Inside Apple - May 13th, 2019

Inside Apple (May 13th, 2019)

Supreme Court allows App Store suit / China trade threats / Apple dodges FaceTime eavesdropping bug

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$AAPL (1:27 PM EDT May 13): $185.48 (-5.93%) // More info

1. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed an antitrust suit against Apple’s App Store to proceed. Plaintiffs (on behalf of app purchasers everywhere) allege that Apple’s exclusion of app stores and payment methods it doesn’t control is anti-competitive, and that apps would be less expensive otherwise. Apple has tried to argue that only “direct purchasers” of goods can bring antitrust suits, and that it’s merely an intermediary between users and third-party developers. This ruling rejects that idea and establishes that App Store purchases are, in essence, a transaction between customers and Apple itself. It’s a surprising development, since this court has tended to side with corporations, but mistrust of Apple’s dominance seems to cross ideological lines. — CNBC

2. By the numbers: Whether its rules are fair or not, Apple’s App Store is a humongous business — for Apple, at least. What about for the developers who actually make the apps, though? Here are three recent stats to paint a picture:

  • Total App Store developer earnings in 2018: $34 billion [source]
  • Average app price as of May 2019: $0.88 [source]
  • Growth in number of available apps as of Q1 2019: -3.63% [source]

So apps make a lot of money for developers on the whole, but the number of apps available is declining, and the average price is stuck about as low as it could go above $0. Would apps really be cheaper if Apple didn’t maintain exclusive control over selling them? Impossible. But the App Store might be a better, fairer place if developers were allowed to keep a bigger share of the winnings.

3. Apple devices aren’t swept up in the latest trade tensions between the U.S. and China, but there’s a big risk of that happening. Last week, President Trump threatened a tariff of 25% on $325 billion in Chinese imports that haven’t been taxed so far, including Apple gadgets. “Build your products in the United States and there are NO TARIFFS!”, the president tweeted. As if this situation weren’t perilous enough for Apple, China could retaliate with taxes on Chinese iPhone sales, which account for 7.4% of its smartphone market. After a serious collapse in Q1, iPhone sales in China are recovering, but the trade war could badly complicate things. — WALL STREET JOURNAL

4. Apple released iOS and tvOS 12.3 today. This version contains the updated TV app announced at Apple’s March event, which brings better personalized recommendations and the new à la carte subscriptions for “Channels” like HBO, CBS All Access, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and others. Apple also released watchOS 5.2.1 and macOS 10.14.5, which contain security and bugfixes. — MACRUMORS

5. Apple has won a lawsuit against it over the horrible FaceTime bug in January that enabled callers to remotely listen in on people, even if the call wasn’t picked up. The court rejected the argument that the FaceTime vulnerability was “unreasonably dangerous,” and it found insufficient evidence that Apple was aware of the defect or could have reasonably foreseen how it could be exploited. — MACRUMORS

6. Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf got $3.5 million bonus for settling with Apple. Other members of Qualcomm’s executive team received bonuses as well. The multi-billion dollar back-and-forth over how (and how much) Qualcomm charges for use of its mobile networking IP clogged up courts for years and chilled relations between Qualcomm and its biggest customer. Clearly, Qualcomm’s Compensation Committee thinks the deal worked out well. — CNBC

7. A Chinese-Taiwanese investment group has delayed its planned ¥80 billion ($729.33 million) bailout of Japan Display, an ailing Apple screen supplier. Between slowing iPhone sales and Apple’s switch to organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology, Japan Display is in trouble. This group would become Japan Display’s largest shareholder, and its hesitation threatens the company’s survival in hopes of a better deal. — REUTERS

8. An Idaho judge has ruled that law enforcement can’t force you to unlock your phone with TouchID only days after a Massachusetts judge ruled that they can. — FAST COMPANY

9. Apple has created a new Today at Apple session at its stores to teach basic podcasting skills. — 9TO5MAC

10. Snapthread, an indie iOS app for stitching photos, Live Photos, and videos together into nostalgic slideshows has reached version 2.0, adding filters and support for image rotation. — SNAPTHREAD

Jon Mitchell has been a tech journalist since 2010. He covered Apple, Google, and the societal effects of social media for the storied blog ReadWriteWeb (now ReadWrite). He co-hosts Internet Friends, a podcast about life online with occasional lengthy digressions into Apple news. He’s the author of In Real Life: Searching for Connection in High-Tech Times from Parallax Press. He has recently, reticently returned to Twitter at @ablaze.

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside); Susmita Baral (senior editor at Inside, who runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram); and David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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