Developers rail against Apple App Store policy in wake of House antitrust hearing

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2020
Major developers continue to deride Apple's App Store policies and call into question CEO Tim Cook's testimony at a U.S. House hearing this week, where he said the company treats all developers on the platform equally.

Tim Cook


At the hearing, lawmakers grilled the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google as part of an ongoing investigation into anticompetitive practices. Though Cook faced minimal questioning compared to his tech industry colleagues, House Judiciary Committee panel members did ask about App Store rules like Apple's cut of in-app purchases and the removal of third-party parental control apps.

In his opening statement and during subsequent inquiry, Cook maintained that Apple applies fair and equal policies to all third-party developers marketing wares on the App Store.

"We treat every developer the same. We have open and transparent rules," Cook said. "It's a rigorous process because we care so deeply about privacy, and security, and quality. We do look at every app before it goes on, but those rules apply evenly to everyone."

Cook denied that certain larger developers are favored over others.

In light of Cook's testimony, developers this week spoke out against App Store policies, calling Apple's practices restrictive and "unfair."

Dustin Dailey, director of product management for Eturi, in an emailed statement to Business Insider, described Apple's rules as "a moving target that is not evenly applied to everyone." Eturi develops OurPact, one of the parental control apps that Apple removed as it clamped down on third-party apps using mobile device management technology.

"We are hopeful that Apple will recognize they are not the only developers capable of creating products with the user's best interest in mind as it related to data privacy and security," Dailey said. "And we hope Apple will put action behind their words and create a level playing field for everyone - themselves included."

Apple removed a number of parental control apps from the App Store in 2019 citing privacy issues. As argued by Apple, MDM allows wide access to device functions and potentially sensitive data. The technology was designed for use in large-scale enterprise device deployments, not public-facing apps available on the App Store. As such, integration of MDM by screen monitoring and parental control apps was a violation of the company's App Store guidelines.

The timing of the mass takedown raised concerns. At the time, Apple had recently rolled out a competing Screen Time device monitoring solution as part of iOS 12.

Justin Payeur, president and cofounder of National Education Technologies, which makes parental control app Boomerang, agreed with Dailey.

"To say that [the App Store] is a vibrant, competitive environment is just not true," Dailey said. "We've all been, for lack of a better term, neutered by what Apple did."

Both OurPact and Boomerang were allowed back onto the App Store, but the temporary ban caused significant, lingering harm to each business, the developers say.

Ben Volach, cofounder of Blix, in a statement to Business Insider said app makers want "a true level playing field." Blix, which makes apps Followapp and BlueMail, filed suit against Apple in 2019, claiming the company infringed on granted IP with its "Sign in with Apple" secure login feature.

Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson, perhaps the loudest voice in a cacophony of criticism leading up to this week's hearing, decried Apple's cut of App Store profits after attempting to skirt that model with the new Hey email app. Apple initially blocked updates to the app and threatened to remove the title because it lacked in-app purchase options.

"Apple's App Store policy tortures language to carve out special deals and special treatment left and right. Reader apps that don't read anything, straight up exemptions like class-room management software. It's blatant discrimination, not all the same for all, Heinemejer Hansson said in a tweet Thursday.

Apple ultimately approved Hey after the company instituted a feature that allows users to create free trial accounts. When asked about Hey during questioning on Wednesday, Cook said, "Hey is in the store today and we're happy that they're there. I believe that they have a version of their product is for free and so they're not paying anything on that."

Finally, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney in an interview with Bloomberg on Friday called App Store policy "unfair."

"Apple's playing field is the most uneven in the history of technology products," he said. "The advantages Apple gives itself through its control of the operating system -- and they have rules that outright say you can't compete with categories of Apple apps which we do as key to our platform."

Sweeney previously condemned Apple's practices in 2017 and again last week. The software firm, which develops Fortnite, attempted to bring its Epic Games Store onto iOS but failed due to Apple's restriction against third-party app stores.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 59
    Sarah: It's not fair... Jareth: You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?
    rhbellmoromar moralesGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 59
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    Ungrateful fu**ers.

    Time for Apple to take all their markets and destroy them. Wish Steve was here to see this. Cook is way too nice.
    rhbellmormcdaveomar moralesred oakequality72521thethirdshoe
  • Reply 3 of 59
    The developers are riding the Apple horse. They expect Apple to provide the saddle, bridle, saddle blanket, feed, grooming and vet care - - while they expect to ride for a very small ticket price. 
    Phobos7SpamSandwichomar moralesmwhitered oakequality72521MacProqwerty52MacQcwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 59
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 2,013member
    Boo hoo 

    I work a day job as an iOS SW engineer but I also do side work for others as well as an app of my own (currently not available as it needs to be updated) and I like the App Store as it does allow me to compete against the big moneyed interests.  

    It is not perfect and Apple makes mistakes but overall it has opened up whole markets I couldn’t reach by myself.  

    I grew up in the Apple ][ era and remember small developers trying to hock their games in plastic baggies with photocopied inserts and the backs of magazines.  And the later Computer City era where shelf space was only for the big guys.   What Apple offers now is heaven in comparison.  
    fotoformatSpamSandwichomar moralesRayz2016mwhitemariowincoBeatsraoulduke42red oakapplguy
  • Reply 5 of 59
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 2,013member
    Grayeagle said:
    The developers are riding the Apple horse. They expect Apple to provide the saddle, bridle, saddle blanket, feed, grooming and vet care - - while they expect to ride for a very small ticket price. 
    You should type this up into a well written letter and send it in to the committee that held the hearing (as well as your own Rep).  Especially if you work in the field yourself.  
    Phobos7fotoformatBeatsGrayeagleqwerty52watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 59
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,927member
    I really hope Apple doesn’t give in to these defiant, overpaid little boys.

    As the paying customer, I want a secure platform with a single App Store curated by Apple.
    omar moralesRayz2016mwhiteBeatsequality72521aderutterGrayeaglewatto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 7 of 59
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 633member
    Which one has a history of protecting customers... Developers or Apple??
    edited August 2020 mwhiteGrayeaglewatto_cobraJWSCSpamSandwich
  • Reply 8 of 59
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    If you think you’re being treated unfairly then leave the platform, band together, build your own platform. Simples. 
    mwhiteBeatsGrayeaglewatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 59
    App developers might want to consider the simple fact that they wouldn’t even have a platform if it wasn’t for Apple. 
    mwhiteBeatsaderutterMacProGrayeaglewatto_cobraJWSCSpamSandwich
  • Reply 10 of 59
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,385member
    Why can't these assholes go develop their own platform? Nobody fucking forced them to use the appstore. Everyone keeps yacking about how much marketshare Android has, why don't they just shut the fuck up, pull their apps from iOS, and develop exclusively for Android? Oh right, cause Android is a trash platform and nobody makes any money there. Which would be the status quo if it wasn't for Apple. They want access to the the most lucrative marketplace on the planet, with billions of customers, while Apple handles absolutely everything, at no cost. Incredible. 
    mwhiteBeatsaderutterne1watto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 11 of 59
    You simply cannot create your own platform to sell iOS software outside AppStore without jailbreaking. 
    And is true that all developers are not (and cannot) be treated equal. 
    Something will probably change in the next two years, some outside developers have fair points on this topic. 
    bonobobdarkvaderelijahg
  • Reply 12 of 59
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    However, I do have a problem with this:

    Cook denied that certain larger developers are favored over others.

    If Amazon didn't have to pay a 30% cut in its first year on the app store, then that sounds a lot like favouring a larger developer over a smaller one.


    edited August 2020 equality72521Grayeaglene1bonobobdarkvaderelijahgrevenantmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 59
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    Grayeagle said:
    The developers are riding the Apple horse. They expect Apple to provide the saddle, bridle, saddle blanket, feed, grooming and vet care - - while they expect to ride for a very small ticket price. 
    It's like Wal-Mart allowing you to sell in their store then complaining that they're making too much money.
    edited August 2020 Grayeaglewatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 59
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Grayeagle said:
    The developers are riding the Apple horse. They expect Apple to provide the saddle, bridle, saddle blanket, feed, grooming and vet care - - while they expect to ride for a very small ticket price. 

    I'm a bit curious. Has any one of these folk actually said what they think is a fair price? I hear a lot of whining about it being 'unfair', but given it's the same as every other service, then what do they think is a fair price?
    Grayeaglewatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 59
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member

    You simply cannot create your own platform to sell iOS software outside AppStore without jailbreaking. 


    You also cannot put a Walls Ice Cream concession inside a Ben & Jerry's without breaking into the shop. What's your point?

    And is true that all developers are not (and cannot) be treated equal. 

    That does appear to be true, though a friend disagrees with me. His argument is that developers are treated equal because Apple will happily negotiate terms with any developer; its just that the larger ones have a better chance of success. For me personally, that doesn't work as an argument.

    Something will probably change in the next two years, some outside developers have fair points on this topic.

    Well, 'fair' is a subjective view.

    edited August 2020 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 59
    You simply cannot create your own platform to sell iOS software outside AppStore without jailbreaking. 
    And is true that all developers are not (and cannot) be treated equal. 
    Something will probably change in the next two years, some outside developers have fair points on this topic. 

    The alternative is web-apps.
    Developers have the choice, but they know that if they go the web-app route they won't get all the benefits of the app-store including the marketing.
    These whingers want all the benefits and none of the drawbacks.

    Maybe Apple should pull the free category and make the minimum charge for an app-store app 4.99 or whatever figure it takes to make the app-store break-even.
    You know, go back to how it was with Symbian/Java phones, etc. before Apple created the app-store.
    Grayeaglemattinozwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 59
    If Apple are forced to reduce their % fee then they will likely have to either remove the free category and increase the tiers so apps generally become more expensive. I’d personally be fine with that, it would be good if they also banned all 3rd party ad networks too.

    but in general I feel it’s Apple’s store so they should be able to make whatever rules they want. 

    Nobody will die if they can’t get candy crush on their iphone or if they have to buy an android phone to do so.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 59
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,534member
    I was starting to feel a twinge of sympathy towards the tiny number of those who feel like they were wronged until I read this : 

    "Apple's playing field is the most uneven in the history of technology products," he said. "The advantages Apple gives itself through its control of the operating system -- and they have rules that outright say you can't compete with categories of Apple apps which we do as key to our platform." 

    Really? Apple is playing unfairly inside the system that they bought and paid for through massive investment in capital and human effort and for fighting on when most industry experts say they should concede defeat to the Microsoft's and Nokia's of the world? They should just open up and give away the advantages that they earned at great expense? I don't get it. Would Mr Sweeney be willing to create a ecosystem for gaming around his core business model, and for $99 bucks a year allow everyone and anyone, including his competitors, to eat away at his core business model from the inside? It's like the Greeks insisting that the Trojans allow them to build a wooden horse corral inside the walls of Troy and provide an open gate for the Greeks to move in their herd. 

    Apple could have kept their platforms locked up tighter than a drum and 100% proprietary. Instead they created an ecosystem that allows others to participate and gather significant revenue on top of the machinery that Apple put in place. It's a symbiotic relationship, as all ecosystems are, but there should be no question about who is the host and who is a guest in the house that Apple built. 
    GG1Grayeagletundraboymwhitewatto_cobraSpamSandwich
  • Reply 19 of 59
    Unbelievable -- is everyone in here an Apple shareholder?

    There's no other possible explanation for people begging on their knees to be restricted of their freedom to install any apps they please on their own device, paid for by them.
    elijahgmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 59
    Rayz2016 said:

    And is true that all developers are not (and cannot) be treated equal. 

    That does appear to be true, though a friend disagrees with me. His argument is that developers are treated equal because Apple will happily negotiate terms with any developer; its just that the larger ones have a better chance of success. For me personally, that doesn't work as an argument.
    I’m curious why that argument doesn’t work for you. Maybe it’s not exactly the same but I see it as similar to making business purchases at the Apple Store. Apple offers discounts on hardware for businesses but to get that discount the business needs to spend a certain amount of money. If my small business only buys a MacBook Air this year I don’t qualify for any discount. However, we buy 10 MacBook Airs this year we will get a discount, and if we buy 100 MacBook Airs we’ll get an even larger discount. To me this App Store “unfairness” is akin to the one-person shop complaining that their sole business purchase for the year doesn’t qualify for the same discount that IBM gets when  IBM buys thousands of computers a year.  Instead of thinking in terms of dollars spent I think of it as “users attracted”. Does the Hey app bring as many people to iOS as Netflix or Prime video? My guess is no. But when Hey does, they can expect a volume discount.
    sacto joewatto_cobra
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