DOJ Hits Apple with Antitrust Lawsuit Over Smartphone Market Dominance

Source: Flickr

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice slapped Apple with an antitrust lawsuit, claiming the company has illegally monopolized the smartphone market. This marks the first major antitrust move against Apple under President Biden’s administration.

Apple now joins the ranks of tech titans like Google, Meta, and Amazon, which have also faced legal action from regulators in recent years under both Biden and former President Trump. According to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Apple is violating antitrust laws and forcing consumers to “pay higher prices.”

Apple Owes The US Justice Department Answers

Apple has long faced criticisms over its restrictive policies and monopolistic practices. Now, the tech giant will have to answer to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Source: Wikimedia/U.S. Federal Government; Pbroks13

The DOJ filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of illegally maintaining a monopoly in the smartphone market.

Apple Accused of Inflating Prices Because of Dominance

The lawsuit specifically calls out Apple’s App Store policies, which force developers to pay commissions of up to 30% on in-app purchases and subscriptions.

Source: Apple

These policies have already been challenged in court, and Apple was ordered to allow alternative payment options in some cases.

Restricted Access to iPhone Hardware and Software

The DOJ also takes issue with how Apple restricts access to iPhone components like chips, sensors and its iMessage service.

Source: Apple

Apple began selling AirTags, which help users locate lost items, years after rival Tile had released a similar product. Yet, Tile faced more restrictions in using iPhone hardware and software.

Mounting Legal Pressure

The DOJ’s lawsuit adds to the mounting legal pressure on Apple. The company has already faced antitrust probes and fines in Europe and Asia.

Source: Apple

A judge recently ruled that Apple must allow alternative payment options in apps, though Apple plans to appeal. Spotify and Epic Games have also filed antitrust complaints against Apple in the EU.

Privacy Concerns or Anti-competitive Behavior?

Apple defends their practices by citing privacy and security concerns. However, regulators argue Apple weaponizes these values to justify anti-competitive behavior.

Source: LinkedIn

The new Digital Markets Act in Europe forces Apple to allow alternative app stores that pay no commission, though Spotify and Epic Games say Apple still makes the process overly difficult.

First Major U.S. Antitrust Suit

While the DOJ’s lawsuit is the first major U.S. antitrust action against Apple, it joined tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, which were facing legal challenges over market dominance.

Source: Needpix

The case sends a message that massive tech companies will face consequences if they abuse their power to harm competition and consumers.

Restricted Access

Apple has also been criticized for restricting developers’ access to certain iPhone features like contactless payment chips or health sensors while promoting its competing services like Apple Pay and Apple Watch.

Source: Apple

For example, smart tracker maker Tile argued for years that Apple limited how Tile products could access iPhone location data and sensors. Shortly after, Apple released a similar product called AirTags, which had greater iPhone integration.

Monopoly Over User Experience

For consumers, Apple’s tight control over the iPhone ecosystem has both upsides and downsides. On the one hand, it can enable a seamless user experience where all devices and apps work together flawlessly.

Source: X/smartprix

However, it also limits choice and innovation by making it difficult for alternative products and services to emerge.

Apple Pay Versus Other Mobile Payment Services

Apple Pay is Apple’s contactless payment technology that allows users to make secure payments with just a tap of their iPhone.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Unlike these rival services, Apple Pay is only available on Apple devices like the iPhone and Apple Watch. Some argue this closed system gives Apple an unfair advantage since it restricts access to the iPhone’s NFC chip.

Limited Data Sharing

Apple is strict about how apps can collect and share iPhone user data. Some developers argue this hampers their ability to improve their services.

Source: Flickr

For example, Facebook has said Apple’s new app tracking transparency rules will significantly impact its ad targeting business. However, others see Apple’s stance as pro-privacy.

Walled Garden App Store

Apple’s App Store is the only way to distribute apps on iPhones. Some call this a “walled garden” that stifles competition. Epic Games sued over this, but Apple won.

Source: Apple

Still, Apple did make concessions, like allowing alternative payment links within apps. The EU’s new Digital Markets Act may force bigger changes.

Apple Monopoly Impact on Competitors

Apple’s control over its App Store and iPhone hardware has significant implications for both consumers and competitors in the tech industry.

Source: Facebook/Apple Bayshore

By limiting access to certain iPhone components and user data, Apple is able to charge higher prices to developers and companies that want to build products and services for iPhone users.

Apple Monopoly Impact on Consumers

For consumers, this means fewer choices and higher costs. Developers have to pay Apple’s commissions and fees to sell their apps, subscriptions, and in-app purchases, and they pass much of these costs onto consumers.

Source: Shopify

Competing hardware and services also face barriers to fully interoperating with iPhones, reducing options for iPhone owners.

What Does The Lawsuit Aim To Do

The Justice Department’s lawsuit aims to curb these anti-competitive behaviors and push Apple to open up access to developers and companies.

Source: Pix4Free

If successful, the case could fundamentally transform how Apple operates its App Store and designs its hardware. However, Apple maintains that its policies are necessary to protect users’ privacy, security and experience.

Apple’s Defense – Privacy and Security Concerns

With the government’s antitrust lawsuit, Apple argues that its practices are aimed at protecting users’ privacy and security.

Source: Techboomers

Apple claims that limiting third-party access to certain iPhone features helps safeguard sensitive user data.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

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