The App Store is Ruled by Anti-Competitive Policies
Apple uses its control of the iOS operating system to favor itself by controlling the products and features available to consumers. Apple requires equipment manufacturers to limit options, forces developers to sell through its App Store, and even steals ideas from competitors. Below outlines a case study from Tile that illustrates these monopolist behaviors.
Case Study: Tile
Apple has manipulated its rules and policies to disadvantage Tile, a popular Bluetooth-finding hardware and app developer, in favor of its competing Find My App.
In a scenario that harkens back to the browser wars of the 90s, Apple pre-installs Find My by default on all iOS devices and renders it impossible to delete. In addition, as reported by The Washington Post, Apple made changes to its Find My app to compete more directly with Tile. At the exact same time, Apple made changes to iOS that made it harder for consumers to access the location data needed for Tile to work, while leaving Find My’s streamlined data access intact. Apple also simultaneously began serving disarmingly frequent prompts to Tile customers to disable Tile location data access, leaving the consumer with no clear explanation of how to assess and control their location data settings accurately. Of course, no similar prompts were served to turn off Find My.
Around the same time, credible reports began surfacing that Apple was planning to launch Tile-like Bluetooth finding hardware that would leverage ultra-wideband (UWB) chips in iPhone 11 devices. UWB is a non-proprietary technology that enhances the finding experience. Yet, Apple prohibits competing apps like Tile from using UWB — ultimately denying equitable technology access to customers.
In its usual refrain against similar complaints, Apple responded a concern for consumer privacy justifies its anti-competitive behavior. However, it’s widely known that Apple pays close attention to privacy when it serves its competitive interest to do so. And not so much when it doesn’t.
A perfect example of Apple’s abuse of its market dominance to eliminate competition is its new Find My Network. Couched as a pro-competitive concession, Apple recently announced it will allow companies to access Find My Network data to the same extent as Apple. Yet again, the details prove that Apple has ulterior motives.
Buried within the Find My Network rules is the requirement that access to Find My Network data requires the Find My app to exclude competing apps like Tile. Apple will also own the relationship with the Tile or competing app customers. Clearly, the Find My Network move was aimed at eradicating competition at the app level while simultaneously bolstering Find My.
Worse yet, with the Find My Network, consumers lose the ability to use the Tile service across iOS and Android. This means if you use a Tile on the Find My Network to keep track of the family car keys, but one spouse uses an iPhone and the other an Android, only one of them is allowed to locate their keys. Apple shouldn’t have this much power over personal experiences and activities — no one gave them the power and regulators need to ensure the anti-competitive behavior is kept in check.
30% “App Tax” on Creators and Consumers
For most purchases made within its App Store, Apple takes 30% of the purchase price. No other transaction fee — in any industry — comes close. This app tax cuts deeply into consumer purchasing power and developer revenue. This app tax is especially unfair when it is imposed on apps that compete directly with those sold by Apple, driving up their prices and putting them at a distinct competitive disadvantage.