Fresh off the AirTag announcement, Tile general counsel Kirsten Daru testified against Apple this week at a federal antitrust hearing alongside representatives from Spotify and Match.com.
After describing Apple’s App Store as a “literal monopoly,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said that the Apple and Google mobile app stores “exclude or suppress apps that compete with their own products” and “charge excessive fees that affect competition in the app store economy”.
Ms. Daru’s testimony was, however, particularly interesting since Apple has finally announced AirTag, which copies Tile’s functionality but integrates more tightly into Apple’s ecosystem.
“We welcome competition, but it has to be fair competition and Apple’s idea of competing is patently unfair,” she said during the hearing. But the most explosive bit from her testimony involved the Apple Find My service which backs AirTag and, now, third-party products that wish to integrate with it. According to Daru, Find My licensing is a “hostage” program that, among other things, prevents her from disclosing to anyone, even the U.S. Congress, what restrictions Apple places on Tile. All she could say was that Apple will not open the U1 Ultra-Wideband (UWB) chipset in its iPhone fully to third parties like Tile. And that means that competitors like Tile can never be truly competitive with what Apple offers itself. This is a common complaint against the consumer electronics giant.
As for Apple, it also had a representative at the hearing, for what appears to be comic relief purposes.
“We didn’t copy Tile’s product,” Apple Chief Compliance Officer Kyle Andeer explained, presumably trying not to smirk. “It’s extremely different to anything else on the market.”
Spotify Head of Global Affairs Horacio Gutierrez said that Apple was “undercutting [Spotify] on price” on its devices. And Match General Counsel Jared Sine detailed Apple’s “iron-fisted monopoly.”