Tim Cook: Without Apple curation, App Store would be a 'toxic mess'

Testifying in federal court in the Apple-Epic antitrust trial, the Apple CEO defended Apple's App Store policies

If Apple didn't curate the apps available on the iPhone via its App Store review process, it would be "terrible for the user" and for developers, Apple CEO Tim Cook argued Friday in a federal court.  

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Apple reviews about 100,000 apps a week and rejects about 40,000 for a variety of reasons he said. Without that process, it "would become a toxic mess." 

Cook added, "The developer depends on the store being a safe and trusted place where customers want to come." Without that review process, "We could no longer make the promise... of safety, security, and privacy." 

Cook was defending Apple's App Store practices against the allegations put forward by Epic Games. The gamemaker filed suit against Apple after the tech giant kicked Epic's game Fortnite off the App Store. Epic was booted from the App Store after it implemented a direct payment system for in-game currency in Fortnite, bypassing the 30 percent fee that Apple charged developers. Epic charges that Apple's actions violated antitrust laws.

Cook's appearance on Friday, before the US District Court in the Northern District of California, marked the CEO's first time testifying in court. 

The Apple-Epic case began on May 3. Earlier this week, a series of other Apple executives took the stand. App Store boss Phil Schiller emphasized the App Store was focused on security and privacy. In a continuation of that discussion on Wednesday, Apple's head of software engineering Craig Federighi told a court in California that Apple found current levels of Mac malware "unacceptable."

Cook's testimony added to Apple's narrative that its App Store policies are designed largely to keep its devices secure. 

"Privacy from our point of view is one of the most important issues of the century," Cook said. "Safety and security are the foundation" of privacy. 

Epic is arguing that Apple has violated antitrust laws by maintaining a complete monopoly over the distribution of apps on iOS devices and using that monopoly to extract fees from developers. More specifically, Epic wrote in its court filing, Apple uses its monopoly to "coerce app developers into using Apple's payment platform, In-App Purchase ('IAP') for all in-app purchases of digital content used in their apps. By tying IAP to app distribution, Apple eliminates all competition in the market for in-app payment processing, allowing it to impose an exorbitant 30% 'app tax' on all in-app purchases of in-app content."

Apple's 30 percent fee currently applies to developers that make at least $1 million in yearly revenue. 

If Apple didn't insist on developers using IAP, it would be a "huge convenience issue" for users, Cook argued on Friday. They would have to input their credit card credentials "numerous times," he said, creating not only an inconvenience but also an opportunity for more fraud. 

Furthermore, Cook argued, "We'd have to come up with an alternate way to collect commission. I strongly believe IAP is the most efficient way."