Apple knew controversial privacy changes could cost it billions

App Store on iPhone
(Image credit: iMore)

It's no secret that Apple makes billions of dollars yearly on its iconic App Store. However, it might surprise you that the iPhone maker could be making much more if it weren't for Phil Schiller.

According to The Information (opens in new tab), Schiller has taken a cautious approach regarding app promotion since taking over the App Store from Eddy Cue in 2016. The results have been a series of decisions that "balance what's best for developers, users and Apple's reputation, which can sometimes conflict."

Schiller, who joined Apple in 1987, was the company's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. He currently leads the App Store and Apple Events and is an Apple Fellow. 

A hands-on style

The App Store, which paid developers $60 billion on its way to generating record revenue in 2021, has seen a lot of changes in recent years. In 2020, for example, Apple implemented App Tracking Transparency, requiring apps such as Facebook to seek permission before collecting user data. It's the type of decision stakeholders have come to expect from Schiller — for better or worse. 

The new feature, which gives App Store users more control over their data, was heavily criticized by some app developers when it was first implemented. There was also criticism within some corners of Apple. Long-time executive Carson Oliver, for example, from Apple's business management team, told Schiller the move would cost the App Store billions of dollars in revenue. 

Phil Schiller

(Image credit: Apple)

As The Information explains, Oliver felt this would cause advertisers to "(pull back) on spending on iOS apps, which in turn drove traffic to other iOS apps, and shifted to other platforms like Google's Android, where they could measure the impact of their ads more accurately."

Even though Oliver has become an influential force at Apple and regularly updates CEO Tim Cook on App Store's business, Schiller would have none of it. As noted by a person with direct knowledge of the matter, Schiller felt the privacy feature was the right thing to do for users.

There are also instances where Schiller has sought compromise with the business development team regarding the apps Apple promotes on the Store. For example, first-person shooter and social casino games have been scrutinized over the years. In each case, Schiller's thinking has likely led to less revenue for the company.

An Apple spokesman told The Information revenue has never been a primary goal of App Store editorial decisions.

Apple is often criticized for the enormous revenue it generates each year. But, at least with the App Store, clear decisions have been made that limit that revenue. In doing so, it has better protected its customers and still makes lots of money every year, mainly because of Schiller. 

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.