Apple defends App Store against developer backlash, says it ‘welcomes competition’

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Apple has launched a public relations campaign to counter claims that it uses the App Store to gain an edge over competitors. 

Ahead of next week's annual Apple WWDC developer conference, the iPhone maker is pushing the message that it really does support competition in its online shopfront for iOS apps. 

In March, music-streaming service Spotify filed a complaint with the European Commission accusing Apple of tweaking App Store rules to "purposely limit choice and stifle innovation", while, in late 2018, Netflix canned iTunes as an option for new users to pay for the video streaming service. Apple and Google take 15 percent of in-app subscription purchases.  

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Apple boasts that "developers have earned more than $120 billion worldwide" from selling on the App Store since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs unveiled it in 2008 alongside the iPhone 3G.  

The company, which hopes to make more of its services business in future amid sluggish iPhone sales, also says that "84% of apps are free, and developers pay nothing to Apple".

And Apple adds it has created over a million jobs in Europe, where regulators have the clout to land tech firms with sizeable antitrust fines, recently ordering Google to pay €1.49bn.

"Since the launch of the App Store, an entire industry has been built around app design and development, generating over 1,500,000 U.S. jobs and over 1,570,000 jobs across Europe," Apple says. 

Apple insists its App Store is "fair", allowing developers to set their own "price tiers", with commissions that are only collected once an app is delivered to users. 

Apple's message follows criticism from Phillip Shoemaker, the former head of Apple's third-party app reviews. In a Medium post on Tuesday, Shoemaker detailed the competitive conflicts Apple has dealt with since launching the App Store.

"Over the years, Apple has struggled with using the App Store as a weapon against competitors. Apps like Google Voice and Rhapsody had very difficult times getting through the App Store process, mainly because they were the first of their kind — and Apple just didn't know how to respond," wrote Shoemaker.   

"Given my experience, I completely understand the complaints from companies like Tidal, Spotify and Netflix. For each category of the App Store, I am certain that there are hundreds of these types of Apple competitors in the store, and they are all rightfully worried about fair treatment," he continued. 

Apple highlights a number of iOS apps available in the App Store that compete with apps that ship with the iPhone, such as alternatives to Apple Calendar, like Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook. Snapchat, Moment and Instagram are rivals to the Apple Camera app, while iCloud competitors include Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive, according to Apple. 

Apple Music subscription rivals include Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube Music, while Apple TV rivals include Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, Hulu and Netflix. 

"We're always learning, and trying to make the App Store experience better for customers and developers by offering the best apps. And this commitment has never wavered," Apple said.