EC Goes EZ on App Store IAP

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The EC goes EZ on Apple, manufacturing moves in and out of China, and a new round of developer betas.

EC Drops App Store IAP Objection, Still Objects to ‘Anti-Steering’ Provision

The European Commission seems to have softened its stance on rules imposed by Apple for music streamers in the App Store. It’s not that the Cupertino-company isn’t doing anything wrong, in the EC’s estimation. But the big problem is apparently no longer a problem. 

Set the Wayback Machine

In 2021, a piece from Engadget reminds us, the European Commission said that Apple had committed a couple of violations where third-party music streamers were concerned: Forcing the likes of Spotify, Deezer, and Tidal to use Apple’s own in-app purchase mechanism, and not letting those third-parties inform subscribers in the app that they could get a lower price by subscribing online rather than through the application. 

Those two are tied together. By forcing the streamers to use Apple’s in-app payment system, those streamers have to cut Apple in for a percentage of the subscriptions — usually 30% for the first year, then 15% for every year an individual subscription continues. That is a chunk of change. To make up for it, third-party streamers charge more for subscriptions started through the app and less for subscriptions started through their own sites or other sites. But that second rule of Apple’s, not letting streamers say in their apps that buyers could buy for less elsewhere, was seen by streamers as a hindrance. And — somewhat surprisingly — that is the rule with which the European Commission currently takes issue. 

Clarifying the EC Clarification

In a release on Tuesday, the EC updated its Statement of Objections to Apple. After saying that the Commission no longer takes a position on the legality of the in-app purchase arrangement, it does have a problem with, what it calls, Apple’s anti-steering clause. “In particular,” reads the statement:

…the Commission is concerned that the anti-steering obligations imposed by Apple on music streaming app developers prevent those developers from informing consumers about where and how to subscribe to streaming services at lower prices. These anti-steering obligations: (i) are neither necessary nor proportionate for the provision of the App Store on iPhones and iPads; (ii) are detrimental to users of music streaming services on Apple’s mobile devices who may end up paying more; and (iii) negatively affect the interests of music streaming app developers by limiting effective consumer choice.

Spotify and Apple Both Claim Victory

Ask the affected parties, and everybody’s a winner. Or, everybody claims to be a winner, anyway. After the ruling, the music streaming service Spotify issued a statement saying:

The European Commission has once again made it abundantly clear that consumers are the ultimate victims of Apple’s abusive and anticompetitive behavior—and putting a stop to it is a top priority. Apple’s anti-steering rules, which prohibit Spotify and other developers from telling consumers about deals or promotions through their own apps, mean that users are deprived of opportunities to save money and enjoy a higher quality service. That directly harms consumers. With each passing day, Apple continues to choke competition and smother innovation. The European Commission today is sending a clear message that Apple must play fair and let competition work. Momentum is on the side of consumers but they deserve final resolution—and soon.

Of course, Apple gets to keep the 30% or 15%, so it’s apparently not feeling too bad. A piece from AppleInsider had a response from the Cupertino-company, saying:

Apple will continue to work with the European Commission to understand and respond to their concerns, all the while promoting competition and choice for European consumers. We’re pleased that the Commission has narrowed its case and is no longer challenging Apple’s right to collect a commission for digital goods and require the use of the In-App Payment systems users trust. The App Store has helped Spotify become the top music streaming service across Europe and we hope the European Commission will end its pursuit of a complaint that has no merit.

Manufacturing Moves In and Out of China

Clients to GoerTek: When Can You Move Out?

Apple’s supply chain is trying to find ways out of China, while simultaneously digging deeper into it. That seemed to be the message from a couple of different stories on Tuesday. 

Looking for a way or ways out is GoerTek — so says Bloomberg (via Taipei Times). That piece has the company, which makes AirPods for Apple, “exploring locations beyond its native China…” Sounds like they’re past the exploratory stage in at least one case. GoerTek deputy chairman Kazuyoshi Yoshinaga says the company is investing US$280M in a plant in Vietnam.

For the first time in a few years, COVID does not seem to be playing a part in the slow-motion exodus. According to Bloomberg:

The expanding conflict between the US and China, which began with a trade dispute, but has since expanded to encompass sweeping bans on the exchange of chips and capital, is spurring a rethink of the electronics industry’s decades-old supply chain.

For his part, GoerTek’s Yoshinaga says he’s been beset by client visitors over the past month. Conversations with each are dominated by one question, “When can you move out?”

As for the exploratory part of the Bloomberg assertion, that may be focused on India. Regarding the subcontinent, Yoshinaga says:

We get requests from our clients almost every month. ‘Do you have any plans to expand to India?’ If they decide to build up the production lines in India, we may have to think about it seriously.

Foxconn Strengthens iPhone City Support

Perhaps looking to hedge its bets, Apple’s biggest manufacturing partner is apparently strengthening its presence in China. A piece from AppleInsider says Foxconn has secured a new parcel near its iPhone City plant in Zhengzhou. There it plans to build “smart warehouses” to support the iPhone production facility. 

Parcel makes it sound small — my bad. “The lease is for a 293-acre plot in the Zhengzhou Comprehensive Bonded Zone,” according to the report. Yes — that’s the same zone China shut down in late 2022, freezing iPhone Pro production, and ruining Apple’s Christmas. 

While pressure mounts for suppliers to spread operations beyond China’s borders, the Foxconn facility makes sense for a couple of reasons. First — iPhone city’s not going anywhere any time soon. AppleInsider says the warehouses “may help Foxconn deal with inventory at its factory, as well as its overall inventory management for sites across China.” 

Also — it might make China happy. The way AppleInsider sees it, Foxconn may be mounting the expansion to appease concerns by officials over plans by Apple and Foxconn to move manufacturing out of the Middle Kingdom. 

Second Betas of Apple OS Updates Available to Developers

Apple developers can now get their hands on the next round of OS betas. AppleInsider ran a couple of pieces Tuesday, one saying the group had access to the second developer betas iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS 16.4, as well as watchOS 9.4. The other said the same for the second beta of macOS Ventura 13.3. 

Turn the Page

Clues of a couple of upcoming features in the developer betas. Well… one returning and one upcoming. Making its way back to us, babe — page turning animation in Apple Books. 

I stopped reading books on my iPad so long ago, I did not realize this skeuomorphic feature was gone. Having missed the chance to miss it, a piece from MacRumors says the second beta of iOS 16.4 “reintroduces an option for the page turning animation.” That apparently only went away with iOS 16, replaced by “a simpler slide animation…” People missed it though, so — here we go again. 

Classical Gaslight

As for the other clue — fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again after over a year… well… A separate piece from MacRumors points to signs of life for Apple Music Classical. 

Quick recap: Apple bought the classical music streaming service Primephonic back in 2021, and silenced the service almost immediately. But it pledged to replace it with a new service in 2022. It also gave Primephonic subscribers six-months of Apple Music at no cost, leading many to expect a Primephonic replacement within half-a-year. 

Well over a year later, still nothing. Now, maybe something. The MacRumors piece says code in the iOS 16.4 developer beta actually mentions Apple Music Classical. A line in the MusicKit framework reportedly reads, “To listen in ‌Apple Music‌ Classical, you’ll need to install ‌Apple Music‌.” 

Maybe something. Maybe nothing. MacRumors says there’s no sign of an actual Apple Music Classical app in the iOS 16.4 beta.

International Women’s Day Apple Watch Challenge Set for March 8

And finally today, the next Apple Watch Activity Challenge is on the schedule, and it’s only a week away. 9to5Mac says the Cupertino-company has one planned to mark International Women’s Day. The piece has Apple encouraging potential participants, saying:

On March 8, show your support for the empowerment of women everywhere. Do any workout for 20 minutes or more to earn this award. Record your time with the Workout app or any app that adds workouts to Health.

Complete the challenge and you get a virtual medallion, as well as virtual stickers to virtually stick in various Apple apps. The challenge has not popped on watches yet, but should in the next few days. As indicated earlier, International Women’s Day this year is next Wednesday, March 8. 

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast

Facebook has a plan to help fight CSAM and revenge porn… TMO writer Nick deCourville will tell us more. Plus — a discussion around the European Commission’s App Store clarification. Catch the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.

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