Oh, Apple (Premium)

Apple has posted a website promoting how fair its App Store is. But all it proves is that it’s an unjustifiable monopoly that needs to be regulated to be fairer for both users and app makers.

The new App Store website was posted as a passive-aggressive response to an EU investigation of Apple and its business practices in the wake of a Spotify complaint that neatly highlights Apple’s abuses. As I noted in March, the resulting EU investigation, which will absolutely result in charges and behavioral changes for Apple, could drive real change where it's needed. Apple simply takes too much from app makers and service providers that have no other way to deliver apps to iPhone and iPad users. It’s not just a monopoly, it’s an abusive monopoly.

And on a number of levels. But while the Spotify complaint and EU investigation both deal with some other issues, too, there are two primary focuses: The App Store monopoly, by which Apple controls which apps that users can even choose from, all while it competes with the most popular apps by releasing alternatives of its own, some of which literally come with iOS. And Apple’s “commission,” that 30 percent money grab that it makes, not just for paid apps, but for online services that those apps may offer, and on an ongoing basis: If you pay a monthly or annual subscription fee to some other company, and you signed up for that through an iOS app, Apple gets a commission every single time you pay that monthly or annual fee. And it gets that fee commission forever.

Here’s how Apple describes these two conditions.

“The App Store is the best place to discover new apps that let you pursue your passions in ways you never thought possible,” Apple notes. “Today, the App Store is more vibrant and innovative than ever, offering equal opportunities to developers to deliver their apps.”

Actually, the App Store is the only place to discover new apps for iOS. And as the Spotify complaint neatly details, the App Store does not provide “equal opportunities to developers.” Apple’s own apps and services are not beholden to the Apple commission, and thus they have an unfair advantage over third-party apps and services that, gasp, might come with a fee.

Apple Music and Spotify, for example, both cost $15 per month for an individual subscription. But Apple takes 30 percent of that fee every month if you’re a Spotify subscriber during your first year, and then 15 percent a month for every single month after that. It’s not possible for Spotify to compare evenly with Apple Music given these fees, and its cost of doing business will always, and unnaturally, be 15 to 30 percent higher than Apple’s as a result.

“It’s our store,” the App Store website explains in an almost threatening fashion. “And we take responsibility for it.”

Yes. But Apple also doesn’t allow its 1 billion iOS device users obtain apps from other sources either. And as Apple goes on to describe...

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