Apple and Google Representatives recently found themselves in a Senate antitrust hearing on their app store practices. Apple in particular came under fire, as it preoccupied the developers who made the platform so valuable, and consumers pay the price. For example, the dating app company Match has seen app store fees as its biggest expense. Spotify shared how Apple’s fees forced them to hike prices for consumers as Apple launched a rival streaming service, Apple Music. Tile argued that Apple had used its platform to harm Tile products and pave the way for competing Apple’s AirTags.
Legislators and regulators are noted around the world. The European Commission recently announced that it views the App Store’s policies as anti-competitive and intends to take regulatory action. Australian regulators reached similar conclusions in an interim report unveiled last month. Apple’s behavior in the app distribution market has come under further scrutiny during its ongoing experience with Epic Games.
Not only do these policies harm developers trying to distribute their apps, but also 1.65 billion iOS mobile users all over the world. When Apple requests 30 percent of developers’ revenue, it limits their freedom to offer new and innovative experiences to customers. By preventing developers from communicating with their customers through their own apps, consumers end up with an app ecosystem that fails to put their interests first.
Apple’s commitment to privacy and security benefits users, but Apple often claims its App Store policies are necessary for these priorities when they are not. On Mac computers – which are deemed safe and secure by Apple’s acceptance – there are no restrictions on third-party app stores or payments. Even if apps can be installed from outside the App Store on the iPhone, they can still track the location or access the camera without permission. The phone’s operating system protects users more than the app store, and apps installed from alternative app stores may be cheaper or have more functionality, but they will benefit from the same security protections. In fact, despite Apple’s hype, the iOS app store is full Deception and deception.
Meanwhile, legitimate apps and services are being disabled due to Apple’s restrictions, causing real problems for people. Earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic, Apple made it difficult for users to pay the wages of teachers and coaches who were forced to transfer their classes online by demanding a new 30 percent cut in the fees they collect, before issuing a temporary deferment.
Last year, the popular fitness app (and a member of the Coalition for App Fairness) Down Dog I tried to provide to clients An opportunity to download the app for a free trial before committing to a subscription plan. The company didn’t want to automatically charge users at the end of the trial, hoping to avoid forcing them into the frustrating cancellation process, or trying to get a refund because they forgot to cancel. Apple refused to allow app updates until the company agreed to automatically charge its users.
And many users of music, dating, or other subscription services are not aware that they are paying more for their membership because they register through the iPhone app rather than directly with the company. Unfortunately, Apple does not allow these service providers to communicate directly with their customers through their app, which could help millions of consumers save money every month and get better service.
The biggest loss has nothing to do with the developers and users who have to get around Apple’s restrictions – it’s those apps and services that don’t exist at all because the App Store rules make them impossible.
Some big developers, like those who testified in the Senate last month, can speak out. But there are many who are afraid to do so for fear of Apple’s retaliation. This makes it all the more prominent when smaller developers have to speak up anyway, because the threat to their business can be existential.
There are clear steps that must be taken to end this anti-competitive behavior and ultimately make users and developers a priority. No app should be banned from distribution because it seeks to offer a better way for users to make payments or because it is competing with the platform’s preferred apps. Choppy shows like those offered by Apple, like Backdoor deals for individual apps, That’s not enough.
Customers should also be allowed to access their apps from whatever store best meets their needs. These things are possible without putting users at risk, and if they have to compete, Apple, Google and other platforms will have the incentive to make their app stores better for consumers. And the Developers.