The story of the investigation into Apple’s monopoly on software on the company’s gadgets is not new. It has been ongoing since 2019, and in recent months more and more lawyers have been involved, new requests for documentation have appeared, and the number of consultations with companies involved in the case has increased.
Part of the investigation focuses on Apple’s attitude toward third-party apps. The App Store has long been a target of critics and government regulators around the world. But the US investigation is also looking into whether iOS is rigged to favor the company’s proprietary solutions and hardware.
One example to study is the company Tile. In the 2019 iOS update, the Find My application on the iPhone also received changes that led to increased competition with Tile, and in 2021, Apple released AirTag in general, which directly competes with it.
Tile’s accusations about the work of Find My related to warnings in the application about the use of third-party software, which does not happen in the case of Apple’s own solutions. Tile’s position was that it puts competitors in a bad light, and Apple responded that they have differences in data privacy.
In addition, the companies mention iMessage, which does not work on Android, and some features of AirPods, which at the system level are better integrated specifically with the iPhone. Competitors claim that such integration gives an advantage in use with Apple devices, to which the company responds that in this case it is a unique feature of its products that improves the user experience.
Neither Apple nor the Department of Justice would comment on the situation.
But Apple has previously said it does not conduct its business in a way that could harm third-party developers and supports competition in the App Store, even when it comes to competing with the company’s own products.
Part of this investigation was an episode involving Jonathan Kanter, the chief antitrust official. He was initially removed from the case because he had previously represented clients in anti-competitive allegations against Apple.
In November 2021, he was approved as an assistant attorney general in the antimonopoly department. According to some information, the department later studied the issue of allowing Mr. Kanter to join the case. The results are unknown, but it is possible that he will still participate in the lawsuit against Apple.
Recently, Mr. Kanter also worked on a case involving Google. Alphabet sought to remove him from the case, citing concerns about his bias, as he had also previously represented clients who filed antitrust complaints against Google.
At the time, the department dismissed those comments, and Kanter continued to work on the lawsuit, which was filed late last month, accusing Google of abusing its dominant position in the digital advertising market. The company itself denies such accusations and adds that these events will not only slow down innovation, but also lead to higher advertising prices.
But let’s return to the case of Apple. Prior to the Department of Justice, Mr. Kanter worked at the law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, and after that at his own firm, Kanter Legal Group, with a number of clients who criticized Apple. Among them you can find Spotify, Tile and Blix, as well as the lobby group Coalition for App Fairness. Also there you can find witnesses in the case of Apple v. Epic Games.
For now, if the state does file a lawsuit, the department will be able to prepare in the spring.
And all this is happening against the background of the new European Digital Markets Act, which will enter into force next year and is aimed at weakening the monopoly of technological giants.