The Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit ended this week with, as expected, a big win for Apple. For all Epic’s complaints about Apple’s control over the App Store and payments to developers, the law was on Apple’s side. But the headlines were all about the one part Apple didn’t win.
As the Verge explains:
[Judge] Gonzalez Rogers concludes that Apple doesn’t monopolize mobile gaming. But the company does violate California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) through its anti-steering rules: policies that restrict developers from telling users they can buy digital goods outside Apple’s ecosystem.
So Apple will soon have to stop forcing developers to use Apple’s payment processing system for in-app purchases. Developers could instead link to a website to charge for in-app content instead, and potentially avoid giving Apple a cut of the sale.
That sounds like a big deal - but there are a couple of reasons it might not be:
- Apple’s payment system is far easier to use than any web-based system is likely to be, because you can use Apple Pay with face recognition to pay in an instant. Even if they’re offered a discount, will users want to log into some other payment system and enter their card details manually? Apple may still win through sheer convenience.
- Apple may still be able to charge commission on transactions that don’t go through its own system. From the ruling:
The Court presumes that in such circumstances that Apple may rely on imposing and utilizing a contractual right to audit developers annual accounting to ensure compliance with its commissions, among other methods. Of course, any alternatives to IAP (including the foregoing) would seemingly impose both increased monetary and time costs to both Apple and the developers.
That sounds impractical, but Apple could feasibly still do it.
So while Apple has had to give ground on one of the fundamental ways it keeps users locked into its iOS cash factory, it might not cost Apple the billions of dollars some observers have predicted
. We’ll have to wait to see how Apple implements the change, and how developers react.
In the meantime, Epic has appealed
the overall ruling against it.