Screenshots suggest that TikTok is circumventing Apple's App Store commissions

Image credits: Anatoly Sizov /Getty Images

TikTok may be hawking the App Store to save money on commissions. According to new findings, the ByteDance-owned social video app offers some of its users a link to a website to purchase coins used to tip digital creators. Typically, these coins are purchased via in-app purchase, which requires a 30% commission paid to Apple.

This feature may be hidden from most users, either by design or because it's only visible to users in a certain group, such as testers or high spenders. In any case, those with access to the new option see a screen encouraging them to “recharge” – i.e. buy more coins – via Although these screenshots were discovered inside the iOS app by TechCrunch tipster David TeslerIt's not clear how many TikTok users are viewing it or when or how it's being viewed.

Tesler says the web purchase option was offered to an account that had previously purchased a large amount of coins.

Image credits: Screenshot from the TikTok app

In some cases, users will see a screen with a message like “Try recharging on to avoid in-app service fees” followed by a “Try Now” link. Other times, they might see a pop-up that says “Try recharging on” along with another message about potential savings. This option reads, “You can save service fees and access popular payment methods,” followed by a big red “Try Now” button or a less prominent option that says “Don’t show again.”

Image credits: Screenshot from the TikTok app

Users who follow the provided link are taken to the website to purchase coins: Through this web view, they can pay using a variety of methods, including Apple Pay, debit or credit cards. The website reminds users that purchases made directly using TikTok will save them around 25% “with lower third-party service fees.”

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On the web, users can purchase bundles of coins ranging from 70 coins to 17,500 coins, or even enter a custom (higher) amount. However, in-app coin packs are available starting from 20 coins and going up to 16,500 without any option for a custom amount.

Image credits: Screenshot from the TikTok app

This may indicate that TikTok is only showing web links to users who typically purchase larger batches of coins at a time.

While Apple began allowing select app developers to add links to their websites from within the app in 2022, the use case was limited. The only apps eligible to provide these lines for “Account Management” are what Apple calls “reader” apps — or those that provide access to paid digital content as their main function. (Think: Netflix, not Facebook.) Additionally, apps that choose to use external link entitlement can't offer in-app purchases via the App Store either. It's an either/or situation.

Typical IAP flow. Image credits: Screenshot from the TikTok iOS app

Since TikTok also offers most of its users the option to purchase via in-app purchases, it appears that it does not adhere to the external link entitlement rules even if it were granted an exception (which would be surprising).

TikTok and Apple did not respond to requests for comment at this time. Tik Tok Help documentation About Coins says it's available for purchase and recharge through the App Store and Google Play on mobile devices.

Tesler male That when Fortnite included an option to direct users about in-app purchases from Apple, Apple banned the app from the App Store. It's unclear what, if any, action Apple will take against TikTok now, given the current politics around the Beijing-based app.

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TikTok's current fate in the US is uncertain, as President Biden has now signed a bill to ban the app into law. However, the company said it plans to fight the ban in court, as it did before under President Trump. Biden had originally halted efforts to ban the app until a new bipartisan bill passed the House and Senate.

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