Apple Accused of Giving Its Own Apps an Edge in App Store Search Results
Apple has been accused of favoring its own apps over competitors' in its App Store search results, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. The report claims that Apple's apps ranked first in 60 percent of app categories on the App Store, even when they were less popular or less relevant than alternatives from third-party developers.
For example, the report found that Apple's Apple Books app, which does not have a public rating or a number of downloads displayed, was listed as the number one result when searching for \"books\" in the US version of the App Store. However, Apple Books was ranked as the 168th most popular app in the category by downloads, while Amazon's Kindle app, which has a 4.8-star rating and has been rated 1.2 million times, was found lower than Apple Books in search results, at number two with a featured app ad in between. The Kindle app was ranked as the third most popular app in the books category.
The same situation occurred for other categories, such as maps, where Apple's Maps app was found higher in search results than Google Maps and Waze, which are more popular and better-reviewed by users. The report also claimed that Apple once considered removing all apps with less than a two-star rating from the App Store, but decided against it because it would affect its own Podcasts app, which had a low rating at the time.
Apple denied manipulating its search result rankings to favor its own apps, saying that it uses a complex algorithm that takes into account dozens of factors, such as name matches, user behavior data, ratings, relevance, and downloads. Apple said that it keeps its ranking algorithm secret to prevent third-party developers from gaming the system and influencing the results.
\"Apple customers have a very strong connection to our products and many of them use search as a way to find and open their apps,\" Apple said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. \"This customer usage is the reason Apple has strong rankings in search, and itâs the same reason Uber, Microsoft and so many others often have high rankings as well.\"
The report comes at a time when Apple is facing increased scrutiny over its App Store practices from regulators and lawmakers around the world. Apple has been accused of abusing its dominant position as the gatekeeper of the App Store to stifle competition, charge high commissions, and impose unfair rules on developers. Apple has defended its App Store policies as necessary to ensure quality, security, and privacy for its users.
The report also comes amid a series of antitrust investigations into Apple's App Store practices by regulators and lawmakers around the world. The European Commission has opened formal antitrust investigations to assess whether Apple's rules for app developers on the distribution of apps via the App Store violate EU competition rules. The investigations concern in particular the mandatory use of Apple's own proprietary in-app purchase system and restrictions on the ability of developers to inform iPhone and iPad users of alternative cheaper purchasing possibilities outside of apps[^2^].
The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has also launched an investigation into Apple's conduct in relation to the distribution of apps on iOS and iPadOS devices in the UK, in particular, the terms and conditions governing app developers' access to Apple's App Store[^1^]. The CMA said it was investigating whether Apple has a dominant position in connection with the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK and whether it imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers using the App Store.
In addition, Apple is facing antitrust scrutiny from other jurisdictions, such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the US. In November 2020, Apple agreed to lower its commission rate from 30% to 15% for developers who earn less than $1 million per year as part of a new App Store Small Business Program. However, some critics argued that this move was not enough to address the underlying competition issues and that Apple should allow more choice and flexibility for both developers and consumers. aa16f39245