Apple Reportedly Will Reverse Some Monopolistic Practices

Posted on February 20, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iOS with 42 Comments

A new Bloomberg report says that Apple is considering changing some policies in iOS to address recent antitrust concerns.

“Apple’s closed system to prohibit users from setting third-party apps as defaults was questioned last year during a hearing of a U.S. House of Representatives antitrust panel,” Bloomberg notes. “Lawmakers pressed the issue of whether iPhone users can make non-Apple apps their defaults in categories including web browsers, maps, email, and music … The company provides an unfair advantage to its in-house products.”

Here’s what Apple is finally considering changing in iOS:

Default apps. For the first time, Apple may allow users to configure non-Apple web browsers, email applications, and other apps as the default. Today, iOS users can install third-party apps, but they cannot override the default apps that Apple provides. “Apple [doesn’t] allow users to replace pre-installed apps … with third-party services. That has made it difficult for some developers to compete, and [it] has raised concerns from lawmakers probing potential antitrust violations in the technology industry,” Bloomberg explains. “The company currently pre-installs 38 default apps on iPhones and iPads.”

Looser restrictions on third-party music apps/services. Responding to Spotify’s antitrust complaint, Apple is considering loosening restrictions on third-party music apps. “Spotify says [that] Apple squeezes rival services by imposing a 30% cut for subscriptions made via the App Store,” Bloomberg notes, a fee that its own Apple Music doesn’t suffer from. Additionally, Apple is considering letting third-party music services become the default for Siri.

HomePod. Apple is considering opening its HomePod smart speaker to third-party music and audio services. “Spotify singled out the inability to run on the HomePod and become the default music player in Siri, Apple’s voice-activated digital assistant,” Bloomberg says.

It’s interesting what can happen when you bring a little antitrust heat.

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Comments (43)

43 responses to “Apple Reportedly Will Reverse Some Monopolistic Practices”

  1. sonichedgehog360

    Default apps.

    Thank you... finally. Microsoft and others have gotten slapped with heavy penalties when they didn’t allow their users to change the default apps but somehow for over a decade Apple evades it? I am still in bewilderment over this puzzle and it makes me wonder who paid off who to allow them to do this for so long. I anxiously await the day to replace the broken mess of their Mail app with Outlook.

    • toukale

      In reply to sonichedgehog360:

      Why is it so hard for some to understand this. Microsoft had a monopoly, Apple, as monopoly is define does not meet that criteria. People can be mad at all their policies, the fact still remains they have at best 20% of the mobile market, last time I check that's not a monopoly. Stop letting your bias/emotion get the best of you. I remain convince this is a vocal minority issue, the average users do not care one bit about this. Which brings me to my last point, vote with your dollar, you have that power and move on.

      • geschinger

        In reply to toukale:

        Who is to say the market has to be defined as broad as you are defining it? There is nothing that would prevent making the case for a more narrowly defined market... What in the law or otherwise would prevent a government entity for taking on Apple has abusing their 100% market share in the iOS market.

        • Chris_Kez

          In reply to geschinger:

          I’d be curious if there is precedent for US antitrust defining a monopoly in that way. I can’t think of one but I’m not overly familiar with the area.

          • geschinger

            In reply to Chris_Kez:

            There have been hundreds of antitrust cases over the years so I'm guessing there has to be some with more loosely defined markets.

            But when you look at size, it's not that far off anyway. In 2019 worldwide gross app revenue for Apple's App Store was 54.2bn vs 29.3bn giving Apple roughly 65% of the market for mobile apps. Considering Apple's market share in devices (phones/tablets) in the US is quite a bit higher than it is in the rest of the world I would guess that they very likely exceed (maybe by a lot?) that 65% of the market share in the mobile application market in the US to where it may be getting awfully close to being a monopoly w/o having to narrowly define the market.

            • toukale

              In reply to geschinger:

              So you want to conveniently cherry pick the only data point that will help your case (App store Sale #'s) despite everything else. By that definition then Apple is also a monopoly in the hardware and mobile market since they also make the most income there too. Let's be honest here there is no monopoly case that can currently be made against Apple base on historical data of how the US have chosen to define it up to this point.

              You can't give Geschinger an example because there is no such precedent yet based on your theory. You can't change the rules of the game just because you do not like a team. There are other ways to go after Apple if their policies is what troubles you, the monopoly aspect is just not one.

              • geschinger

                In reply to toukale:

                You are conflating income with revenue (or sales - the metric the FTC uses).

                If you read the definition from the FTC website:

                Courts do not require a literal monopoly before applying rules for single firm conduct; that term is used as shorthand for a firm with significant and durable market power — that is, the long term ability to raise price or exclude competitors. That is how that term is used here: a "monopolist" is a firm with significant and durable market power. Courts look at the firm's market share, but typically do not find monopoly power if the firm (or a group of firms acting in concert) has less than 50 percent of the sales of a particular product or service within a certain geographic area.

                Apple clearly has well more than 50% of the sales in the mobile app marketplace. If they wanted to go after Apple for their actions with the App Store it would be trivial to meet the FTC's threshold.

              • Paul Thurrott

                Nothing you wrote is correct or true. Apple does wield monopoly power over other companies and it does so to disadvantage them while artificially propping up its own offerings. This is illegal, and it is the reason that Apple is now being investigated for antitrust abuses. It is also the reason that Apple is apparently changing some policies, so that it can avoid being formally charged. There is ample legal precedent for this, in the United States and elsewhere. And if your understanding of "monopoly" is that some company has to have some percent of some artificially defined market, again, that's not how it works. It's about the ability for abuse. And thanks to Apple's size and market power, it has ample ability to abuse and, worse, is clearly doing so. Look at the Spotify complaint for a great example.
    • SvenJ

      In reply to sonichedgehog360: Don't really get the issue. I use Outlook exclusively on my iPhone. Apple's Mail app is in a junk folder, and is rarely used. Outlook sends up notifications, and I can share to Outlook from the share panel. I'm pretty sure clicking a web link in an Outlook e-mail is even bring the site up in Edge at this point. I get other 'default apps', like maps, because clicking an address in an e-mail does default to Apple maps, but don't see the issue with just using Outlook.

  2. orbsitron

    If this turns out to be real, my iOS experience (which is already leaps and bounds above what my Galaxy S8 experience was) will get an enormous upgrade! Default to Edge, Outlook, Google Maps & Spotify.

    Also, if Spotify can participate in the Apple ecosystem more fairly, perhaps they will finally implement offline playback (downloads) and streaming to their Apple Watch app so the iPhone won't be needed. I know this is technically possible with WatchOS today but Spotify has been hesitant to implement the functionality and I believe that's due to their desire to make it available as a Premium feature, of which Apple would then take a 30% cut. Hopefully marketplace fairness unleashes functionality (for me, this functionality but I'm sure there are other examples from other apps/services as well).

  3. Pbike908

    I am on Android and seriously returning to IOS. I would welcome this especially the ability to choose Google maps and outlook mail.

  4. bart

    I.....I would have to look at an iPhone again, IF this happens ?

  5. Stooks

    I would NEVER go to Android for privacy reasons alone (plus lots of others) but I do like how you can choose your default apps on Android.

    Please Apple do this.

    The other two complaints are just whining. I would never sign up for a non-Apple subscription via the app/Apple store and it NOT your only option...I watch Neflix on my large iPad all the time and never did anything with the subscription from the iPad because you CANT. On the HomePod, which supposedly no one bought, just air play Spotify or any other music app to it from your phone.

    • Andi

      In reply to Stooks:

      Stop with this tired trope that Android is abusing your privacy or selling your data. Apple collects huge amount of info on you just like Google. Google puts that data to good use while Apple claims it protects it while insinuating Google does not. False. Google protects your data just as much as Apple. Even better Google is transparent with their processes while Apple is a black box. Apple does not offer you any insight into what they do with your data.

      The other complaints are very significant. Spotify wants for its service to have parity in the app store with Apple's own service. That is the 30% fee removed and ability to subscribe straight from the app store just like it can do on Google.

  6. glenn8878

    Default to Google maps is the first change I will look forward to.

  7. treet007

    This is the very reason why I could not recommend Spotify to my aunt ... having to go through UI hoops to get to Spotify since I could not set this as default in her iOS-devices would confuse her. So I ended up getting her Apple Music despite the fact that I have been a long-time subscriber to Spotify.

  8. proftheory


    Users are idiots and can't be trusted to make safe decisions which is why their messiah Steve Jobs decreed that it should never be allowed.


    Not being a member of the cult I've never really understood the attraction of their products. A company where I used to work the company phones were all iPhones and the techs personal phones were Android.

  9. behindmyscreen

    the changing default apps would make my iPhone even better. Last Pass integration was what allowed me to switch from Android but I always missed being able to set a default browser....Credge for the win!!!

  10. red.radar

    It’s a shame that making the Apple Watch work with Android wasn’t on the list.

  11. RobertJasiek

    Will the change apply to all iOS / iPadOS devices or only to those receiving version 14? Will it occur earlier?

  12. Chris_Kez

    Every iOS user that changes the default browser to Chrome reduces Apple’s leverage over Google, putting at risk a portion of Apple’s biggest source of “services” revenue— Google’s payment to be the default search engine in Safari.

    • bmcdonald

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      Or Apple could be forced to pay who knows how much in a huge, heavily publicized antitrust debacle that make them look like the elitists that everyone already knows they. Damage to their user base, good will and so on due to such headlines would probably make their "google payment" look like spare change.

      Good on them to consider finally "allowing" their users to actually use what we want. I despise everything about the Apple "eco-system" but I think their hardware is excellent and the usability is perfect for what I need to do. I just want to use my browser and Outlook for IOs to be properly "integrated" (act as default) and I would be a happy camper.


  13. rm

    At this point they should be fined even if they make changes before they are fined. They deserve it.

  14. Thretosix

    All the crap I talk about Android and their practices saying I'm moving to Apple for my next device. Then I'm quickly reminded why that is a probably a bad idea. They're all corrupt. It's just picking your preferred poison these days.

  15. nicholas_kathrein

    Just the Default Apps would be huge. Apple is still limiting browsers from using their own rendering engine which should have to stop. Other than that if you could pick that apps then it would be fairer to other app makers. I'm not sure the Home Pod matters as much as they don't sell well.

    • danmac

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      I agree with you that they should allow other rendering engines, but I understand why they don't.

      At the moment the only reason web Devs test on Safari at all is because of the large number of iPhones. If they all switched to Chrome like they did on Windows, it would be dead.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      Firefox or Chrome maybe, and other well known browsers based on them, sure. You can trust them.

      But are you sure you want to trust your browser to some rando’s app?

    • robsanders247

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      Not sure that changing the rendering engine would be something they consider. Browsers are an important attack surface, especially when you allow client-side scripting. So I think their security argument is pretty strong in that case.

      Having other apps as the default is very nice. Using Spark as the default mail client and Fantastical as the calendar app would be a great simplification of my workflow. Will not switch to Spotify, as a big part of the Music appeal is having access to my 100s of CDs that I've imported and uploaded to my library with iTunes Match. Unless Spotify introduces such a feature, I'm not going to switch.

  16. nbplopes

    This is a potential Win Win cenario for Apple:

    its good for users to have more service options in their favorite ecosystem without compromising its usability. Case in case some of Apple services do need some competition.

    On the other hand I wonder how much money will Apple charge Spotify and others to be the default Music service. We know that Google payed billions per year to be the default search engine.

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