Apple and Google’s supremacy has been under the global microscope due to antitrust laws. On August 11th, U.S. lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill—the Open App Markets Act—designed to regulate mobile app stores that boast 50 million or more users, putting the two tech giants in hot water again.

Following the wave of overwhelmingly negative sentiment against Apple and Google over their app stores’ policies, the proposed legislation aims “to promote competition and reduce gatekeeper power in the app economy, increase choice, improve quality, and reduce costs for consumers.” The predatory rules and fees have created a monopolistic grip on the app market, reaching a boiling point that has even raised the eyebrows of senators.

Georgia Representative Hank Johnson said in a separate press release that this legislation will “hold Big Tech accountable, level the playing field for small businesses and app developers, and increase competition and innovation in the digital ecosystem, all while offering consumers more choice.”

What does the bill contain?

The antitrust bill would make several changes to app stores, including:

1. Allowing a legal avenue for third-party apps and app stores

The Open App Markets Act, if passed, will fundamentally alter the way smartphone apps function. By requiring these companies to grant users the ability to install alternative app stores, the days of Apple blocking sideloading would be over.

Unlike Apple, Google technically does allow apps to be sideloaded. However it imposes technical barriers that “strongly discourage or effectively prevent third-party app developers from distributing apps outside the Google Play Store.”

Google is in the hottest malware seat, but Apple shouldn’t rest easy

However the tech giants aren’t going down easy. Disputing this portion of the bill, Apple and Google have long argued that their rules are needed to keep their product free from malware and fraud. However recent news has shown this defense to be shaky at best. Contrary to what many may believe, Android has long been notorious for malware, not through sideloading, but through the Play Store’s front door.

Pressure has also been mounting, surrounding Apple’s most egregious scams on the App Store. It seems that the two giants are not as foolproof as they’d like users to believe.

2. Banning big companies from leveraging their own in-house apps in searches

The Open App Markets Act also prohibits companies from giving special preference to their own apps in search results, in addition to outlawing said companies from extracting data from these apps to build their own competing products.

The two giants were accused of using their access to competitors’ data to leverage their own proprietary apps. Senator Richard Blumenthal stated, “They have no concern for privacy. They use consumer information relentlessly and purposely simply to make money.”

3. Preventing companies like Apple or Google from the mandatory use of their payment service

The in-app payment systems are also on the chopping block. The legislation will allow developers to set their own in-app payment systems, setting them free from the unfair percentages that this duopoly takes on in-app purchases. 

App stores dictating absurd rates to developers not only leads to passing these higher costs on to consumers, but also has a gate-keeping effect. For mid-size or smaller developers this becomes detrimental to their survival. 

“For years, Apple and Google have squashed competitors and kept consumers in the dark — pocketing hefty windfalls while acting as supposedly benevolent gatekeepers of this multi-billion dollar market. This breakthrough blow against Big Tech bullying… will help break these tech giants’ ironclad grip, open the app economy to new competitors, and give mobile users more control over their own devices.”

Senator Blumenthal

The end of app store hegemony and the rise of alternative stores

Powerful and well-funded opponents are helping make the case for change. This has led to a series of events towards a fairer app market, where alternative app stores and distribution channels are key. They offer better rates and different app distribution models, as well as new opportunities to monetize products worldwide.

The golden age 

The Open Apps Market Act signifies a new era rising, where both developers and alternative app stores are able to truly cooperate without the boundaries imposed by a duopoly. Together they will push the market to the next level.

Diversity and freedom of choice for both app developers and users alike will be the drivers for truly innovative technology, such as blockchain, NFTs, and AR. They can flourish in an open market, taking advantage of improved apps discoverability, new monetization models, better local payment support, smarter user-acquisition options, and truly immersive experiences.

Exciting times lie ahead, and at Catappult we are committed to be a part of this rising revolution.

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