Tech

Apple Manipulates the App Store to Boost Its Own Products

Apple Manipulates the App Store to Boost Its Own Products

Armed with years of data, the Times pointed out that back in September 2013, searching for "music" in the App Store would usually result in music streamer Spotify showing up first with another streaming app, Pandora, number seven. This seeks to address complaints that the company unfairly uses the App Store to promote its own apps in favor of competition. The question is whether it's enough for antitrust action. The problem, as you might guess, is that users would frequently tap on Apple's titles - sometimes because they were looking for the preinstalled apps on their phones, company engineers said. It then provides those products at lower prices than those of competitors because its business is buttressed by Wall Street's generosity (no profits necessary) and cash-cow side hustles, including Amazon Web Services and its growing media business-on that same platform.

This accusation is not unlike what Google has been accused of by critics and competitors, who say the search engine favors its own content or properties in organic results. Even popular apps such as Netflix, Spotify, and Stitcher would often appear dozens of spots deep in the search results. In my anecdotal experience, Apple regularly features apps that it directly competes with (which is, to be clear, good and commendable), but it also promotes itself, leveling the playing field nearly immediately upon an Apple program's introduction.

In an interview with the New York Times, top Apple executives Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue explained some of the logic behind Apple's algorithm and how it was causing these skewed results, defending the behaviour as being correct, but also admitting that despite this working well for the App Store at large, it also had the unintended side-effect of moving Apple's own apps to the top positions. Also, most of the first-party apps have basic names like Music and Podcasts, so they get a preference if you search for relevant terms. That was by design, but with Apple Music getting all the love, Apple's apps appeared everywhere.

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The issue lies in the fact that by pushing its own apps to the top of search results, Apple was able to potentially influence how many of its own apps were downloaded by customers.

The executives said the company did not manually alter search results to benefit itself. On July 12th, many Apple app's rankings dropped sharply after the change.

The App Store has been a lucrative source of revenue for third-party app developers. "We'll present results based on what we think the user wants". The odds that Apple intentionally chose its apps to rank first is highly unlikely. "It's improved", said Cue.