Australian antitrust watchdog goes after preinstalled iOS apps

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2021
As part of an investigation into app store dominance, namely Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this week called for the two tech giants to give users more choice when it comes to preinstalled apps.

iPhone


In an interim report (PDF link), the ACCC voiced concern over Apple and Google's handling of preinstalled apps, reports ZDNet. Specifically, the body notes the two companies, which share an effective mobile operating system duopoly, could prefer their own apps over competing third-party software.

"There is a need for consumers to have more choice through an ability to change any preinstalled default app on their device that is not a core phone feature," the report reads. "This would provide consumers with more control to choose the app that best meets their needs, and promote more robust competition in downstream markets for apps."

So-called "choice screens" are being investigated as a potential solution. Seen on Android, the feature presents users with the option of downloading alternative search engines and browsers, but could be broadened in Australia to include preinstalled apps.

In Russia, Apple implements a similar feature to adhere to local law, albeit with government-approved apps. Elsewhere, iOS 14 users are able to change the system default browser, email app and search engine in the Settings app.

The ACCC notes Google's Android and Apple's iOS account for nearly 100% of the global mobile OS market (not including China) split 73% and 27%, respectively. In Australia, market share is about even.

A number of concerns are addressed in the 165-page report, and focus is paid to measures that address payment option limitations; increase transparency and address risk of self-preferencing; options for rating and reviewing first-party apps; greater choice of default apps; malicious and harmful apps; and misuse of commercial information. The ACCC found discrepancies in both app stores related to restrictions on developer ability to access app users, the app review process, and dispute resolution, ZDNet notes.

Also of concern is first-party information Apple and Google could leverage to create better apps that outdo the competition.

Most recently, the ACCC examined Apple and Google's dominance in the mobile web browser space, reaching many of the same conclusions outlined in the new report.

The app store report is part of the ACCC's wider Digital Platform Services Inquiry.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,368member
    My fingers are itching to give mail a 3Star review. 
  • Reply 2 of 32
    rraburrabu Posts: 264member
    Why are apps such a big deal? What about the monopoly on wireless driver or Bluetooth stack or any other piece?
  • Reply 3 of 32
    ppietrappietra Posts: 288member
    I find it troubling that this kind of analysis fails to take into account that what Apple offers is a consumer end product that competes with smartphone makers, not with Google!
    Smartphone makers compete with software features such as apps, many of which are homemade.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 32
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    What next? Wal-Mart not allowed to sell their in-house brands? Restaurants have to give customers “choice” on prepared ingredients? YouTube having to allow PornHub videos? DuckDuckGo giving users the “choice” to run Google ads instead? BMW allowing customers the “choice” to preinstall Ferrari engines?

    Do these sound stupid to you? So should Apple not being allowed to run its software  the way they need to. And if this sounds extreme, remember, the government works in baby steps.
    williamlondonjdb8167DnykjpRfC6fnBspumpkin_kingbuttesilversdw2001baconstangjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 32
    djsherlydjsherly Posts: 1,031member
    Beats said:
    What next? Wal-Mart not allowed to sell their in-house brands? Restaurants have to give customers “choice” on prepared ingredients? YouTube having to allow PornHub videos? DuckDuckGo giving users the “choice” to run Google ads instead? BMW allowing customers the “choice” to preinstall Ferrari engines?

    Do these sound stupid to you? So should Apple not being allowed to run its software  the way they need to. And if this sounds extreme, remember, the government works in baby steps.
    None of these analogies make sense.
    williamlondonmattinozgatorguyCloudTalkinurahara
  • Reply 6 of 32
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,801member
    Beats said:
    What next? Wal-Mart not allowed to sell their in-house brands? Restaurants have to give customers “choice” on prepared ingredients? YouTube having to allow PornHub videos? DuckDuckGo giving users the “choice” to run Google ads instead? BMW allowing customers the “choice” to preinstall Ferrari engines?

    Do these sound stupid to you? So should Apple not being allowed to run its software  the way they need to. And if this sounds extreme, remember, the government works in baby steps.
    No. Walmart can sell its in-house brands and Apple can propose its own apps for things like email.

    The rest of your post is simply an exercise in ignoring both the issues at hand and the proposed solutions to them.

    After the much publicised browser wars and what Microsoft was required to do, you should have no trouble understanding this current situation.


    CloudTalkinmuthuk_vanalingamFoodLover
  • Reply 7 of 32
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,268member
    This only makes sense for Apple apps which would be purchased later and thus compete with others in the market place. 
    For free apps that come with the device, including those which are downloaded automatically, these already formed part of the user’s choice in selecting the device. The cost of the Apple device is not limited to the hardware, and there is no ability to buy the hardware without the software included.
    For example a person may purchase an iPad because it comes ready to go with a suit of high quality desktop publishing tools. This isn’t a competition issue for Microsoft, the consumer made the choice of the iPad with apple’s software over an alternative device. Assuming otherwise ignores that (1) consumers choose devices for a variety of reasons, (2) app markers are free to entice device makers to pre-install their apps and (3) not all device makers share the same business model. 

    It’s also doubly complicated because many of Apple’s apps serve to uncover hardware functionality of the device. Should it be a matter of competition if a 3rd party later comes to duplicate functionality of pre-installed app (which is already against the guidelines).

    Finally many of the concerns don’t hold water the moment we put them into perspective of other products. Should a car maker not be permitted to offer a highly integrated sound system, for concern of shutting out after market stereos?
    jdb8167j2fusionmagman1979baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 32
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,612member
    Australia is competing with Russia to be the first market that Apple pulls out of.

    Alternatively, Apple just has to remove the App Store from Australia. The phone could come as-is, without any software store for anyone in Australia. Australia cannot forced Apple to install a feature like an App Store.

    Why isn't Australia going after the fact that Apple prohibits timekeeping apps from third parties in watchOS?? There is no competition in that market... it's a real "monopoly." ("Timeopoly"?)
    DnykjpRfC6fnBsmagman1979mknelson
  • Reply 9 of 32

    It’s also doubly complicated because many of Apple’s apps serve to uncover hardware functionality of the device. 

    Finally many of the concerns don’t hold water the moment we put them into perspective of other products. Should a car maker not be permitted to offer a highly integrated sound system, for concern of shutting out after market stereos?
    As mentioned by the good Avon B7, how the Microsoft browser war panned out is a great example of the problematic sides of it. They integrated piles of (de)functionality into IE forcing companies and user to stick to IE AND Windows. It seriously obstructed the development of browsers and web services. The integration hit them seriously in the face when even Microsoft realised that IE was totally obsolete and they had to come up with a new OS as Windows turned more and more miserable. It took Microsoft years and years to straighten out Windows, and it took them years and years to get rid of IE. Thanks to moronic integration.

    They have still not been able to streamline Windows properly, and Edge is still not on par with the rest of the browsers. Thankfully Apple has far better control over their operative systems, but the "political" issue is related.

    The car makers pacs a lot of stuff into their "stereo unit" and when something goes wrong they charge obscene prices to replace the entire unit, and it's 100% deliberate. Hey, some of the manufacturers of electric cars charge more for the battery pack unit than they charge for a replacement car with the very identical battery pack unit. 

     
  • Reply 10 of 32
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,612member
    Hubro said:

    It’s also doubly complicated because many of Apple’s apps serve to uncover hardware functionality of the device. 

    Finally many of the concerns don’t hold water the moment we put them into perspective of other products. Should a car maker not be permitted to offer a highly integrated sound system, for concern of shutting out after market stereos?
    As mentioned by the good Avon B7, how the Microsoft browser war panned out is a great example of the problematic sides of it. They integrated piles of (de)functionality into IE forcing companies and user to stick to IE AND Windows. It seriously obstructed the development of browsers and web services. The integration hit them seriously in the face when even Microsoft realised that IE was totally obsolete and they had to come up with a new OS as Windows turned more and more miserable. It took Microsoft years and years to straighten out Windows, and it took them years and years to get rid of IE. Thanks to moronic integration.

    They have still not been able to streamline Windows properly, and Edge is still not on par with the rest of the browsers. Thankfully Apple has far better control over their operative systems, but the "political" issue is related.

    The car makers pacs a lot of stuff into their "stereo unit" and when something goes wrong they charge obscene prices to replace the entire unit, and it's 100% deliberate. Hey, some of the manufacturers of electric cars charge more for the battery pack unit than they charge for a replacement car with the very identical battery pack unit. 
    Those points are interesting, and valid, and welcome, but are you suggesting it's illegal for car company to sell a car with a non-removable stereo system? Apple could sell an iPhone (at least in Australia) with non-removable software and no app store. Do you think Australia could legally demand and get the exact same version of a product that a manufacturer sells in some other country? I don't think so. Orange is popular in Australia, but that doesn't mean they can force Apple to sell an orange iPhone.
  • Reply 11 of 32
    Hubro said:

    It’s also doubly complicated because many of Apple’s apps serve to uncover hardware functionality of the device. 

    Finally many of the concerns don’t hold water the moment we put them into perspective of other products. Should a car maker not be permitted to offer a highly integrated sound system, for concern of shutting out after market stereos?
    As mentioned by the good Avon B7, how the Microsoft browser war panned out is a great example of the problematic sides of it. They integrated piles of (de)functionality into IE forcing companies and user to stick to IE AND Windows. It seriously obstructed the development of browsers and web services. The integration hit them seriously in the face when even Microsoft realised that IE was totally obsolete and they had to come up with a new OS as Windows turned more and more miserable. It took Microsoft years and years to straighten out Windows, and it took them years and years to get rid of IE. Thanks to moronic integration.

    They have still not been able to streamline Windows properly, and Edge is still not on par with the rest of the browsers. Thankfully Apple has far better control over their operative systems, but the "political" issue is related.

    The car makers pacs a lot of stuff into their "stereo unit" and when something goes wrong they charge obscene prices to replace the entire unit, and it's 100% deliberate. Hey, some of the manufacturers of electric cars charge more for the battery pack unit than they charge for a replacement car with the very identical battery pack unit. 
    Those points are interesting, and valid, and welcome, but are you suggesting it's illegal for car company to sell a car with a non-removable stereo system? Apple could sell an iPhone (at least in Australia) with non-removable software and no app store. Do you think Australia could legally demand and get the exact same version of a product that a manufacturer sells in some other country? I don't think so. Orange is popular in Australia, but that doesn't mean they can force Apple to sell an orange iPhone.
    No, but if you live in Nhulunbuy (been there several times) and have to drive the dusty "bauxite-roads" on a daily basis, your LandCruiser/HiLux will be both shaken and stirred, and it must be possible, easy and affordable to replace the central unit. With some cars the car becomes more or less useless if the central unit (the stereo) cracks. In the years to come a lot of car owners will face the problems related to these units, both in terms of replacement and software updates / security. People can always vote with their feet though... 

    Not familiar with Aussie law and the international convention they have committed themselves to, but to solve a specific issue, it's quite normal to implement a general law or regulation which in turn cover the problem at stake. Apple certainly could, but I seriously doubt that they ever will. 

    Compare the iOS/macOS ecosystem to geeky Arch Linux. If you use Arc you will get the OS and adapt it to your needs, with some applications. If you want more than Arch offers you'll have to use semi external/internal AUR which is slightly more risky, but still controlled. External app shops already exists for Apple products, such as SetApp. What you loose is the Apple policies wrt privacy and security. Like you kind of do in Arch too.
  • Reply 12 of 32
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,340member
    Hubro said:

    It’s also doubly complicated because many of Apple’s apps serve to uncover hardware functionality of the device. 

    Finally many of the concerns don’t hold water the moment we put them into perspective of other products. Should a car maker not be permitted to offer a highly integrated sound system, for concern of shutting out after market stereos?
    As mentioned by the good Avon B7, how the Microsoft browser war panned out is a great example of the problematic sides of it. They integrated piles of (de)functionality into IE forcing companies and user to stick to IE AND Windows. It seriously obstructed the development of browsers and web services. The integration hit them seriously in the face when even Microsoft realised that IE was totally obsolete and they had to come up with a new OS as Windows turned more and more miserable. It took Microsoft years and years to straighten out Windows, and it took them years and years to get rid of IE. Thanks to moronic integration.

    They have still not been able to streamline Windows properly, and Edge is still not on par with the rest of the browsers. Thankfully Apple has far better control over their operative systems, but the "political" issue is related.

    The car makers pacs a lot of stuff into their "stereo unit" and when something goes wrong they charge obscene prices to replace the entire unit, and it's 100% deliberate. Hey, some of the manufacturers of electric cars charge more for the battery pack unit than they charge for a replacement car with the very identical battery pack unit. 
    Those points are interesting, and valid, and welcome, but are you suggesting it's illegal for car company to sell a car with a non-removable stereo system? Apple could sell an iPhone (at least in Australia) with non-removable software and no app store. Do you think Australia could legally demand and get the exact same version of a product that a manufacturer sells in some other country? I don't think so. Orange is popular in Australia, but that doesn't mean they can force Apple to sell an orange iPhone.
    I don't think even Apple could convince buyers to purchase an iPhone with no AppStore. Better just to pull out of any worldwide markets whose limitations and requirements they cannot agree with, which Apple has never even feigned doing anywhere else in the world from Brazil to China to Russia to Spain.

    If Australia were to mandate implementation of a Russia-style choice of services Apple will simply comply in the name of profit.  
    edited April 2021 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 32
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,824member
    Australia is competing with Russia to be the first market that Apple pulls out of.

    Alternatively, Apple just has to remove the App Store from Australia. The phone could come as-is, without any software store for anyone in Australia. Australia cannot forced Apple to install a feature like an App Store.

    Why isn't Australia going after the fact that Apple prohibits timekeeping apps from third parties in watchOS?? There is no competition in that market... it's a real "monopoly." ("Timeopoly"?)
    This topic is like a red rag to a bull... and the bull dust is swirling around this one. What you suggest is not Apple's way.
    magman1979muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 32
    rrabu said:
    Why are apps such a big deal? What about the monopoly on wireless driver or Bluetooth stack or any other piece?
    I am not sure if you were born at the times this happened with Microsoft and IE then. Perhaps you should look at their case from 20 years ago with the same. Asking this questions is not very mature. Microsoft was stopped from other bad practices as well. I remember being developer who used their Win32Socks library for TCP-IP that  could be distributed only if IE was preinstalled (license requirement - not technical requirement) and it had nothing to do with Internet Explorer. The point of Microsoft was to eliminate competition and it was known as Internet Explorer vs. Netscape war in general terms. Ultimately we know outcome is that even Microsoft dropped their lame and incompatible with their own platform Internet Explorer and went Edge that is Chromium (Google Open Source project) based.

    The problem with forcing people to have preinstalled software is eventually creating grounds for monopolistic behaviors. In case of Apple it may be expressed as  "building ecosystem". Yes ecosystem is good, but not closed one. iMessage was one of examples of this attempt where Apple execs took wrong decision and derailed telecommunication standard called SMS/MMS by diverting messaging to their system. It resulted in people who went Android to not receive SMS/MMS on their phones as well as misdelivery to wrong devices (and never to iPhone for example which I had that problem and spoke with Apple technicians to help solve it). Apple had even lawsuit for this. It was not technical glitch - it was example of making attempt to derail standards to create monopolistic behavior under guise of echosystem.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 32
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,612member
    Users in this thread have posted mild disagreement with my idea for Apple to sell iPhones without an App Store, but I wish to point out that the iPhone didn't originally come with any app store and sales were just fine. Apple's software has only improved since the first iPhone. Not everyone needs a third party app store, especially when most apps also come with a web based version that doesn't require an app store. I have about a dozen apps on my phone which I downloaded from the App Store, but all of them appear to have web-based alternatives. So if the App Store disappeared, it would barely affect me.
  • Reply 16 of 32
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,481member
    djsherly said:
    Beats said:
    What next? Wal-Mart not allowed to sell their in-house brands? Restaurants have to give customers “choice” on prepared ingredients? YouTube having to allow PornHub videos? DuckDuckGo giving users the “choice” to run Google ads instead? BMW allowing customers the “choice” to preinstall Ferrari engines?

    Do these sound stupid to you? So should Apple not being allowed to run its software  the way they need to. And if this sounds extreme, remember, the government works in baby steps.
    None of these analogies make sense.
    They all make perfect sense. Apple makes a device that runs on their self designed software. They do not have to offer opportunities for other companies to use their software. They chose to, but can end that expense at any point it becomes decreases their profitability. They can then focus solely on first party software running natively. Microsoft and Google depend mostly on licensees so they are not the creator of the hardware in most cases. 

    If I were Apple I would restructure the App Store as very limited partnerships instead of licensing agreements, that way these governments can’t control who you partner with. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 32
    magman1979magman1979 Posts: 1,299member
    djsherly said:
    Beats said:
    What next? Wal-Mart not allowed to sell their in-house brands? Restaurants have to give customers “choice” on prepared ingredients? YouTube having to allow PornHub videos? DuckDuckGo giving users the “choice” to run Google ads instead? BMW allowing customers the “choice” to preinstall Ferrari engines?

    Do these sound stupid to you? So should Apple not being allowed to run its software  the way they need to. And if this sounds extreme, remember, the government works in baby steps.
    None of these analogies make sense.
    They make perfect sense, you just didn't get them
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 32
    magman1979magman1979 Posts: 1,299member
    avon b7 said:
    Beats said:
    What next? Wal-Mart not allowed to sell their in-house brands? Restaurants have to give customers “choice” on prepared ingredients? YouTube having to allow PornHub videos? DuckDuckGo giving users the “choice” to run Google ads instead? BMW allowing customers the “choice” to preinstall Ferrari engines?

    Do these sound stupid to you? So should Apple not being allowed to run its software  the way they need to. And if this sounds extreme, remember, the government works in baby steps.
    No. Walmart can sell its in-house brands and Apple can propose its own apps for things like email.

    The rest of your post is simply an exercise in ignoring both the issues at hand and the proposed solutions to them.

    After the much publicised browser wars and what Microsoft was required to do, you should have no trouble understanding this current situation.


    Oh, you mean like the choice screens for browsers during the 90's DoJ suit against Microsoft? And how did that end?

    Yeah, keep spouting your bullshit
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 32
    Users in this thread have posted mild disagreement with my idea for Apple to sell iPhones without an App Store, but I wish to point out that the iPhone didn't originally come with any app store and sales were just fine. Apple's software has only improved since the first iPhone. Not everyone needs a third party app store, especially when most apps also come with a web based version that doesn't require an app store. I have about a dozen apps on my phone which I downloaded from the App Store, but all of them appear to have web-based alternatives. So if the App Store disappeared, it would barely affect me.
    Sure, one could manage without. But the users will miss out on some basic screening of the apps, and iOS will become way more insecure for the users as a group, and searching for apps that are good and secure over time will be a major challenge. Technically possible and feasible, but not recommendable. Individual payment for 20-30 apps? Naah... 
  • Reply 20 of 32
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,477member
    Can anyone explain why the Australian government has this perverse fascination with Apple? Do they try to exert similar domination over automobiles, home appliances, power tools, garden tractors, etc?
    baconstang
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