U.S. appeals court revives app antitrust lawsuit against Apple

iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple Inc over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday.

Wait a minute. People want to sue Apple because they feel they could buy the apps cheaper if Apple didn’t have a monopoly on the App Store? This is absolutely insane. Apps cost under $1 in a lot of cases—how much do people think developers work is worth? The clear answer is nothing—they want it all for free.

What the protections Apple provides in the App Store? Specifically apps free from malware and other malicious code. The safety and sense of security purchasing from the App Store is very important.

This is ridiculous.

  • GS

    It’s a new year, but obviously, stupid wasn’t left behind.

  • komocode

    “NEW APP! SocialBubz! Exclusively found on the Amazon App Store for iPhone” Launches Amazon App Store “Please update Amazon App Store from iOS App Store” Goes to iOS App Store and updates Amazon App Store Launches Amazon App Store Downloads SocialBubz

    …the next day

    THE VERGE: “Did you download SocialBubz? You may want to cancel all of your credit cards”

  • GlennC777

    Let’s be fair. The legal question is entirely about principle. It has nothing to do with whether the cost difference is ten cents or ten thousand dollars per instance. The only thing that matters is whether Apple is unfairly taking advantage of its power.

    • Meaux

      Also the principle is if someone wishes to pay extra for the security and ease benefits, they should be free to choose to do so, rather than forced.

      • GlennC777

        That’s your opinion, and I don’t necessarily disagree with it, but you must acknowledge the possibility of a counter-argument. Adjudicating between the two is the purpose of the legal system.

    • David Zentgraf

      A principle here would be anti-trust regulations, something Microsoft has been hit with in the past. However, that requires a monopoly, which Apple doesn’t have. Any vendor can create any closed marketplace they want for their system, nothing says they have to let others compete on their own proprietary platform. Anything else would be ridiculous and onerous on the vendor.

      This only changes if and when said vendor achieves an effective monopoly in the market, from which Apple is far removed.

      • GlennC777

        Again, I don’t necessarily disagree. However, I’m certain the legal issues are not quite that black and white. Over what does the term “monopoly” refer to in this instance? The entire industry, or an effectively differentiated subset of that industry, i.e. Apple’s own ecosystem? Apple should have the opportunity to make its case, as should the claimants.

        • David Zentgraf

          Apple having a monopoly over Apple products can certainly not be a criterion. By that token you could sue any company for everything, because it’s a tautology.

          I’ll hope that there is some legal nuance we’re obviously missing. At least some lawyer will have found some exploitable loophole for the case to have it made this far.

          • GlennC777

            I don’t think it needs to be defined as Apple having a monopoly over Apple products, as it does seem that could be applied to any company. One would have to define the precise nature of any possible monopoly more subtly.

            There is a great deal of debate concerning the meaning of the term “monopoly,” however, with some wanting to define it extremely narrowly and others more broadly. It seems to me the appropriate definition considers some degree of monopoly to exist when a single company has a significant ability to set conditions, such as influence pricing, within a market; and it seems to me that Apple has very likely crossed many such thresholds.

          • David Zentgraf

            The vast majority of apps on the App Store are free, the cheapest paid price tier is 99 cents. I’m not really sure where there’s space to sue in-between that. Could other companies really get into that “market” and do something significantly different? Seems pretty silly to me.

            Though, yes. IANAL, and there’s probably some very fine grained mincing of words and meanings going on here which I’m not privy to.

          • GlennC777

            Yes, true, but the total volume of app store revenues is in the many billions, so any possible monopolistic, coercive action is being applied to a very large piece of industry. It’s not unlike the role of Wall Street market makers, who have been known (understatement) to unfairly advantage themselves in trading such that fractions of a penny at a time are accrued to their advantage; adding to a corrupt transfer of wealth in the billions over time.

          • David Zentgraf

            That’s a bit of a different situation though. What would the possible outcome with Apple be? That a court decides the App Store has become a market in itself separate from Apple, and that Apple, which is the sole creator and proprietor of the App Store, must open it up to other companies? That seems absolutely silly, from a common sense as well as a practical implementation perspective.

  • John Barnes

    “how much do people think developers work is worth? The clear answer is nothing—they want it all for free.”

    This is exactly why I’ve lacked the motivation to develop a few app ideas that I’ve had. To many people don’t want to pay for apps and I have other things I prioritize higher than making apps that won’t make any money.

  • Dave Wood

    There’s another side to this outcome. As a developer, there’s more at stake here than the price of apps. Nearly all apps are free already, hard to see them getting cheaper. But, the App Store monopoly effectively creates a poor user experience because it restricts what Apple can do. For example, Apple has to allow crappy, poor quality apps, including hundreds (thousands) of clones, because the App Store is the only place those apps can be distributed. If Apple opens up other distribution channels, they can add new quality filters to their App Store and improve the quality for all users. They can reject listing an app in their store based on it sucking, but approve it for installs on devices via other channels. Opening up other distribution channels doesn’t have to compromise the security of iOS, or even detract from the cut Apple gets from sales.

    I cover these ideas here: https://medium.com/@DaveWoodX/its-time-to-transition-from-the-app-store-to-the-app-mall-a1136505b13

    The current situation also limits innovation, because as a developer, I won’t build something that could be awesome, but also has a chance of not being approved by Apple for whatever random reason they pick. A good example is “The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth” which was rejected a year ago, and just approved now, completely unchanged. There’s no safety or security issue with the app, Apple just didn’t want to approve it, and then changed their mind. Very hard to run a business that is 100% dependant on the random whim of another company.

    I personally have an app that Apple just won’t approve, even though it solves a major issue for users, and they have since approved other apps that do the exact same thing. Even when I point that out to their review board, the response is always: “we can’t comment on other apps”. So that app is dead in the water. I have a new one coming out shortly, that also has a risk of being rejected. Not because it does anything wrong, in fact it again solves another problem for users, but there’s always that fear that Apple may just not like it and reject it.

    • Mo

      “If Apple opens up other distribution channels, they can add new quality filters to their App Store and improve the quality for all users.”

      What “new quality filters” are you positing that don’t already exist?

      If Apple opens other distribution channels that are not subject to quality filters, then those crappy, poor quality apps you referred to will have a great new way to compromise an enormous number of devices. Your argument makes little sense to me.

      • Dave Wood

        Quality filters like approving a new Flappy Bird clone every 29 seconds right after the original was pulled from the store. Or, approving apps that are just awful looking disasters (I’d link to some, but that feels mean). And these apps should be approved for install on devices, since they are safe to use, don’t compromise user data etc, but Apple certainly doesn’t want them in their store. So they should be approved for install, but not approved for an official App Store listing.

        The other distribution channels would be similar to radio stations. Your main stream radio station plays the same top 40 songs over and over, songs that a large portion of the population agree they like. A new artist comes along with a completely different sound and has no way to be featured on that radio station because they’re a no one with an unproven product. But it’s not unsafe to listen to. So they get some air time on a college radio station that only has a 1000 listeners. But, those listeners like what they hear and tell some friends, and eventually that artist gets to be popular enough that they get on the main stream radio. Switch this story to apps and the app never goes anywhere because Apple essentially killed it before it started.

        And I’m not proposing every app get approved for install. All apps should still go through the approval process they do now. But there would be a two tier approval. Approved for install, and approved for Apple’s App Store.

        Another quality filter example, search the App Store for Pokemon. There are hundreds of results that violate copyright, are misleading, and just absolute garbage. They can all be pulled from the store, leaving only the best of the best apps. Those remaining apps that are decent will benefit from their increased discoverability since they can now be found. The others can still be promoted by their developers, and if they’re worthy, can be listed in other stores, and like the song above, can earn it’s way into the main App Store if it turns out Apple misjudged it or something.

        A perfect example of this would be Flappy Golf. It was capitalizing on the Flappy Bird situation, but proved itself and was eventually featured by Apple.

        • Mo

          College radio stations don’t broadcast malware that mainstream radio stations then have to spend customer-service resources remediating.

          While Apple’s approval process for apps is —and will likely always be—a work in progress, the company has no incentive to deliberately compromise its own work by allowing a “two tier approval” or “other stores” to provide multiple venues for bootleggers and malware writers to prosper.

          Something tells me that “poor user experience” isn’t what you’re actually concerned with here.

          • Dave Wood

            There would be no more malware than there is already. Every app would go through the same review process. Granted that process isn’t perfect, and we’ve seen bad actors sneak some inappropriate software through, but it’s a decent process that’s getting better all the time. Apps would still be signed by a known developer, and installed from Apple’s servers. Apple would still be able to kill and/or remove an app that’s found to be doing things it shouldn’t. Apple would still handle the payment (via your normal iTunes account), and still get their % cut.

          • Mo

            Heh. Just read this silliness:

            “It would sort of be like Panasonic selling a radio, and then saying no Justin Bieber songs can be played on them.”

            No, it wouldn’t. It would be sort of like Panasonic buying a radio station, and then saying it wouldn’t play any Bieber songs on that station.

            Or , more to the point, it would be like every retailer that ever existed, deciding what it would or wouldn’t sell in its store.

            Noodle-headed metaphors won’t help you make your case. You want to side-load apps that Apple won’t approve. Or, you want a pricing structure that doesn’t go through App Store limitations. Why not leave it at that?

          • Dave Wood

            It’s not like every retailer that’s ever existed, it it were, we wouldn’t have a problem.

            Example. Company A makes a new traveling coffee cup. Asks Walmart to sell it it for them. Walmart says no it doesn’t fit their guidelines. Company A can go to Target and have them sell it. Or if they say no, Company A can sell it direct from their web site. Now, if that coffee cup is an app, lets say an app that gives the user news alerts of US drone strikes. Apple rejects this, not because it’s unsafe/insecure/malware, but because it doesn’t like the content. Company A has no were else they can sell that app to iPhone users. There is no alternative Target etc to sell through, and no way to sell directly from their web site. This is exactly what I’m asking for. Apple should approve that app for install, but not have it listed in their app store. And they should be responsible for the install process still, to maintain the security of the iOS system. Still no side loading of apps etc.

    • The Cappy

      “Opening up other distribution channels doesn’t have to compromise the security of iOS, or even detract from the cut Apple gets from sales.” You dismiss a critical flaw with a wave of a hand. You clearly haven’t thought it through. There’s a huge difference between “doesn’t have to” and “won’t.” It’s the difference between fantasy and reality.

      • Dave Wood

        On the contrary, I have thought this through.

        Apple already does what I’m suggesting, it’s just limited in scope to developers. We have a service called TestFlight, that lets users (limited number, approved by the dev), install apps on devices outside of the app store, that have been through a mini-review, with a reduced number of checks and approved for install only (not App Store approved or rejected at this point). So the technology is already there and working, and installed on your current device (iOS/tvOS/watchOS are all supported). The apps you can install are signed for the App Store, and have all the same restrictions, sandboxing etc. They’re installed through a separate app but still use your normal iTunes account. So Apple even has the APIs (non-public of course) in place for most of what I’m suggesting.

        The main change required by Apple would be policy and branding.

        If you haven’t seen the TestFlight process from a user perspective, and want to, let me know and I can sent you up as a beta tester on an app so you can see how it all works.

  • Honestly? It’s probably true. If Apple had a $0.39 price point, SOME DEVELOPERS WOULD PROBABLY PICK IT.

  • llahnoraa

    This is madness. lol I prefer App Store since it’s safer than anywhere else.

  • Mikey

    People are upset because it’s really hard to get porn on their iPhones.

  • James Hughes