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Here’s why Apple shouldn’t let developers have their own app stores

Published May 2nd, 2021 9:02AM EDT
iPhone App Store
Image: Apple Inc.

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Apple’s App Store rules are at the center of several antitrust investigations at home and abroad. The European Union has already filed antitrust charges, finding Apple’s App Store behavior anti-competitive in a Spotify case. Separately, Epic Games has sued Apple in the US on similar grounds.

At the center of these antitrust probes and lawsuits are Apple’s rules for the App Store. Some developers do not appreciate the 30% fee that Apple charges for in-app purchases, especially if Apple also competes against that app or service. They also aren’t fans of the fact that Apple doesn’t allow them to charge customers directly using an alternative payment method and that Apple doesn’t allow third-party app stores on iPhone and iPad.

These lawsuits and investigations could take years, and Apple risks hefty fines if it is found to have breached antitrust laws. More importantly, regulators might impose changes to the way App Store is operated. But regardless of what happens next, I’ll tell you right away, developer, that I do not want you to handle payments or stores on iPhone.

Everything I’m about to say also applies to Google’s Android. I don’t want you to handle payments or stores on Android either; I’m just focusing on iPhone, as that’s been my primary phone for years.

Let’s get the 30% Apple cut out of the way first. As someone who has already bought plenty of content via the App Store, that cut doesn’t matter to me. Sure, I’d appreciate it if Apple (and everyone else in the business) removed it or applied different brackets to different apps. And Apple has already started doing that. But I pay what you, the developer, want to charge for your apps, including that Apple tax, no matter what that percentage might be.

If you tell me that I can buy the same app or service with a significant discount directly from you, I’d still choose the App Store instead of the cheaper option. And if the app is only available through your store, I might just look for something else.

It’s really three things the App Store has that you developers can’t offer, and all of them are very important to the shopping experience in today’s world: Security, convenience, and privacy.

App Store security is the number one reason why I do not want to pay through your store, developer. I don’t want to register my personal data under an account on your site to buy the app of service via your payment service. You might be a small startup or an established corporation. It doesn’t matter. I want Apple to handle the security of all payments for digital goods. I want to register just one account with Apple that keeps my personal data safe at all times.

That’s because hackers continue to hack all sorts of companies. While it’s effortless to set up a virtual credit card to pay through your store or cancel a real card that might have been compromised, I don’t want my other data stolen from your servers. Conversely, if you want to handle payments, you’ll have to invest more money into securing your online store, which could increase the cost of the app or service that you’re selling.

It’s incredibly more difficult for hackers to penetrate Apple’s defenses — again, the same applies to Google, which is in the same antitrust boat as Apple.

The second reason is convenience, and it’s related to the first one. That Apple ID account holds all the apps I deem important for my daily iPhone experience. All the apps and in-app purchases that I’ve ever bought are in there. Should anything happen with the hardware, the third-party software and content will always be ready for download from the same place. The same goes for upgrading the iPhone or iPad. That Apple ID lets me back up everything up and transfer it all to a new device.

Should Apple ever be forced to allow third-party stores on iPhone, as Epic and others want, then reinstalling apps and purchases might be a lot more annoying. The same goes for Android.

The security argument also applies to third-party store management. Apple has an approval system in place that’s meant to prevent malicious or scammy apps. Even so, apps like Fortnite managed to breach rules. And some apps attempt to scam iOS users. It’s even easier on the Play Store for malicious apps to go through. I’ll again note that managing an app store will require additional resources that might increase the price of the goods I’m willing to buy.

Finally, there’s the privacy argument, which is the easiest one to make. I’d very much like Apple to protect my e-commerce-related privacy than you, developer. I want to be sure that my digital content buying habits are in no way hoarded into a profile that might be turned into advertising profits. And this is where I’d take Apple’s App Store over Google’s.

But I’d very much like you, developer, to focus on making more great apps that make my day easier. The iPhone won’t be as useful without them.

Regardless of what happens in these antitrust investigations and lawsuits, I’ll always take that walled garden over an iPhone app experience where anyone can offer payment options and competing app stores. Even if that means having to ditch some apps and services along the way.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.