Apple legal battles

Apple faces high-profile legal challenges around the world that target the way the company operates. Antitrust authorities both at home and abroad seem hell-bent on forcing Apple to pry open its ecosystem, a “walled garden” of hardware, software and services that the bureaucrats say locks in customers and drives Apple’s enormous profits.

The EU’s Digital Markets Act already brought big changes to iOS 17, including opening up the iPhone to sideloading and alternative app stores for European users. Despite these broad changes, the European Commission is investigating Apple’s compliance with the DMA. The European Union also fined Apple nearly $2 billion for the company’s “abusive” treatment of Spotify.

In the United States, the Justice Department and more than a dozen states sued Apple on March 21, 2024, for an alleged “iPhone monopoly.” While the DOJ’s case appears weak, it’s yet another ominous sign for Cupertino. Apple, which vowed to fight the lawsuit, likely faces years of legal wrangling, hefty fines and, perhaps most disturbing, distraction from its core pursuits.

Read Cult of Mac’s latest posts on Apple legal battles:

Today in Apple history: Eddy Cue takes the stand to defend iBooks pricing

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Eddy Cue took the stand to testify about Apple's e-book pricing in a 2013 antitrust trial targeting the iBooks Store.
Photo: Apple

June 13: Today in Apple history: Eddy Cue takes the stand to defend iBooks pricing June 13, 2013: Apple exec Eddy Cue takes the stand to defend the company’s iBooks business strategy in an antitrust case regarding e-book pricing.

Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, runs the iBooks Store initiative. His testimony proves vital to a case brought by the Department of Justice, in which potential damages climb well into the nine figures.

Fight over blood oxygen feature cuts into Apple Watch sales

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Apple Watch Shock
A patent fight over the pulse oximeter inside the Apple Watch hurt sales of the wearable.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple Watch shipments dropped almost 20% year over year in the first quarter of 2024. Market analysts blame some of the decline on Apple being temporarily forced to halt sales of its most recent wearables in a patent dispute over blood oxygen monitoring in units sold in the United States.

AirPods sales also declined in Q1 2024 but for a different reason.

Apple exempts freeware from controversial Core Technology Fee

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iPhone 15 with Euros
Freeware won't be destroyed by Apple's Core Technology Fee.
Image: Cult of Mac/Carlos Pernalete Tua

Apple responded to protests about the Core Technology Fee it charges European developers every time one of their applications is installed. It removed the requirement for apps that generate “no revenue whatsoever.”

Currently, the CTF is only charged in the EU, but it has the potential to expand globally so prudent developers should pay attention to any changes no matter where they live.

EU labeling iPad a ‘gatekeeper’ will bring major changes to iPadOS

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iPad Gatekeeper in EU under the DMA
iPad has been designated a gatekeeper by the EU, and Apple has to open those gates.
Image: Cult of Mac

The iPad joined the European Union’s list of “gatekeeper” platforms Monday. The designation requires Apple to make the same sorts of sweeping changes to iPadOS that the company already made to iPhone, including allowing sideloading of applications.

Apple has six months to implement the modifications.

WWDC24 is the name, and Apple AI is the game! [The CultCast]

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CultCast episode 640 promo image of sci-fi brain and circuit board and caption,
We have a date for WWDC24, and we know what's on the agenda!
Image: Cult of Mac

This week on Cult of Mac’s podcast: Now that Apple set a date for WWDC24, it’s time for the speculation to begin. Artificial intelligence undoubtedly will be on the agenda. But what will Apple’s AI push look like?

Join us for a whirlwind discussion.

Also on The CultCast:

  • Sounds like iOS 18 will give iPhone owners even more control over their Home Screens.
  • A flaw in Apple’s M-series processors sounds downright disturbing.
  • Apple’s got a trick up its sleeve to keep you from annoying iPhone upgrades.
  • And the Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple makes some truly ludicrous claims.

Listen to this week’s episode of The CultCast in the Podcasts app or your favorite podcast app. (Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review if you like it!) Or watch the video live stream, embedded below.

Today in Apple history: Apple pays to use ‘iPad’ name

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The iPad delivered Apple's
Would an iPad by any other name smell as sweet?
Photo: Apple

March 26: Today in Apple history: Apple buys rights to use iPad name from Fujitsu March 26, 2010: Apple pays up to settle a trademark dispute with Japanese multinational Fujitsu over the name “iPad” in the United States.

It comes two months after Steve Jobs first showed off the iPad, and around a week before the tablet will land in stores. As it happens, it’s not the first time Apple battled over the name for one of its new products.

EU is skeptical that Apple’s App Store rules comply with DMA

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EU investigating Apple's new sideloading rules for DMA non-compliance
The EC is not convinced that Apple has changed App Store rules enough to comply with the Digital Markets Act.
Photo: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels CC

The European Commission opened a noncompliance investigation Monday into whether Apple is fully following the rules that went into effect with the EU’s Digital Markets Act. If not, Apple faces potentially heavy fines.

The Mac-maker isn’t being singled out. The EC also opened similar investigations into Alphabet/Google and Meta/Facebook.

Why the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple is weak

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Flanked by colleagues, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland lays out the Justice Department's antitrust case against Apple.
Flanked by colleagues, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland lays out the Justice Department's antitrust case against Apple.
Image: Department of Justice

The Department of Justice’s monumental Apple antitrust case appears weak.

Still, the civil lawsuit, filed Thursday, represents the biggest legal challenge to Apple’s power in the company’s 47-year history. If successful, the lawsuit could force Apple to fundamentally change the way it makes products and conducts business. A similar action against Microsoft in the 1990s significantly curtailed that company’s reach and power.

But the DOJ’s lawsuit against Apple appears to be based on old and outdated information, and Apple has already — or is about to — address most of the major concerns.

Blockbuster US antitrust lawsuit targets Apple’s ‘iPhone monopoly’

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The Justice Department and 16 state attorneys general filed an antitrust suit against Apple.
Public domain photo: Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine/Modified by Cult of Mac

The Department of Justice and 16 state attorneys general filed an blockbuster antitrust lawsuit Thursday aimed at forcing Apple to open up many aspects of its ecosystem, from the App Store to Apple Watch.

The 88-page civil suit, which accuses Apple of wielding monopoly-like power, could bring truly sweeping changes to iPhone, Mac and other Apple computers.

Today in Apple history: Power Mac 7100 lands Apple in hot water with Carl Sagan

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Power Macintosh 7100/80 sitting on a desk.
The Macintosh 7100 was not Carl Sagan's favorite computer.
Photo: Matt Gibson/Flickr CC

March 14: Today in Apple history: Power Mac 7100 lands Apple in hot water with Carl Sagan March 14, 1994: Apple introduces the Power Macintosh 7100, a midrange Mac that will become memorable for two reasons.

The first is that it is among the first Macs to use new PowerPC processors. The second is that it results in Apple getting taken to court by astronomer Carl Sagan — not once but twice.

Apple relents, reinstates Epic Games developer account

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Epic Games vs Apple: Developer account battle
Epic Games came out ahead in the latest skirmish between the developer and Apple.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Epic Games can release Fortnite in the EU and open an App Store rival after Apple restored the company’s developer account. This came as the European Commission was starting an inquiry into why the account had been cancelled.

Apple called Epic Games “untrustworthy” when it pulled the account.

Apple will make it easier to switch from iPhone to Android

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Apple will make it easier to switch from iPhone to Android
Making the switch from iPhone to Android will get easier. But there's a caveat.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple is building a way out of the iOS “walled garden.” It promised on Thursday to make it easier to switch the data from an iPhone to an Android or other handset.

That said, the migration tool is part of Apple complying with the European Union’s Digital Market Act so the solution might not be available outside of the EU.

Apple calls Epic Games ‘untrustworthy,’ blocks Fortnite rerelease in EU

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Apple calls Epic Games 'untrustworthy,' blocks 'Fortnite' re-release in EU
The battle between Epic Games and Apple is as cut-throat as anything in Fortnite.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

Epic Games will not be able to bring Fortnite back to the European Union. Apple canceled the company’s developer account (again) and called Epic “verifiably untrustworthy.”

Shutting down the developer account also means that the game-maker won’t be able to open its promised rival to the App Store.

EU fines Apple 1.8 billion euros over ‘abusive’ treatment of Spotify

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EU sides with Spotify in long-running battle with Apple.
The EU agreed with Spotify that Apple's 'anti-steering' rule is illegal.
Photo: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels CC

The European Commission fined Apple more than 1.8 billion euros Monday for “abusing its dominant position on the market for the distribution of music streaming apps.”

The ruling follows complaints by music streaming service Spotify. In a lengthy response to the fine, Apple said Spotify pays absolutely nothing for the array of services Cupertino provides. Apple also said it will appeal the EC’s decision.

Apple backtracks on killing iPhone web apps in the EU

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iPhone web apps: Xbox Cloud Gaming and Amazon Luna
iPhone web apps are not about to break in the EU after all.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple changed course and is not disabling iPhone web apps in the European Union. The method for turning websites into applications will not disappear with the release is iOS 17.4 after all.

The flip-flop is just a small aspect of big changes coming to iOS because of EU legislation.

Why you shouldn’t care that Apple began phasing out web apps

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iPhone web apps: Xbox Cloud Gaming and Amazon Luna
The few available iPhone web apps are about to break in the EU.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Are you familiar with iPhone web apps? No? Turns out you aren’t alone. Apple admitted that the method for turning websites into applications never caught on.

It must have been a tough admission, given that Steve Jobs’ original plan for iPhone was that it would only support web apps, with no native third-party applications allowed.

Devs call Apple’s new iPhone sideloading rules ‘malicious compliance’ and ‘ludicrously punitive’

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Devs call Apple’s new iPhone sideloading rules 'malicious compliance' and 'ludicrously punitive'
Apple's new App Store rules for the European Union enrage some developers.
Image: danilo.alvesd/Unsplash License/Cult of Mac

A noted Apple critic used the terms “malicious compliance” and “hot garbage” to describe the elaborate rules the company laid down Thursday for allowing European iPhone users to sideload applications.

Those blasts came from Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, a company that’s locked in a legal battle with Apple over App Store rules. But other devs also cast aspersions on Apple’s framework for setting up App Store rivals. They pointed out that the new system comes with a huge financial obligation, and that it will make free apps almost impossible.

To be clear, though, not all developers are unhappy. Apple’s new rules also drew some compliments.

Apple is bringing sideloading and alternate app stores to iPhone

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Apple revealed the iPhone app sideloading rules for the EU
Sideloading applications onto iPhone comes with a lot of rules.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

Apple is bringing sideloading and alternate app stores to the iPhone — but with significant restrictions.

Apple gave EU developers guidelines and access to the tools needed for sideloading —  installing applications that don’t go through the App Store. But the new rules require these apps to be approved by Apple before they can be installed by iPhone users. And they need to be in alternative marketplaces, not directly available for download.

In other words, sideloading won’t be the free-for-all some people had hoped.

This is part of sweeping changes to iOS, Safari and the App Store required by the European Union’s Digital Markets Act. And Apple’s announcement of these changes in Thursday is loaded with warning about how sideloading brings risks for users.

Apple still wants control of sideloaded iPhone apps in the EU

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Sideloading means no Apple App Store
Sideloading means no Apple App Store, but Apple isn't giving up all control.
Graphic: Apple/Cult of Mac

Although the European Union requires Apple to allow sideloading of iPhone applications, Cupertino reportedly hopes to review apps before they become available for installation from outside the App Store.

Apple also expects developers to voluntarily send a percentage of all revenue generated through sideloaded iOS applications.

watchOS 10.3 update is safe; doesn’t delete Apple Watch Blood Oxygen app

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Apple Watch Series 7 running watchOS 10.3 has a fully functional Blood Oxygen app.
Seeing is believing: This Apple Watch Series 7 running watchOS 10.3 has a fully functional Blood Oxygen app.
Photo: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Some Apple Watch owners might be hesitant about installing the just-released watchOS 10.3 update over concerns that it’ll remove the controversial Blood Oxygen application. But there’s no reason for concern — it does not.

We tested multiple devices to be extra sure.

Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 without blood oxygen feature go on sale in US

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Apple Watch Ultra with the Modular Ultra face
Buy a new Apple Watch and it will do so many functions. Just not Blood Oxygen monitoring.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

With the Apple Watch sales ban back, Apple has decided to sell its latest smartwatches without blood oxygen monitoring in the U.S. The tweaked Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 models went go on sale starting January 18 across the company’s online and retail stores.

The Cupertino giant is not making any hardware tweaks to the wearables. Instead, it will turn off the blood oxygen sensor feature through software.

Apple Watch sales ban is back, but there’s a fallback option

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Apple Watch Blood Oxygen app
The Apple Watch Blood Oxygen app is at the heart of a sales ban for the wearable.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple lost a court appeal Wednesday, which means Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 might once again get pulled from U.S. store shelves. The court agrees with previous rulings that the wearables are in violation of a patent held by a medical-device company.

But Apple has a workaround: it’s almost certainly going to remove the application at the center of the patent dispute.

iPhone apps can offer non-Apple payment methods … but will they? [Updated]

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App Store
Expect a change in many iPhone applications thanks to a court order.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Following the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear appeals in the Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit, Apple is making significant changes to its U.S. App Store guidelines.

Developers can now link to an external in-app payment method. However, they still will need to pay Apple a commission of 12% to 27% on these transactions. And the mechanism for allowing such external payments might prove so onerous that developers take a pass.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney called it a “bad-faith ‘compliance’ plan” Tuesday — and vowed that his company will contest Apple’s plan in District Court.

Supreme Court decision means major iPhone app change is on the way

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App Store
A court-ordered change to iPhone apps is about to hit Apple in the pocketbook.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The U.S. Supreme Court effectively upheld a lower court’s ruling that Apple must allow third-party iPhone app developers to point customers to their websites when making purchases. This means the company is forced to drop its “anti-steering” rule for such applications — a major change.

It’s the primary result of Apple’s long-running legal battle with Epic Games.