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Apple defends its controlling approach in third week of Epic trial

During the third week of the Epic-Apple trial, Apple executives have portrayed their company as a benevolent and helpful gatekeeper to iPhone users and app developers.

Why it matters: It’s been Apple’s turn to present its side in a trial that will determine whether its restrictions on its app store are illegally monopolistic.

  • Week 1 was all about Epic’s side and mostly consisted of Epic management asserting that Apple was overly controlling and inconsistent about how it restricts games vs. other apps.
  • Week 2 featured testimony from industry and economics experts about  the issues at hand.

The week started with Apple fellow and former head of marketing Phil Schiller defending iOS app store practices…

  • … including letting developers advertise against the search terms of other apps (Schiller’s take: it helps smaller developers get attention).
  • … and “anti-steering” restrictions that limit developers’ ability to tell app users they can leave the app — and Apple’s ecosystem — to go to websites to buy virtual goods and currencies for potentially lower prices (Schiller’s take: the restrictions mostly impact new users).
  • Overall, he said, Apple’s control of the app store and approval power over content within it provides users a more secure experience.

Epic’s lawyers countered midweek, presenting Schiller and other Apple as stewards of a company facing global regulatory pressure over its market power.

  • Epic pushed Apple’s control as meddlesome and at times ineffectual, demonstrating in one colorful trial moment that Apple’s vaunted content checks don’t preclude someone from downloading TikTok and finding sexualized content.

Discussion about steering app users to websites as a way to get around Apple’s limits has come up repeatedly and has prompted questions from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

  • Last week, an Apple expert struggled to demonstrate how a “Candy Crush Saga” player could dip out of the game, buy virtual currency from a website, and jump back into the game to use it.
  • This week, an Apple exec brought a video demonstration of themselves doing that in the virtual card game “Hearthstone.”
  • Epic’s witnesses and lawyers have argued that this is inconvenient for consumers and an insufficient workaround to avoid Apple’s limits.

What’s next: Apple is expected to conclude its side of the case tomorrow when it calls company CEO Tim Cook to testify.

  • Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, though it’s unclear when Judge Rogers will issue a verdict.

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