Apple’s closed approach is the reason its products are so popular

Apple’s closed approach is the reason its products are so popular, but the sheer scale of their success makes it so difficult. iOS is the only closed, proprietary system that has a greater impact on daily life than iOS. Apple is now a de facto regulator of the internet, a single, for-profit entity that has enormous soft, hard and accidental power.

A mobile app is essential for large corporations around the globe. Sometimes, employees are restricted to these apps. An iOS app is essential due to iOS’s popularity, time and spend. An iOS app is a way to comply with all Apple policies and requirements.

Apple’s attack on Travis Kalanick-era Uber. Uber used fingerprinting to identify users and prevent fraud even after the app was deleted. A report in The New York Times claims that Kalanick stopped using this technique immediately after being threatened by Apple CEO Tim Cook. This isn’t a bad result. It’s rather remarkable that Apple brought Uber to heel after spending years flouting real-world regulations around the world, often actively campaigning against them, and mobilizing its users in support of them.

Apple’s upcoming changes in the Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA) are another example. This tool allows advertisers and app developers, to track and identify users using a unique device signet. It was created by Apple and allowed them to do so without any account information. Apple unilaterally announced that its IDFA solution would be changed from “opt out” in 2019 to “opt in” by 2021. The policy will have profound effects, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with it. As many as 70% to 90% of users will opt out when asked later in the year. This move is expected to decrease Google and Facebook’s 2021 revenues by $5 billion to $20 million. Importantly, Apple’s policy change was not prompted or influenced by any real-world law. It’s not clear that legislators have the ability or desire to make such a change. It is part of Apple’s new privacy initiatives, and distaste for advertising-targeting. Apple collects 0%, but significant portions of mobile app revenue from advertising.

Apple’s policies govern how apps can be designed and operated from iOS. Although developers may “fork” some of their apps to create an iOS edition and non-iOS editions, this is technically and financially impossible for most developers. The iOS ecosystem has become so successful and profitable that whole markets and technologies (e.g. Apple is the only company that accepts cloud gaming, 5G and AR. This means Apple has to decide how they are deployed.

Apple’s regulatory role often leads to widespread good. Apple’s efforts to stop excessive data collection and tracking are particularly admirable and worthy of praise. There are many secondary markets that can be accessed on top of iOS. These include streaming video and direct to consumer e-commerce.

Apple, however, has a financial interest in its regulation and makes decisions that clearly favor its interests over those of users and the ecosystem as a whole. These decisions are listed in Section 3. They include the technologies and standards that should exist, the monetization models to be used, the profits collected and which businesses will be built and which ones not. This power, often at Apple’s advantage, can limit or prevent the next generation of internet.

Learn more:

Chapter 3: The Harms of Apple’s Regulatory Power and Legislations

Although it is not necessary to see the dropdowns below, I highly recommend them. Click to expand

– A. Apple controls whether certain products/businesses have the ability to use an app

– A: Apple can and does support entire industries and business models

– C. Apple can, does and will destroy existing businesses and technologies with little to no notice

D: Apple’s policies lead to higher consumer prices and/or lower profits for developers

– E : Apple controls the monetization and results of applications unilaterally, and they are inconsistent and problematic

F: Apple’s policies often benefit its own services but harm those of its rivals

Chapter 4: Apple’s Inadequate Monopoly Defenses

Apple usually defends itself against monopoly allegations and its supposed damages using one of the following five arguments. Our standards for such claims must be high given Apple’s unprecedented control and policies. Apple must either show that its rules are consistent and primarily designed to benefit developers and users, or that developers and users can practically evade them. They can’t do both.

A: Developers and users can always leverage the “Open Web”.

Apple is correct in arguing that developers don’t need to create an app to reach iPhone users. They can instead create websites that are accessible through the iPhone’s Apple Safari browser or one created by a third-party like Google Chrome. Apple doesn’t review, approve or deny these websites and does not require payment through the App Store. This argument is misleading.

Websites are severely handicapped by the iPhone. Apps run faster and more efficiently because they use native device drivers. Web pages and web apps are slower and less efficient than apps.

The iPhone UX was designed to be used with apps, not websites. It is much easier to navigate, manage, and sort apps than browsing tabs. Even if you bookmark a site, progressive web app, or website to your homescreen, they will open in your browser and get lost or duplicated within tabs. Clearing your web history and cache, cookies, means that you log out of all browsers, but not your apps. This is a design choice. Other OSes were designed to support Web apps, such as Palm’s WebOS.

These are the two reasons why Netflix users prefer to download apps rather than access it via browser. Apple also tells developers that app-based businesses will be more profitable.

Apple’s App Store policy was changed to allow third-party browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox five years after the iPhone launched. Apple doesn’t allow alternative browsers. This was a superficial compromise. John Gruber, Apple expert, said that the iOS Chrome version “doesn’t use the Chrome rendering engine or JavaScript engines. The App Store rules prohibit this.” It’s the iOS version of [Safari] WebKit wrapped with Google’s browser UI.” Chrome on iOS is simply an iOS Safari variant that syncs to non-iOS Chrome accounts. Apple makes third-party browsers use older versions of WebKit, which are slower and less powerful than iOS Safari.

This means that Apple’s technical decisions regarding Safari will have an impact on the open web for iOS users. Safari does not support WebGL, which is a JavaScript API that allows complex browser-based 2D or 3D rendering using local processing. It also doesn’t require plug-ins. Safari doesn’t allow progressive web apps or websites to access background data sync and the camera (so no face-based logins. AR-experiences, light sensors usage, etc.). Access many BlueTooth functions and devices, pay with NFC etc. These capabilities are not available to web-based experiences in Safari, so they are strictly restricted to iPhone developers and owners.

These policies are designed to protect users. For example, allowing browsers unlimited access devices drivers and folders can pose a security risk. Many seem to be specifically designed to protect Apple’s App Store billing and App Store revenue, especially games which account for 75% of App Store revenues.

WebGL is one example. While it might not run as smoothly as device-specific code today’s iPhones are extremely powerful and can run a lot of WebGL games without crashing the user. Although battery life is still difficult, it’s not an issue when playing Call of Duty Mobile or PUBG anyway, both of which Apple promotes frequently in its App Store. Apple does not require developers to use the best tech or the most efficient code for its games. It’s just a policy that Apple enforces in this situation. Even if a user saves PWA to their homescreen manually, these web apps cannot send push notifications or perform background sync. Although this doesn’t protect the user, it does prohibit games that are heavily dependent on friend notifications. Apple’s block of rich WebGL has resulted in the App Store being the only place a developer can distribute premium games on iOS and the only way that an iOS user can access them.

While web-based NFC is being rejected, mobile payments can be made through App Store apps. Its security could be enhanced through secondary requirements (e.g. FaceID or thumbprint verification.

Apple can’t reasonably claim developers and users can use the open web freely. Apple distributes browsers, decides which standards and capabilities they offer, and determines how web apps can interact with the user. It is especially concerning given the restrictions it places on the “open internet”.

Let’s take Steve Jobs’ definition of openness.

Adobe claims Flash is open but the truth is that Flash is closed. Let me explain. Adobe Flash products are 100% proprietary. Adobe is the only company that can offer them. Adobe holds all rights to future enhancements, pricing, and other details. Although Adobe Flash products are widely accessible, it does not mean that they are free. They are managed entirely by Adobe and are only available from Adobe. Flash can be described as a closed system by almost all definitions.

The iPhone web, by almost all definitions, but Jobs’, is a closed system. The vast majority of US mobile internet is therefore “closed” and subject Apple’s decisions. This feels more like an addition to harm (Section 3) than a defense (Section 4).

B: Developers can flee to other devices and consumers can buy additional phones

iOS will continue to be the most dominant access route, passport, monetizer, and platform for digital life. Apple is the market leader in hardware and apps. It also has the largest app store. This is due to Apple’s success in the mobile phone market for over 15 years, and its consistent approach.

While consumers have the ability to buy other phones, it is difficult to envision a significant re-platforming. Android is the number two operating system. Google bought Motorola, one of the top OEMs, to be more competitive with Apple. It continues to produce its proprietary “iPhone killers”, but to limited success. It’s difficult to see what would convince iPhone users to switch to Android, or the mythical runner up to the runner-up.

The problem is in how a competitor smartphone can differentiate itself from the iPhone, given its large customer base. Android, or another mobile OS, could attempt to attract developers by offering better policies and permissions. There are very few companies that would abandon iOS, as it would leave behind almost all their users and 75% revenue. Google is known to prioritize iOS releases and builds of its apps over Android because it does not want to lose users of its iOS-based apps. It’s difficult to imagine developer decampment causing iOS to alter its policies or leading enough iPhone users (which can take hundreds of dollars and years) to switch platforms.

“Just buy an Android, even if you don’t like iOS”

3rd largest Android OEM in the US, LG, to close its loss-making smartphone business worldwide


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