Apple vs DOJ antitrust trial: Everything you need to know – updated March 21, 2024

Apple antitrust trial

UPDATE: The DOJ has officially issued an antitrust lawsuit against Apple now, on March 21, as the trial is about to begin. You can find more information about the new developments at the very end of the article. The body of the article remains unchanged.

Apple is about to follow in Google’s footsteps, kind of. Apple, much like Google, is about to be the subject of an antitrust lawsuit from the DOJ (Department of Justice). Google’s trial wrapped up in mid-November, and Apple’s is about to start in March. Well, it will start in March is DOJ’s most senior antitrust officials sign off on it, as that didn’t happen just yet. The timing could slip if that doesn’t happen soon.

There are many differences between Google’s and Apple’s antitrust lawsuits, of course. Google is about to find out the results of its trial later this year, while Apple’s trial is right around the corner. In this article, we’ll give you more information about it, and also update you on the happenings from the courtroom when the time comes.

The article will be updated regularly with new developments, once the trial starts. You’ll be able to find the updated content at the very end.

Why is it happening?

Why is the DOJ suing Apple? Well, the Cupertino giant is accused of “imposing software and hardware limitations on its iPhones and iPads in order to impede rivals from effectively competing”. That’s a direct quote from Bloomberg’s Leah Nylen, and it perfectly explains the reason for this lawsuit. There were a number of instances in which Apple did something like that, that’s not a secret, but the point is… was the company right to do it? That’s one of the questions this trial will have to answer.

What prompted the lawsuit?

Well, it seems like the DOJ has been considering doing this for a while now, but several more recent happenings pushed things over the edge. Spotify Technology SA raised some concerns regarding Apple’s practices. The same goes for Bluetooth tracker Life360 Inc.’s Tile, and also a messaging service Beeper, which was all over the news recently. Beeper got blocked by Apple several times in a couple of days, after the company attempted to offer access to iMessage to users who don’t own an iPhons, iPad or Mac.

What is Apple’s stance?

Apple did have something to say regarding this lawsuit. The company claims that there are no grounds for it. Apple said it does not hold a monopoly in any market. The company did not go into more detail, though. Apple simply rejected the allegations.

Who exactly is suing Google?

The Justice Department aka the Department of Justice (DOJ) is behind the lawsuit. It is worth noting that the lawsuit may not occur on time. The most senior DOJ officials still haven’t signed off on it, at least at the time of writing this article. So, the lawsuit is expected to occur in March, but the timing could be changed.

Is this a matter of perspective?

Well, there are a lot of factors to consider here. In Google’s case, for example, the antitrust lawsuit was about the market dominance of Google Search, as Google holds the vast majority of the market, both globally and in the US. That lawsuit attempted to get to the bottom of things and figure out Google’s wrongdoings in keeping that market share. In Apple’s case, we’re talking about something else entirely. We’re talking about the company’s control over its ecosystem, in a way. Apple is doing things in a certain way, and in the process of it, it’s preventing companies of taking advantage of certain services. The best example is what happened with Beeper, though that’s just a drop in the ocean. There will be a lot to uncover during the trial.

When did this all start?

We cannot pinpoint the exact time the DOJ became interested in this lawsuit. However, Apple’s practices have been around for a long time. Apple has been both scrutinized and sued over its allegedly anticompetitive practices in the past. Spotify sent in a complaint back in 2019, in the EU, over Apple’s then-mandatory in-app payments system. The company has also been in civil litigation with Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, over Apple’s App Store rules. Those are just a couple of examples. So the “problems” have been around for a long time, and at some point, the DOJ decided to take action.

What’s at stake for Apple?

This antitrust lawsuit could force Apple to open up more toward other companies. In other words, to open up its software offerings to other companies, mainly iOS. That will likely be the case if Apple loses the lawsuit, as that’s the main topic of it. The DOJ will try to ensure that Apple removes some of the hardware and software limitations. Limitations it has been relying on for years. That would be interesting to see, but it remains to be seen if it will happen or not.

What’s Apple’s plan of defense?

Apple will clearly try to prove that it doesn’t hold a monopoly in any way, shape or form. Regarding how the company plans to do that, well, that remains to be seen. Apple was tight-lipped on this whole ordeal thus far. Not even the date of the trial has been confirmed at the time of writing this article. Apple will likely have more to say after that happens. It will probably want to release some sort of detailed statement. On the other hand, this is Apple we’re talking about, the company may end up saving everything for the courtroom.

How long will the trial last?

This information is still not available at the time of writing the article. At this point, we don’t even know the exact date when it will start, let alone when will it end. Once the date gets confirmed, the duration of the trial could be revealed. Alternatively, we may have to wait a bit longer after that, but we’ll know for sure before the trial starts. It should not last more than a month or two, though, if we had to guess based on other antitrust cases we’ve seen thus far. In fact, we expect it to last either around the same time as Google’s antitrust trial, or be a bit shorter than that.

Updated on March 21, 2024:

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has officially announced a lawsuit against Apple today. It alleges that Apple created and maintained a smartphone “monopoly” by locking customers into its ecosystem. The lawsuit also alleges that it made experiences worse for rival products and platforms, like messaging for Android, for example. It is said that the “iPhone ecosystem” is an illegal monopoly built at the expense of developers, rival phone makers, and Apple’s customers. Apple’s practices with other products were also mentioned in the lawsuit, including the Apple Watch, FaceTime, browsers, advertising, and more.

In a statement to The Verge, the government issued several ways Apple maintained its monopoly. It said that Apple disrupted “super apps”, which include a number of different programs.  Those programs could degrade “iOS stickiness”. Apple is accused of blocking cloud-streaming apps for things like video games that would lower the need for more expensive hardware. Suppressing the quality of messaging between the iPhone and competing platforms is also listed. The DOJ also listed limiting the functionality of third-party smartwatches with iPhones, and making it harder for Apple Watch users to switch from the iPhone. On top of everything, the Cupertino giant is accused of blocking third-party developers from creating competing digital wallets for the iPhone. Read more about the lawsuit itself here.

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