WestSide Story

Apple: Time to Play Fair

Shay Harris

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Apple requires certain apps to pay a 30 percent fee in order to have access to their in-app purchase system. However, this rule is not applied to every app available on the app store. Uber Deliveroo, Apple Music and several other apps do not have to pay the 30 percent fee, and have access to in-app purchase services.

In order for Spotify to continue to have their streaming available to apple devices, Spotify has two choices:  to use Apple’s payment system while being forced to pay the 30 percent, or to reject the tax but limit communications. Since Apple’s music service doesn’t have to pay, Spotify cannot be price competitive if it pays the 30 percent. The other option limits the ways they can communicate with Spotify users about deals and promotions, like the offer to get three months of Premium for 99 cents. In fact, if Spotify doesn’t pay the tax, they can’t promote their service with the “Get Premium” slogan or provide information on how/when/where to upgrade.  

Even if users want to upgrade from the Free service to Premium, Apple bars Spotify from offering that option through app, but instead forcing users to take multiple steps of going to a browser or desktop. As Spotify says in their ‘Time to Play Fair’ video directed toward Apple, “They set themselves up to be referee and player.” Another issue that Spotify and Apple users run into is that Siri is not cooperative with Spotify, and HomePod and Apple watches don’t work with the streaming service.

If Spotify chooses not to use IAP (the only payment option on iOS), Apple, in return, bars them from communicating directly with customers who access Spotify via Apple platforms. Apple also doesn’t allow Spotify to promote deals. They don’t even allow Spotify to email offers after customers register their accounts, claiming Spotify is circumventing their rules.

Apple thinks that the Spotify app doesn’t abide by their restrictions, therefore, it routinely rejects bug fixes and app enhancements that would improve user experience and the app’s functionality. And of course, Apple never puts any obstacles in front of its own Apple Music app.

Apple has also routinely rejected and delayed upgrades and enhancements to the Spotify app that are developed to improve functionality and customers’ experience. Importantly, they put none of these roadblocks in front of their own music service.

For companies big and small, competition doesn’t work unless everyone has a fair chance. Apple once operated as if vibrant and fair competition for customers was the best business strategy. Unfortunately, their actions indicate Apple no longer believes that — to the unfair and unlawful detriment of Spotify and their customers.

Apple has intentionally made it worse and worse for Spotify and other app developers. And it’s unnecessary: there is enough market potential for numerous companies to thrive in this space. While some students aren’t aware of the feud between Spotify and Apple Music, those who do know about the situation have strong opinions. “I use Apple Music anyway, so the restrictions that have been put on Spotify don’t apply to me. I think everyone who has an iPhone should switch to Apple Music anyway because it’s more user friendly.” Myleigh Brink(11). Although a lot of students are pro-Apple, many students agree with Spotify and why they are so upset about this matter. “Even though I have and iPhone, I have always preferred Spotify, and the fact that users can’t upgrade to Premium through their phone is completely unfair. This whole situation just makes me like Spotify even more.” Faith Davis (12).

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Apple: Time to Play Fair