THE Apple is the subject of an antitrust investigation in the USA, and one of the key points is its full control over the App Store: Developers need to pay a fee of up to 30% if they want to charge for apps on the platform. The company responded to several questions from the US House Judiciary Committee on this matter, and explained why it does not allow changing the Safari as the default browser.
In the letter, Apple notes that it receives zero dollars from 84% of apps on the App Store. This includes free apps with ads (always provided by other companies, like Google or Facebook); apps that sell goods and services such as food delivery (iFood) and car trips (Uber); and apps whose subscription is made outside (Netflix).
To defend itself against monopoly accusations, Apple says developers are not required to put their apps on the App Store: they can provide services via webapps. (It does not mention that the experience is often less than that of a native app.)
Apple also gives reasons to restrict certain functionality to system apps only; for example, only the Apple Watch app can access iMessage messages, Siri commands and responses to third-party apps (like WhatsApp).
The company says that this reflects design and development decisions, not business decisions: “Integrated development – the marriage of hardware, software and services – results in the best products… it would be difficult, if not impossible, to offer the same level of access to third parties ”.
Safari “defines the user experience,” says Apple
For a similar reason, Safari cannot be removed from iOS. It is deeply integrated into the system; removing or replacing it would “destroy or severely degrade the functionality of the device”. It is possible, however, to choose alternatives on the App Store such as Chrome, Microsoft Edge or Firefox.
Of course, they all run on the same WebKit engine. According to Apple, this is crucial to “protecting user privacy and security”: it says that, in this way, it is possible to “resolve loopholes quickly and accurately for our entire user base”.
And why is it not possible to choose the default web browser on iOS? According to the company, “Safari is one of the applications that Apple believes to define the core user experience”. In addition, it is designed to work in conjunction with the system, such as the Camera and Messaging apps.