iPhone App Makers Questioned by U.S. Department of Justice in Apple Antitrust Probe

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The United States Department of Justice is continuing with its antitrust investigation into Apple and has recently reached out to developers who create apps for Apple's iOS devices, reports Reuters.

Suren Ramasubbu, CEO of app development company Mobicip, was interviewed by a U.S. investigator in November and questioned about Mobicip's interactions with Apple. Mobicip makes parental control software that parents can use to monitor and control what their children are doing online, similar to Screen Time.

The app was temporarily removed last year for a failure to meet App Store requirements put in place by Apple, which is why its CEO was contacted. A "handful" of developers are said to have been in touch with the Justice Department.

Apple declined to comment on the news of the interview with Mobicip's CEO, but highlighted a statement on its website that says that Apple expects apps to adhere to a "high standard for privacy, security, and content."

Apple, along with Facebook, Google, and Amazon, is facing a government query into whether the way it operates stifles competition. Launched in July, the probe is examining information from industry participants to determine whether there are antitrust problems that need to be addressed, but when it kicked off, it had no specific aim.

Apple has been accused of anticompetitive business practices when it comes to the App Store, as some developers and companies believe that Apple's own apps, features, and services have a significant advantage over third-party apps. Investigating claims from third-party companies who operate on the App Store appears to be the first part of the Department of Justice's investigation into Apple.

Screen Time, which was introduced in 2018 with iOS 12, has led to disputes with developers who make similar software. Screen Time offers parents built-in controls for limiting access to apps and monitoring app usage, a set of options previously handled by third-party apps.


When Screen Time came out, Ramasubbu was told by Apple that the Mobicip app violated App Store rules with features that had been allowed in the past. The app was eliminated from the App Store for approximately six months and has been available since October 2019, but Ramasubbu believes his business has shrunk in half.

According to Reuters, six other executives from companies that create parental control apps had a "comfortable" relationship with Apple until mid-2018 when Screen Time came out.

Apple said that it was cracking down on parental control apps because they were using Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology for device monitoring, which is not what MDM was designed for.

Multiple parental control app developers petitioned Apple to release a Screen Time API that would allow them to match the functionality provided by Screen Time, ultimately leading to Apple allowing parental control apps to once again use Mobile Device Management technology.

Apple has faced other accusations over its App Store apps, including complaints from Spotify that Apple Music has a distinct advantage because Spotify has to pay Apple a portion of its subscription fees. Spotify's complaints have led to an investigation of Apple's App Store policies by the European Commission.

Apple is also facing a lawsuit over its anticompetitive App Store business policies related to App Store fees taken for subscriptions, which has been allowed to proceed by the Supreme Court.

It's not clear how the Department of Justice's antitrust investigation will go, but it's clear the government is looking into Apple's App Store practices. Apple in September was asked to provide the U.S. House Judiciary Committee with details related to its policies for the App Store, with a specific focus on parental control apps, search rankings, in-app purchase revenue split, in-app links to non-Apple payment systems, and more.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: iPhone App Makers Questioned by U.S. Department of Justice in Apple Antitrust Probe
 

Cosmosent

macrumors 65816
Apr 20, 2016
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Apple's Upper Mgmt pulled our Timmy app, the planet's ONLY per-Qtr, per-Device "iPhone Unit Sales Estimator," on Sept 9th, 2019, the day BEFORE their BIG 2019 iPhone announcement.

Their reason for pulling it was total BS !

They said it didn't have sufficient value.

In fact, earlier versions of Timmy were partly responsible for why Apple decided to Stop Reporting iPhone Unit Sales at their Quarterly Earnings Releases !

Timmy's estimates were very-likely getting too close for comfort for Cook !

We asked for a public debate with Tim Cook on the app.

Apple never got back to us on that !
 

TeamMojo

macrumors regular
Feb 3, 2004
120
134
This is really an OS level functionality. There's no way that a third party can have access to the totality of APIs and other security related aspects of iOS in order to do full time parental control throughout the OS. And I tried Mobicip early on. It was woefully inadequate due to the various OS limitations.
 

ghanwani

macrumors 68000
Dec 8, 2008
1,612
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Is this a case of "no smoke without fire" or a case of "all smoke and no fire"?
 

Dave-Z

macrumors 6502a
Jun 26, 2012
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some developers and companies believe that Apple's own apps, features, and services have a significant advantage over third-party apps.
The developers and companies believe it because it's true. Apple's own stuff does have advantages over third-parties'. The way MacRumors presents this is as though it's an opinion; it's not, it's fact. Whether it's right or wrong is another matter.

because they were using Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology for device monitoring, which is not what MDM was designed for.
Imagine using mobile device management to, you know, manage a device. Of course I get what Apple's saying, and I understand that some third parties were exploiting this, but Apple's approach to these situations is far too heavy handed. They give Facebook a free pass time and time again but indie developers get nothing of the sort.
 

Winni

macrumors 68040
Oct 15, 2008
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Germany.
I would use only them, glad they included it with iOS and Mac
Said 900 million Internet Explorer users...
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This is really an OS level functionality. There's no way that a third party can have access to the totality of APIs and other security related aspects of iOS in order to do full time parental control throughout the OS. And I tried Mobicip early on. It was woefully inadequate due to the various OS limitations.
Ah. And there we are right at the point where an anti-trust case against Apple is fully justified. They rightfully barbecued Microsoft over these practices back in the 1990s, and there is absolutely no reason why Apple should get away with doing the exact same thing.
 
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H2SO4

macrumors 601
Nov 4, 2008
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The whole story was what MS didn't do---allow access/integration for other browsers besides IE. With Macs/iOS you can install others.
What level of integration, cos bear in mind that Apple doesn't allow complete integration either, (except for Apple products of course)?
 

JimmyHook

macrumors 6502a
Apr 7, 2015
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If those companies don’t like it, they should make a successful smartphone. Getting mad at Apple for “Sherlocking” is ridiculous. How can a government reasonably tell a private company that they aren’t allowed to develop features? Some say Apple shouldn’t play in the App Store. Fine... but they’ll still distribute new apps as selectable downloads in iOS as a workaround
 
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randyhudson

macrumors 6502
Oct 28, 2007
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There are no other apps that do what screen time does. 3rd-party apps have no knowledge of what other apps are installed on the phone, much less how long they have been running, or the ability to prevent another app from being used.

What mobicip is is a VPN that captures all Internet traffic from your family's devices and sends that traffic off to who knows where.
 

mtngoatjoe

macrumors regular
Jun 10, 2008
239
34
This case smells...

I think you missed the point, Microsoft got fined over including internet Explorer, so why not Apple...

There's a whole story to it, not going into it here.
Wow. Talk about totally missing the point of the fines leveled against Microsoft. Let's review...
  1. The problem with Internet Explorer was the MS made it incompatible with the HTML standard. And because it was the default browser, web developers had to write special code to be compatible with IE. This lead to developers writing code ONLY for IE. It was great for MS, but bad for everyone else.
  2. The problems with IE were only part of the pattern from MS. The bigger issue was the monopoly abuse they used to force computer manufacturers to only sell computers with Windows.
Is any of that the same as Apple telling app developers they can't have full access to EVERYTHING ona minor's device? I don't think so.
 

PinkyMacGodess

macrumors 601
Mar 7, 2007
4,435
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Midwest America.
Looks like someone is after Mr. Apple. RUN AWAY!!!
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Wow. Talk about totally missing the point of the fines leveled against Microsoft. Let's review...
  1. The problem with Internet Explorer was the MS made it incompatible with the HTML standard. And because it was the default browser, web developers had to write special code to be compatible with IE. This lead to developers writing code ONLY for IE. It was great for MS, but bad for everyone else.
  2. The problems with IE were only part of the pattern from MS. The bigger issue was the monopoly abuse they used to force computer manufacturers to only sell computers with Windows.
Is any of that the same as Apple telling app developers they can't have full access to EVERYTHING ona minor's device? I don't think so.
Microsoft was sued because Internet Exploder also KILLED most of the competition, or really tried hard to. It was an 'antitrust' violation. (I think that might be why Apple doesn't supply the usual 'free' apps they do on the iPhone.)

Microsoft was basically sued for 'wagging the industry' with their browser on their operating system. They did everything they could to kill Netscape Navigator, and were also caught using proprietary API's in their Office suite that they were denying other vendors. (But then the 'winds of power shifted on DeeCee, and they were pretty much given a slap on the wrist, but it did help level the playing field somewhat) In the end, Netscape died anyway, for a variety of reasons (Microsoft still played a role, but Novell did too), but at least there was some sunlight shown on the whole mess.
 
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