Nico du Plessis

Non-renewable vs Auto-renewable Subscriptions for iOS

I’ve recently had to choose between auto-renewable and non-renewable subscriptions for one our of iOS apps. After I tried to figure out which type of in-app purchase to use for about a week, I finally decided on using auto-renewables for the app. Using auto-renewables is the more attractive option for you as an iOS developer, since Apple takes care of the user management.

Since I’ve already practically hit every bump in the road implementing subscriptions in iOS apps, I thought I’d write this to possibly spare you from implementing the incorrect type of subscriptions in your app.

The documentation is crap

The documentation on IAP subscriptions is so utterly cryptic, you’ll almost certainly end up using auto-renewables incorrectly. If you’ve watched WWDC 2011 Session 510, you’ll probably remember seeing the speaker say that non-renewables have been deprecated in favour of auto-renewables. This is incorrect, non-renewables are very much alive.

When you can use auto-renewables

Apple has not actually officially and unambiguously stated what we can use auto-renewables for. So unless you’re developing an app for a publisher, you should probably default to non-renewables in most cases. Unofficially, Apple will only let you use auto-renewable subscriptions if you’re providing new content on an “episodic” basis.

Keep up with the latest developments

Since Apple’s position on the use of subscriptions is currently rather vague, it’s definitely worth it to keep up with the latest developments. Look at apps in the App Store using auto-renewables and keep an eye on the developer forums. If you’re unfortunate to get rejected, you’ll most like be able to use information from these sources as grounds for an appeal to the App Review Board.