple, whose Apple Pay, though enjoying great popularity in the United States, has been relegated to pipsqueak status and did not even make it to the top ten in China’ mobile payment market, dominated by e-commerce magnate Alibaba’s online payment arm Alipay and WeChat Payment.
The App Store now supports two payment methods in China: UnionPay and Alipay. WeChat is nowhere to be found. Tencent said that the new announcement does not apply to WeChat’s other popular feature hongbao (红包 or “red envelopes” in English).