Wednesday, May 12, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Epic v. Apple, Day 7

Adi Robertson (tweet):

And while Epic itself has focused on explaining why web apps aren’t a good substitute for native ones, its expert witness David Evans brought up another major issue: anti-steering rules.

Anti-steering rules (in this context) refer to rules that ban developers from pointing users outside of Apple’s ecosystem. iOS developers can’t add links or references telling people to get a better deal on their website, or send emails to accounts created through Apple.

[…]

Evans basically responded that in this analogy, cab drivers can’t even do the equivalent of giving passengers their phone numbers. […] The problem, he said, was the combination of requiring Epic to use Apple payment processing, plus a “whole set of barriers” that make it harder to tell users they have an alternative.

[…]

Evans admitted that nixing the anti-steering provisions “wouldn’t eliminate the market power that Apple has here, but it would certainly diminish it.”

[…]

Later in the day, economist Susan Athey raised a different issue with App Store exclusivity. The App Store lets users sign up for subscriptions, but if they switch to an Android phone, they have to either cancel their subscription or keep managing it through Apple. Athey was using this to explain why a third-party app store would be useful, should Apple ever allow one to exist — if you could access the same purchase from both big phone platforms, the same way you can get your old iOS apps on a new iPhone, switching devices could become much easier.

Apple:

Threats have been present since the first day the App Store launched on iPhone, and they’ve increased in both scale and sophistication in the years since. Apple has likewise scaled its efforts to meet those threats, taking relentless steps forward to combat these risks to users and developers alike.

[…]

In 2020 alone, Apple’s combination of sophisticated technology and human expertise protected customers from more than $1.5 billion in potentially fraudulent transactions, preventing the attempted theft of their money, information, and time — and kept nearly a million risky and vulnerable new apps out of their hands.

[…]

If a developer violation is egregious or repeated, the offender is expelled from the Apple Developer Program and their account terminated. Apple terminated 470,000 developer accounts in 2020 and rejected an additional 205,000 developer enrollments over fraud concerns, preventing these bad actors from ever submitting an app to the store.

John Gruber:

What Apple is trying to say is that this is a five nines sort of problem — that they could (and do) stop 99.999 percent of scams but the App Store is such a juicy target for crooks that hundreds of scams still slip though.

Why not 99.99999 percent efficiency though? Apple is the richest company in the world. If they want to run the App Store with whatever-they-say-goes authority, why should we, as customers, demand anything less than perfection on the fraud and scam front? True perfection they’re never going to achieve, but it sure seems like Apple could be doing better than they are. And they know it.

Nick Heer:

The half-a-million developer accounts terminated in 2020 compares to only about 180,000 new developers Apple says that it worked with to get their apps into the App Store.

[…]

Unfortunately, none of the numbers in this press release have any attached context. For example, Apple says that it rejected over 215,000 apps in 2020 for not meeting its privacy standards. But to understand what that means in terms of the total number of submissions, you have to go find the documents that surfaced in the company’s lawsuit with Epic Games, where you will find an average of about five million apps submitted annually, around 35% of which are rejected for any reason. But we still don’t know anything about the kinds of apps that were rejected. How many of the 215,000 apps were ever admitted into the store? And were any of them downloaded by users before being pulled? The answers to these kinds of questions are not in this press release.

[…]

These are the only options available to report a fraudulent app? These? I have already covered how Report a Problem is insufficient for raising alarms about a rule-breaking app, particularly if it is free. And the only other thing I can do, as a customer, is to telephone Apple Support? Ridiculous.

Previously:

Update (2021-05-18): Ben Brody:

David Evans explained in court on Monday and Tuesday that although Apple has competition when it comes to actually making smartphones, it monopolizes what he described as a market for distributing apps. That control, Evans argued, leads to inappropriately high prices for consumers and competitors as well as an array of other ills.

Nick Statt:

One of the most curious questions arising from the ongoing Epic Games v. Apple antitrust trial, now on its seventh day of testimony, is why both sides are so intent on establishing their own definitions of basic tech and game industry terms.

Does a phone qualify as a game console, or is it a computer, or both? What’s a special-purpose device, and what’s a general one? But perhaps the most perplexing line of inquiry has been what is and what is not a video game. Is Roblox a game, or just a platform, or maybe it’s an app store? How about Minecraft? What any of this means for the future of Fortnite is still a bit fuzzy, but it’s starting to come into focus with each passing day in court.

Update (2021-05-24): Dave Wood:

Apple’s stat: “470,000 developer accounts terminated” in 2020 doesn’t mean anything. The vast majority of those could have been terminated because the developer moved on and didn’t pay their annual fee.

1 Comment

"The vast majority of those could have been terminated because the developer moved on and didn’t pay their annual fee."

Not paying the annual fee does not terminate a developer account.

It just removes the apps from the Apple App Stores, leaves you with useless iOS certificates and prevents you from sending requests to the (unreliable|slow|pointless) notarization service for macOS.

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