Press "Enter" to skip to content

Google’s moves could help, then hurt, Apple’s app store battle

Epic’s efforts to coerce Apple to allow it to use alternative forms of payments and even establish its own store on iOS have gotten off to a poor start in the legal arena with a judge opining that Epic acted dishonestly in activating a hidden feature in the iOS version of Fortnite. To my lay eyes, Epic’s legal case against Apple seems weak. But Epic’s lawsuit was never the main way it sought to try to bring about app store change. It is a backdrop, a warm-up to spur regulatory intervention, a move it is supporting through an industry coalition, and PR offensive. Leave it to the developer of Fortnite to launch an assault on an enemy from all angles.

But enemies can often force strange bedfellows Such is the case for Apple and Google. While the two have not launched a coordinated response to Epic’s claims, they share common interests in terms of first-party app store control. That’s been made clear by Google cracking down on in-app payments, a move that helps reinforce Apple’s position as an industry norm.

However, a major difference between Android and iOS is that Android, even when outfitted with Google Mobile Services such as the Play Store that define the Android experience for users outside of China, is open to other app stores. In the past, this has required the user to change a setting that invokes a warning about potential security implications, which of course acts as a disincentive.

However, Google is planning to ease the process in Android 12. If Android can support multiple app stores without succumbing to an inordinate number of security and privacy fiascos, that could lend stronger evidence to groups like Epic’s coalition that Apple could allow multiple app stores that forced compromises to Apple’s bottom line but not its platform’s safety.