What a Recent Judicial Ruling Against Apple Over In-App Purchases Means for iPhone Users

It's a step, but not as dramatic as it might seem

Apple logo
This illustration photo shows the Apple app store logo reflected from an iPhone onto the back of an iMac.
CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images

Late last year, Epic Games (maker of Fortnite) and Apple began a long dispute that eventually led to a significant legal decision. At issue here was Epic’s attempt to let Fortnite users pay for transactions directly in the game, without having to go through Apple’s App Store. Apple pushed back and Epic responded, arguing that it should be able to have the ability to sell directly on Apple devices without having to pay Apple 30% of each sale. Then came the lawsuit.

Now, as Russell Brandom at The Verge reports, there’s been a verdict in the case. You can read the whole ruling here; as Brandom describes it, the end result is that “iOS apps must be allowed to direct users to payment options beyond those offered by Apple.” Apple has 90 days to implement this, barring a higher court taking action.

What does this mean for iPhone users? It can’t be seen as an overarching victory for either side in this particular case. As Recode’s Sara Morrison pointed out, the ruling argued that Apple does not have an app store monopoly. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Apple does not have a monopoly on mobile gaming. Judge Gonzales Rogers wrote that the relevant market was “not gaming generally and not Apple’s own internal operating systems related to the App Store.”

As Bobby Allyn wrote at NPR in an analysis of the ruling, this means that you could be directed to an alternate payment system to subscribe to Spotify, so that Spotify would not have to pass 30% of that subscription fee to Apple. As an Engadget article pointed out, companies like Spotify and Netflix don’t allow new subscribers to sign up for the services in question on iPhones for this very reason.

Apple’s recent App Store changes anticipated some of this — but this ruling doesn’t seem to change much, if you’re an iPhone user seeking a streamlined way to pay for a particular service or an add-on for your game of choice. As the 90-day deadline draws closer, we’ll also have a better look at what Apple has in mind here.

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