Spotify dropped a bomb last week on Wednesday: it filed an official complaint against Apple to the European Commission. They argue mainly against the 30% “Apple tax” that the company charges when digital goods are bought through iOS apps, but in a blog post announcing the news, Daniel Ek, Spotify CEO, mentions other difficulties:
Ek says that if Spotify pays this cut it has to “artificially inflate” its prices “well above the price of Apple Music.” But if it doesn’t pay, Apple applies “a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions” that make Spotify an inferior experience. Ek also notes that Apple “routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades,” including locking Spotify and other competitors out of Apple services like Siri, HomePod, and Apple Watch.
Michal Tsai grouped together some interesting comments. Federico Viticci’s tweet caught my attention:
I personally believe Spotify is right here, and that it’s time for Apple to open up their platform more and lower their App Store cut.
Think about it this way: is what’s good for Apple also good for consumers in 2019?
Specifically I mean the “open up their platform more and lower their App Store cut” sentence. Spotify isn’t the only company that tries to avoid the Apple tax – Netflix did the same in the beginning of this year. From a John Gruber comment from January (my bolds):
If Apple wants to insist on a cut of in-app purchased subscription revenue, that’s their prerogative. What gets me, though, are the rules that prevent apps that eschew in-app purchases from telling users in plain language how to actually pay. Not only is Netflix not allowed to link to their website, they can’t even tell the user they need to go to netflix.com to sign up. This screen from the current version of Netflix for iPad is as close as they get, and I’ll bet it was the result of tense negotiations with Apple.
Again, Apple can make the rules — it’s their platform. But it’s just wrong that one of the rules is that apps aren’t allowed to explain the rules to users.
Apple should be earning its share of in-app subscription revenue by competing on convenience, not confusion and obfuscation.
And this is how it ends for iOS users:
Oh, and that “Help” button up in the corner of the Netflix launch screen is interesting. Tap that button and you get the option to call Netflix customer support (over some VOIP system, not a real phone call). I tried that, was told the queue was “about 6 minutes”, and exactly 6 minutes and 11 seconds later I was speaking to a friendly support rep. I told him I was using the iPad app and trying to sign up, but couldn’t figure out how.
He told me I need to go to netflix.com in my browser.
To get a different point of view, I recommend Bradley Chambers’ text on 9to5Mac, where he accurately analyzes Spotify complaints point by point.
The delusion that the entire site has is a poor attempt to build a Steve Jobs’ style reality distortion field. Spotify had a “Facts” page, and I want to respond to it point by point. Before you a leave comment that I am an Apple fanboy, I would like to point you to articles where I prove that is not the case. (…)
This statement is one of those he said, she said situation. Spotify can easily say this, and Apple is likely not to comment. It’s an easy way to paint Apple as a “mean ole gatekeeper” who is trying to keep the “little guy” down. When it comes to music, Spotify is far from being the little guy that they act like they are. (…)
Has Spotify tried to ship a version of their Apple Watch app that can sync playlists? Apple allows Overcast to sync podcast apps. No, streaming isn’t available as a public API, but that is likely due to technical limitations (and battery concerns) of watchOS. The technical tools are there for Spotify to build an Apple Watch app, and they’ve been there for a number of months.
Here’s the official Apple response.