I recently suggested that Apple’s antitrust issues are not going to go away, and that the company should start taking steps to address them. With iOS 14, Apple is doing exactly that.
The company didn’t release things like that, of course, but we received five announcements that directly address some of the antitrust claims it faces …
I summarized the position the company is in.
Apple’s antitrust issues have made headlines again this week, not just once, but twice.
First, there were the two additional European Union antitrust investigations, which are just the latest in a long line of investigations into Apple’s alleged anti-competitive behavior. As a non-exhaustive list, there is Congress, the Department of Justice, various US states. USA, EU, France, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
Then Apple pulled the Basecamp Hey email app from the App Store, just days after approving it.
A new antitrust probe is now imminent. As I said, these are not going anywhere.
Hey’s problem was resolved with a compromise: Apple approved the app after it offered trial accounts for a limited time.
Keynote addresses five of Apple’s antitrust issues
Apple then addressed five more problems with its opening speech.
App Store review has new appeal options
First, there were complaints that Apple has too much power with its App Store review process. You can invent rules that are tailored to the interests of the business, and then interpret those rules inconsistently.
The list of allowed and disallowed categories seems arbitrary.
‘Magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video, access to professional databases, VOIP, cloud storage, or approved services such as classroom management applications.’
In fact, a cynic might suggest that the only reason these exceptions exist is because they cover extremely popular apps from companies that are as influential as Apple.
Apple announced that it is now giving developers the right to challenge not only whether a guideline has been fairly applied or not, but whether a guideline is unfair in itself.
Developers will not only be able to appeal decisions about whether an application violates a particular directive from the App Store Review Guidelines, but they will also have a mechanism to challenge the directive itself.
Find My app will support third party accessories
Apple’s Find My app currently allows you to locate your Apple devices. It will also protect other possessions when the company launches its AirTags product, probably later this year.
This prompted Tile to file two separate antitrust lawsuits against Apple, one in the United States and the other in Europe. The company argued that it is unfair that Apple products can be found with an integrated application, while third-party ones cannot. In iOS 14, Apple is changing this.
Any manufacturer of tracking accessories can register to use Apple technology, allowing those accessories to be monitored by the Find My app. Third-party accessories can take advantage of Apple’s Find My infrastructure, including the ability to find them offline.
Find my app can also be removed
Tile also complained that users could remove their own app, while Apple’s Find My app could not. Again, iOS 14 will allow the app to be removed.
You can change your default email and web browsers
Apple allows you to install your own choice of email and web browser (although the latter has to use Apple’s own WebKit), but any application that automatically opens a web page or email window will do so in Apple’s own applications. .
iOS 14 changes this, allowing you to choose your own default apps.
One of the slides in the WWDC presentation featured a block announcing that users will be able to change their default browser and default email application. This is a long-requested feature.
However, this is only a partial solution, as it currently appears to address only those two specific applications. For example, I prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps, but if I touch an address on my calendar to see where it is, Calendar will still open Apple Maps.
HomePod can play alternative music services
Currently, HomePod can be used as an AirPlay 2 speaker with any music source, but if you use Siri to ask it to play something, it will do so on Apple Music. Apple is now opening this up to third-party music services, so if you prefer Spotify, you’ll be able to select this instead.
Making this possible will also require those other music services to enable it, so it will also require Spotify action. Given the company’s partnerships with other speaker companies, it remains unclear whether or when it will, but Apple has at least done its part.
These movements don’t solve everything
By making these moves, Apple is not addressing all of the antitrust claims made against the company, but it is a decent start. I would expect more steps to follow, and I would also expect Apple to take the same approach: simply make technical and policy changes without admitting any wrongdoing.
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