March 25, 2024

DOJ Sues Apple

The Justice Department on Thursday announced a sweeping antitrust lawsuit against Apple, accusing the tech giant of engineering an illegal monopoly in smartphones that boxes out competitors, stifles innovation and keeps prices artificially high.” AP News

Many on all sides are skeptical of the merits of the lawsuit:

“Start with its complaint that Apple’s alleged monopoly is retarding tech innovation. Over the last decade the number of paid developers on its app stores has soared by 374% to 5.2 million. During this time, Apple has introduced AirPods, Vision Pro headsets and new Apple Watch health functions such as an ECG monitor and fall detector. Yet [this] hasn’t prevented other companies’ products, such as Shokz bone-conduction headphones or Google’s automated car service Waymo, from advancing…

“Read DOJ’s lawsuit closely, and Apple’s main alleged victims appear to be big banks, credit-card companies and Big Tech rivals. Apple’s digital wallet allows ‘users to make in-person payments by tapping their device on a payment terminal rather than tapping or swiping a physical credit card,’ DOJ says. Oh no—an Apple innovation competes with Visa… DOJ essentially wants Apple to be open-source and inter-operable like Google’s Android system. If customers want that, they can buy Android phones, which make up the other half of the U.S. market.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The actual data show that about 60% of smartphones in the United States have an Apple operating system — meaning that 40% do not. On a global scale, Apple’s market share drops to about 28%. Android operating systems are a popular alternative that a large minority of Americans choose instead

“A monopoly is when one company has no real competitors and entirely or almost entirely controls a given market. So, for the Biden administration to label Apple a smartphone monopoly and base a drastic lawsuit upon that claim — the word ‘monopoly’ appears in the lawsuit 87 times — is just straight-up false.”

Brad Polumbo, Washington Examiner

“Could Apple make [the Apple Watch] compatible with Android? Yes, with trade-offs. But why should it? Shouldn’t competition come from Google doing something similar with its Pixel phone and a wearable? Indeed, Google tried, acquiring fitness device-maker FitBit in 2021 for $2.1 billion; it has since run the once-competitive brand and its products into the ground…

“[Apple] uses its maniacal control over the user experience on the iPhone to make it a vastly superior smartphone that is more attractive to consumers. But in doing so, it shuts out competitors… Attempts to remedy this situation could be painful, unpopular and have a high chance of failure. Just ask iPhone users in Europe, where regulators enforced their tough new rules to increase mobile browser competition — and all users got was a lousy menu. Hardly a tectonic shift in the competitive landscape.”

Dave Lee, Bloomberg

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“The complaint starts off with an executive emailing Steve Jobs in 2010, complaining that an Amazon ad for the Kindle’s smartphone apps demonstrated ‘that it is easy to switch from iPhone to Android. Not fun to watch.’ The suit continues: ‘Jobs was clear in his response: Apple would ‘force’ developers to use its payment system to lock in both developers and users on its platform.’…

“A lot of people really do just like Apple products; heck, I’m typing this very piece on a slick MacBook Air. But the federal government makes a compelling case that much of this love, especially within United States borders, is coerced—that consumers trapped in the fold stay there mainly because they don’t want to deal with the barriers to change. And, as such, they are forced to lean on the iPhone even as it gets more exclusive, worse, and more expensive.”

Nitish Pahwa, Slate

“Although US v. Apple does have a lawsuit swimming somewhere inside its massive bulk, it is, for the most part, a fairly readable litany of all the annoying things Apple has done to me, personally, over the years. Green bubbling my friends and loved ones? Not being able to buy Kindle books in the Amazon app?… The DOJ knows. The DOJ cares. I feel seen…

The complaint speaks directly to the tech aficionados rather than speaking over them and to a federal judge. After all, the more bought into the Apple ecosystem you are, the more opportunities you have to be annoyed by Apple. And those hundreds of little annoyances, says the DOJ, are Apple’s fault, not yours. It’s an extremely tempting invitation to come rage with them.”

Sarah Jeong, The Verge

From the Right

“One of the key legs of the DOJ’s lawsuit is the emotional damage caused by green chat bubbles. When an Apple device messages another Apple device, the chat bubble containing the message is blue. Because of this, Android-using Gen-Zers on TikTok have claimed to be socially ostracized by their iPhone-using friends for creating green chat bubbles while messaging…  

“While the White House’s Justice Department would have you believe the green bubble is in place only to make people feel poor, it actually serves a valuable purpose. Apple spends an immense amount of money every year ensuring the end-to-end encryption of messaging between Apple devices. When you send a message to another Apple device and it turns blue, you know the message was delivered securely. This cannot be said for SMS text messaging which is notoriously prone to being hacked.”

Erick-Woods Erickson, Substack

“Apple and Tim Cook, like other major corporations, decided to align themselves politically with Democrats. In 2008, Cook donated to Barack Obama’s campaign in what NPR said ‘appears to be the only time Cook has ever given money to a political candidate.’ In 2016, Apple cut off its support for the Republican National Committee while it continued supporting the Democratic counterpart…

“As a reward for becoming a full team player for Democrats, Apple is getting sued by Biden… In the meantime, even though there is still a healthy amount of free-market sentiment, Republicans have moved toward being more critical of how big corporations run.”

Zachary Faria, Washington Examiner

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