Apple and Google’s App Store monopoly may soon be gone – here’s why

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New rules on mobile app stores could spark a wave of creative, cheaper apps with more privacy options for users. Every budding developer dreams of creating an app that goes viral and makes lots of money overnight. The Angry Birds game became a global phenomenon within weeks when it launched in 2009 and grossed US$10m (£8m) in its first year.

But, overall, the numbers clearly show that mobile apps don’t guarantee wealth. A 2021 study showed that only 0.5% of consumer apps are commercially successful. Developers have to scramble for attention among the nearly 3 million apps and games on Google Play and the 4.5 million apps and games on the Apple Store.

On the Apple iPhonee and iPad, the App Store is the only way to distribute apps. Until recently, Apple and Google stores charged a 30% commission. But both cut it in half for most independent app developers and small businesses after lawsuits like in 2020 when video game company Epic Games claimed Apple had an illegal market monopoly.

Epic Games lost but Apple was subject to App Store changes that are pending. Both Epic Games and Apple are attractive. Epic Games has filed a similar lawsuit against Google, which is expected to go to trial in 2023. App stores set rules around privacy, security, and even the types of apps that can be created.

Third-party stores could set different rules that could be more flexible and allow developers to keep more of the money from the apps they sell.

You were Sherlock

Indie developers say they are sometimes “Sherlocked” by Google and Apple. They develop an app, and soon after, the platforms integrate the functionality of the app into the operating system itself, killing the developer’s product.

FlickType was developed as a third-party keyboard for iPhones and Apple Watches in 2019. Soon after, Apple apparently told the developer that keyboards for the Apple Watch were prohibitedthey announced the feature themselves.

It can take between three and nine months to develop an application and can cost between $40,000 and $300,000 to create a minimum viable product. Some apps take much longer than that to develop.

In 2021, a group of UK-based developers filed a £1.5 billion class action lawsuit against Apple over its store charges. The case will be heard in the UK.

The European Commission told Apple that it abused its position and distorted competition in the music streaming industry and that its restrictions on app developers prevented them from talking to users about cheaper alternative apps.

For example, when Apple makes a music app, competitors like Spotify say it’s unfair. They must pay 15% or 30% of their income to Apple, their rival, which operates the store platform. Until recently, Apple prevented Spotify from informing users of cheaper options (such as subscribing through the service’s website).

A report by the UK Competition and Markets Authority has highlighted concerns that tech giants are creating barriers to innovation and competition. Their full market study is due in June 2022. The UK government has pledged to introduce new laws “when parliamentary time permits”.

Alternative app stores

The EU Digital Markets Act could be in force by spring 2023. The legislation is designed to open up mobile platforms by allowing users to install apps from alternative stores and ensuring that app store providers do not promote their own products or services over third parties. developer offers.

In February 2022, a US Senate panel approved a bill to curb app stores.

It is possible to install apps from other niche stores on Android hardware, such as the F-Droid store for open source apps. But the Play Store is available on almost all Android phones by default, which means the apps available on it can reach more users.

Apple’s and Google’s app review processes (which review apps from developers before making them available) have been heavily criticized for lacking transparency, consistency and general unevenness. Indie developers have no real leverage against international billion dollar companies.

Google has been criticized for not providing meaningful clarification when removing apps from its store.

User Privacy

Apple has expressed security and privacy concerns about allowing apps from other stores on its devices.

App Store review processes may try to ensure that apps adhere to their privacy policies. Most users don’t read them, however, and apps can already access and share far more data than users realize.

Third-party app stores are likely to create a trade-off between user freedom and user security. Some users may prefer Apple and Google’s approach to privacy. Others may prefer a more open experience, where they can install apps from small independent developers, who can develop their apps without having to go through the hoops of big app stores.

The point is, it is possible to give users that choice – evidence from the lawsuits shows that Apple originally planned to support running apps outside of its app store. The Digital Markets Act may force Apple to reconsider.

DMA will not deliver results to users and developers if not properly implemented. The European Commission itself seems ready to become a dedicated regulator for the first time. This will take time, however, and the commission will need to build a large enough team to ensure effective oversight and enforcement.

Article by Greig Paul, Chief Mobile Network and Security Engineer, University of Strathclyde

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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