What you need to know
- A Bloomberg report outlines how Apple's first-party apps give it an advantage over third-party app makers.
- It now includes 38 pre-installed apps in new iPhones.
- The report does point out Android devices do the same thing.
Since Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, it has included some of its own apps that served to round out the experience out of the box. In more recent years, however, that has given Apple an edge over third-party app makers that could put it in antitrust violations.
In a new report by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, he lays out how space in a smartphone has become a valuable commodity. But it wasn't until recently that Apple really made its own push in that space as it created more first-party apps that come in direct competition with many third-party apps.
Being a default app on the world's best-selling smartphone is valuable because consumers are subtly coaxed and prodded into using this more-established software rather than alternatives. For example, Safari is the iPhone's default web browser, so when a user clicks a link to a website, it will automatically open there, even if other browsers are on the handset.
Bloomberg notes that in 2007, the iPhone only came with 17 pre-installed apps. Now it comes with 38 pre-installed apps. It goes on to compare iOS to Microsoft of the 1990's when it actively tried to shut down web browsers that went up against Internet Explorer.
To be clear, there is no evidence Apple is trying to do that. But in pushing its apps first, that sets up an environment where most users will settle to using Apple Maps or Safari as opposed to downloading apps like Waze or Google Chrome.
Apple is fighting back against this narrative.
Apple said new iPhones come with in-house default apps to create a seamless user experience, while improving performance, battery life, security and privacy. "We have also created the App Store, the safest place to get apps, so customers can choose from millions of apps to find the ones that further enhance their iPhone," a company spokesman wrote in a statement. "In the few categories where Apple also has an app, we have many successful competitors."
It's also worth noting that Apple isn't the only one doing it. Bloomberg notes that Google ships the Pixel device with 30 pre-installed apps while Android devices come with Google's apps as well. Google was fined 4.3 billion euros by European antitrust regulators. The big difference is that with Android devices you can change default apps to non-Google ones but you can't do that on iPhones.
This is a deep conversation about antitrust competition in smartphones that not only involves Apple but companies like Google and Samsung as well. Bloomberg's piece goes into much more detail and warrants a read.