Apple claps back against Spotify, Tinder and Tile in antitrust letter

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Spotify is adding 2x as many monthly subscribers as Apple Music
Spotify is one of the companies that has taken issue with the App Store.
Photo: Spotify

In a letter to the judiciary subcommittee investigating antitrust complaints against Apple, the company takes aim at companies like Spotify, Tinder and Tile.

All three companies previously criticized Apple’s dominance of the App Store. But Cupertino says they are simply airing “grievances related to business disputes” rather than making legitimate arguments about competition-related issues.

Apple vs. Spotify

Addressing Spotify’s complaints over App Store commissions, Apple argues that its rate falls in line with market forces. To make its point, Apple looks at how much software distribution cost developers before the App Store came along.

“Before the App Store was launched, software distribution was difficult and expensive, often requiring fees of up to 70%,” the company writes. “When Apple launched the App Store, we initially charged a 30% commission, thereby reducing barriers to entry for software developers.”

Apple also says “the vast majority of its subscribers have signed-up for Spotify outside the App Store, and Spotify pays no commission in those circumstances.” In addition, Cupertino argues that Spotify used Apple’s infrastructure to grow into the “#1 music streaming service in the world,” whose app has been downloaded nearly 500 million times from the App Store.

“Spotify grew to its current position in part because of the opportunities and technologies provided by the App Store,” says Apple.

Apple also disagrees with Spotify’s argument that it is gagged from making customers aware of the existence of premium service, discounts and promotions it offers. Instead, Apple says it simply asks developers to not direct customers to “leave the App Store and go elsewhere.” The company likens this to putting up a sign in a Verizon store, advising customers to buy iPhones direct from Apple.

Apple vs. Tinder

The letter then turns to Tinder. The dating app previously characterized the App Store as a “tollway … on the formerly free information superhighway.” Apple says the “App Store was never intended to replace the open Internet.” Apple also disagrees with Tinder’s claims that Cupertino offers unclear rules to follow and that its commission is, essentially, a tax for doing nothing.

Instead, Apple argues, its commission “reflects the value of the powerful technology platform, tools, software, curated marketplace, and intellectual property that allows developers to create and distribute apps.” In addition, Apple strenuously disagrees with the suggestion that it does nothing to prevent underage users from downloading apps like Tinder.

Apple vs. Tile

Last but not least, Apple turns its attention to Tile, the location-tracking company that now competes with AirTags. Apple claps back at claims that it intentionally made Tile’s product hard to use with new privacy protections designed to hurt competition. Instead, Apple says it made all of its privacy-oriented changes for the good of users.

“Tile and other apps access sensitive user location data, collect it, and store it on their own servers,” Apple says. “Apple does not do that. Rather, Find My only stores user location data locally on the user’s iPhone, where it is inaccessible to Apple or anyone else except the user.”

Apple also disputes some of Tile’s other claims, such as reserving the use of its ultra-wideband technology exclusively for AirTag.

Apple’s control of the App Store

Apple’s control of the App Store remains an issue of continued scrutiny. U.S. lawmakers questioned Apple CEO Tim Cook during last summer’s Big Tech hearings. Meanwhile, the European Union recently suggested Apple exerts undue power over competition due to the App Store.

Apple has taken some measures to counter these complaints. For example, it cut its commission from 30% to 15% for the majority of developers. However, as this letter shows, Apple isn’t willing to back down — regardless of how many developers voice their complaints.

Apple’s letter is available to read online, via 9to5Mac. It is signed by Kyle Andeer, Apple’s chief compliance officer.