Apple's App Store dilemma & the outside forces

Oh, and let's not forget about Google Play Store.

👋 Welcome to FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.

In this edition

  • Apple’s App Store troubles

  • Facebook and Ray-Ban’s smart glasses leak before launch

  • Marvel's "Shang-Chi" earned $90m

What’s going on with Apple’s App Store and where is the app economy heading?

It’s been a couple of eventful weeks with many App Store changes that Apple itself was possibly not happy about since they break the status quo a little bit.

Let’s briefly take a look at what happened first:

  1. Apple will let developers use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS app (source)

    • In 2019, a group of developers brought a lawsuit against the company, which was recently settled with $100m and a change in rules - developers are now able to reach out to users and tell them to use different payment methods other than via Apple’s App Store.

  2. South Korea passes app store payments law proposal (source)

    • The new law basically says Apple and Google must allow developers to use other payment systems

    • The bill still has to be signed into law by President Moon Jae-in but is expected to go smoothly as his party championed the legislation

  3. Apple agrees to allow “Reader Apps” to link to external account maintenance interfaces, including payments (source)

    • In a settlement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission, reader apps (such as Netflix, Spotify, Audible and Dropbox, also news apps) on Apple’s App Store can include (beginning in 2022) a link outside the app where a user can buy a subscription for the app

    • This is a big change (not huge, as it is still not allowed for example for games which bring in the most money for the App Store)

And that’s just the beginning. Apple was hit with an antitrust case in India over in-app payments issues, there is still the antitrust charge from EU (because of Spotify) and the company seems to be pulling back major decisions like the controversial child protection features which Apple delayed after a privacy outcry.

Still, some analysts argue all these changes are coming too late. There is a duopoly of Apple and Google app stores that will likely stay in effect even if all those other suits are won by developers.

And there are others saying all these changes will affect the integrity of the app stores and introduce more fraudulent activity.

I don’t see a third player waiting to disrupt the app economy as it is today in effect. Yes, there is the open web and progressive web apps that are showing some interesting results, being pioneered by cloud gaming apps as they are not allowed into the App Store.

At the moment, all eyes will be set on South Korea where other payment options within apps will be allowed for developers.

Changes in reader apps won’t move the industry enough, as Netflix and Spotify are growing more slowly and already have millions of paying subscribers (outside the app payment systems).

You know that scene from 300 in the end, where Leonidas makes the god-king bleed and that is the beginning of an end for Xerxes? Well, we might be witnessing the beginning of that end.

Or, this might not be that case at all. I wish I knew, but I don’t. And I haven’t seen any smarter people who know either.

Other Apple-related news:

  • New iPhones (and will see what else) will be announced at the next Apple event on September 14th. [Apple]

  • Apple's planned VR/AR headset will need a wireless connection to an Apple device for full functionality; Apple completed work on VR/AR chips last year. [The Information]

  • Apple Inc.’s upcoming smartwatch is suffering production snags as manufacturers adjust to a new design, likely leading to supply constraints or shipment delays. [Bloomberg]

  • In another blow to the ‘Apple car’ project, Ford has hired away Apple’s car chief, Doug Field, to become its chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer. [The Verge]

😎 Facebook and Ray-Ban’s smart glasses leak before launch (happening later today). The glasses are called Ray-Ban Stories, have two cameras by the hinges on either side and a button along the top of the right temple, which could potentially be used to operate the cameras. Exact features are unclear at the time of writing this newsletter. [The Verge]

😲 What if your smartphone or laptop started charging as soon as you walked in the door? Researchers have developed a specially built room that can transmit energy to a variety of electronic devices within it, charging phones and powering home appliances without plugs or batteries. A few caveats: Delivery efficiency varied from a low of 37.1% to a high of about 90%. And you have to put aluminum sheets all over your walls. [Scientific American]

🤖 EU’s AI Act has the potential to shape policy beyond Europe’s borders and there is a lot of lobbying going on. The EU proposed rules that would restrict or ban some uses of artificial intelligence within its borders in April. Here is a good look at what’s going on in Brussels with regard to AI regulation. [Wired]

⚖️ The ongoing Theranos trial with Elizabeth Holmes might further expose some aspects of the Silicon Valley (SV) culture. SV insiders are pushing back, saying that this has nothing to do with them, but they somehow forgot how they defended Holmes at the time the first accusations came up. [Protocol]

El Salvador is the first country to use Bitcoin as an official currency, but there are already issues. First, the state digital wallet (Chivo) was not available to everyone (server issues). Only about a third of Salvadorans use the internet, and almost a quarter live below the poverty line. [NYT]

🔊 The new $399 Logi Dock from Logitech has a giant speaker, lets you connect up to five USB devices, up to two monitors and charge your laptop. It has even included a built-in noise-cancelling speakerphone that makes it easy to join meetings. [The Verge]

🤦‍♂️ An Australian court ruling makes publishers legally responsible for every idiot Facebook user who leaves a comment. That’s a literal headline, not my words, but it’s the perfect description of the situation. [NiemanLab]

👉 Misinformation on Facebook got six times more clicks than factual news during the 2020 election. I wish this was surprising, but am still sharing it as it is another study with hard data backing this theory. [WaPo]

📬 NY Times started sending out subscribers-only newsletters. More about this transition here and here.

⏩ The Washington Post launches “The 7,” a new dynamic, daily news briefing. Published each weekday at 7:00 ET and updated through 10:00. ET, it will have a section on the WaPo homepage, also available as newsletter and an audio version (read by a text-to-speech synthetic voice). This reminds me of the Yahoo News Digest, and some compare it to the Axios approach. [Digiday]

🎥 Marvel's "Shang-Chi" earned $90m over the four-day weekend, a Labor Day record. Disney has yet to announce concrete plans beyond "Shang-Chi". The industry is watching closely and based on the decision others will probably make their own moves. [BI]

1️⃣ Digest: World media on press in Afghanistan before and after the Taliban takeover. The future of the achievements of the last 20 years is unclear. Read more >

2️⃣ European publishers are making paid podcasts work. Examples from France, Germany, UK, Sweden and Poland. European publishers are exploring different paid audio strategies – from paid podcasts to paid audio versions of their articles. Read more >

3️⃣ 5 panels you should not miss on the IPI World Congress 2021. Read more >

4️⃣ Economists ask, Does advertising actually work? Groundbreaking research questions the value of this $500bn global industry. Read more >

[ 📬 Get The Fix newsletter delivered to your inbox every week with the latest insights, news, and analysis about the European media market. Sign up here > ]

🎧 25% of Germans are listening to podcasts at least once a month (+26% YoY). No.1 podcast platform is Spotify (48.5%), No.2 YouTube (44%), Apple Podcasts is No.7 (12.5%). [OAM]

🎙 Callin, a social podcasting app launched (iOS only) with David Sacks as co-founder (ex-COO of PayPal) . How is it different than Clubhouse, you ask. The live recording stays in the app ready to be made into a podcast episode. [TechCrunch]

⚙️ Spotify open sourced Pedalboard, its framework for adding effects to audio that makes it easy to use studio-quality audio effects in your code. [Spotify]

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🙏 And big thanks to Celine Bijleveld who helped me edit this newsletter. You can follow her on Substack here.


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