Apple has defended its App Store as a fundamental element of its privacy efforts as the digital download hub faces down numerous legal complaints.
Apple’s App Store is the sole means of downloading both free and paid-for apps for its iOS and iPadOS systems for iPhone and iPad, and is subject to significantly more rigorous standards than Google’s Play Store.
The company is being sued for £1.5bn in a class action lawsuit filed in the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London this week, which has accused the App Store of charging “excessive and unlawful” fees.
The legal action takes issue with the 30 per cent commission Apple charges on app sales, which Apple claims is meritless.
Apple is also currently facing antitrust charges from the European Commission, which claimed the App Store’s policies had violated EU competition rules and that the 30 per cent fee had been passed on in the form of higher prices to consumers.
The UK’s competition watchdog opened its own probe into the Store in March, which will consider whether Apple has a dominant position for distributing apps to its devices in the UK, and if it imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers.
US gamemaker Epic sued Apple for banning its wildly popular game Fortnite from the App Store in August last year in another antitrust case that opened last week.
Jane Horvath, Apple’s chief privacy officer, said the privacy controls and measures the company implemented into its systems and hardware was strengthened by the way the App Store operates.
“At Apple we’ve always believed that your data belongs to you, and no one but you. That’s why we’re dedicated to helping you safeguard your privacy, and to keep your data under your control,” she told i.
“These privacy protections would not be so strong if it weren’t for our approach to the App Store.”
While some developers have begged Apple to introduce other means of adding apps to devices besides the App Store, known as sideloading, the company maintains the Store is the best means of ensuring app quality control.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, recently told the New York Times podcast Sway that of the 100,000 apps submitted for review on any given week, 40,000 are rejected for either not working or failing to do what they claimed to do.
Mr Cook said: “I think somebody has to curate, right? Because users aren’t going to come there and buy things if they don’t have trust and confidence in the store. And we think our users want that.
“If you had sideloading, you would break the privacy and security model.”
Similarly, sideloading apps onto iPhones and iPads would bypass the devices’ security precautions, Ms Horvath said.
Sideloading typically refers to a media file transfer to a mobile device via USB, Bluetooth, WiFi or by writing to a memory card for insertion into the mobile device.
Ms Horvath said: “The App Store provides a simple secure place for users to add apps to their iOS device.
“If software could be sideloaded from outside of the App Store on the iOS platform, it would eliminate the layered safety protections users currently enjoy from both the app review process and the on-device protections engineered into the iPhone.”
The App Store prevented more than $1.5bn in potentially fraudulent transactions from taking place last year thanks to both AI processes and human expertise, the company announced on Tuesday.
More than 215,000 apps were rejected for privacy violations, while 150,000 were prevented from making it onto the platform for being spam, copycats or misleading to users.