Apple Inc (AAPL.O), faced with allegations from competitors that it has too much control over its app store, outlined plans on Monday to increase user privacy and keep consumer data away from other companies, and put down features like enhanced video conferencing and Store virtual government IDs on iPhones.
The changes came at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference for software developers, some of whom have started to complain about Apple’s control over what apps can appear on its devices, as well as its 15-30% commissions on digital sales.
Many of the new features allow users to protect data and trust Apple branded information. Users can scan ID cards in participating US states, and the cards are encrypted in a user’s digital wallet along with credit cards and transit cards in some US cities. It is working with the US Transportation Security Administration to accept the digital ID cards at airports.
In many cases, Apple cannot see all of the information itself. The company has updated the paid version of its iCloud storage service to include a service that disguises a user’s browsing habits, even from Apple. Another new iCloud feature allows users to hide their real email address, which is increasingly being used as an identifier for digital marketers to track users. Apple said prices for iCloud won’t change with the new features.
Apple has also tweaked some of its apps and services so that its rivalries with the teams at Zoom Video Communications Inc (ZM.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), both of which have gained prominence during the pandemic, could intensify.
It has updated its FaceTime video chat app to allow scheduling calls with multiple participants and make the software compatible with Android and Windows devices.
Apple has also introduced so-called in-app events, a way for developers to host live events in apps and present these events in real time in the app store. For example, video game developers could host live tournaments and market them in the App Store that Apple’s current systems are not designed for.
The move could intensify competition with Facebook Inc (FB.O), which announced Monday it would launch an online events business that will be free until 2023 and then charge commissions under Apple’s 30% fees for the App Store becomes.
Several of the other features Apple introduced on Monday, like the ability to take a photo of a sign and use artificial intelligence to rip out the written text, have been on the competing Android operating system for several years.
The remainder of the Apple conference is devoted to technical developer sessions, some of whom have resented the controls and fees.
These issues have come under regulatory scrutiny and are at the center of an antitrust lawsuit by Fortnite creator Epic Games, in which a federal judge is considering how to decide.
Apple has said its App Store practices are increasing the mobile software market by creating a paid app environment that consumers trust, and Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team did not enter into frayed developer relationships during the presentation.
Not all developers have negative feelings, said Ben Bajarin, CEO of Creative Strategies, who surveyed Apple developers and found that more than 90% have no plans to stop developing apps for Apple devices.
However, some complaints are rife, with more than half of the developers saying the fees should be capped at 10% and many wanting more clarity on the reasons for disapproving apps from the App Store and solving such issues, said Bajarin.
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