Apple Sued by US Department of Justice

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By Nathan Cartmell

The technology giant Apple is currently being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice over attempted monopolization in the smartphone market. The DOJ, alongside several state governments, filed the antitrust suit and believes that Apple’s anti-competitive behavior in the market violates Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  

One of the specific instances that is highlighted in the DOJ’s report is the advantages that Apple gives its own messaging system, iMessage, compared to the common standard on Android which is SMS messaging. This gives iMessage a major advantage, and it incentivizes people to remain in the Apple Ecosystem.  

Another example given by the DOJ is the Apple Watch, which Apple gives unprecedented levels of access to its resources compared to any other smartwatch. The Apple Watch cannot work with any other brand of phone other than the iPhone, which also helps prevent people from leaving the ecosystem.  

The Apple ecosystem has historically been closed off to non-Apple products. The way Apple accessories work on iPhones, like AirPods, have been much more efficient than how they work on Android. Marques Brownlee, creator of the prominent tech YouTube channel MKBHD, has used the metaphor of a walled garden to describe the Apple ecosystem, in that there are great things in the garden, but the walls are also very high if you want to get out. He stated in his video on the DOJ lawsuit that Apple is dominant in the United States, at about 60% of the smartphone market and about 87% of people aged 18 to 25.  However, globally it is not as dominant, at about a 25% market share.  

The controversy surrounding this lawsuit primarily stems from the fact that Apple is not considered a monopoly in the traditional legal sense, but rather on the software and integration side. The issue that many pro-Apple tech enthusiasts have raised is that the stance against Apple’s practices could be understood as a stance against vertical integration, which uses proprietary technology to help devices become more efficient. On the other side, Apple critics make the point that while vertical integration is beneficial, Apple’s control over its ecosystem and its willingness to stifle competition should be considered a monopoly.  

With the iPhone having already been pressured by the European Union to change certain policies, Apple could very well be on the receiving end of similar regulations from the Department of Justice soon, but it’s still too early in the case to tell. 

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