Apple responds to Spotify’s claims that they don’t “play fair”

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An illustration of Apple and Spotify logo
Design by Bisma Ilyas / TechEngage

A few days ago, Spotify launched a campaign called “Time to Play Fair” to make the public aware of the many barriers Spotify believes its app faces on the Apple App Store. The campaign website lists “5 fast facts that show Apple doesn’t play fair,” especially when compared to Apple’s native Apple Music.

Spotify has accused Apple of:

  • Charging a “discriminatory tax” of 30% for the use of Apple’s in-app purchase system (IAP) that Uber, Deliveroo, and Apple’s own services such as Apple Music don’t have to pay.
  • Barring Spotify from communicating with customers via Apple platforms if they choose not to use the IAP, as well as preventing them from sharing deals and promotions with Spotify customers, even through e-mail.
  • Not allowing Spotify users to easily upgrade to a paid Premium membership.
  • Rejecting Spotify’s bug fixes and other app enhancements that would improve the user experience (and not imposing similar obstacles with Apple Music).
  • Not allowing users to access Spotify on Apple Homepod or access the service using Siri.

On March 14th, Apple issued a press release addressing Spotify’s “five fast facts” and accusing them of using “misleading rhetoric.” They assure developers that “everyone is playing by the same set of rules” and that they “want more app businesses to thrive — including the ones that compete with some aspect of our business, because they drive us to be better.”

In response to Spotify’s claim of Apple taking 30% of annual subscriptions, Apple points out that the 30% fee is only applied for the first year, after which it drops to 15% in subsequent years.

The press release also claims that Spotify left out important details about how the App store model works, including that the majority of App Store customers use the free version of the app, for which Apple gains no revenue.

They also state that:

  • Apple has “approved and distributed nearly 200 app updates on Spotify’s behalf.”
  • Apple has only requested adjustments when Spotify has tried to sidestep rules that other apps are expected to follow. 
  • Apple has reached out to Spotify “frequently to help them bring their service to more devices and platforms,” and that the app is available on Apple platforms such as CarPlay.
  • Apple approved Spotify’s Apple Watch app at the same speed as all other apps and that “the Spotify Watch app is currently the No. 1 app in the Watch Music category.”
  • Many of Spotify’s customers come through partnerships with mobile carriers which generates no money for Apple.

Apple’s main claim is that Spotify wants special treatment. Meanwhile, Spotify is accusing Apple of giving themselves an unfair advantage.t

While we wait for Spotify’s response to the press release, it’s interesting to note that the music (and podcast) app recently removed their APK files from APKMirror which will severely restrict users from accessing the app in areas of the world where it is not currently available.

Spotify seems to feel like it’s in a tight spot when it comes to gaining paying customers, but it remains to be seen just how much the company is in its own way when it comes to revenue gains.

In the meantime, we’re awaiting Spotify’s response to Apple’s press release.

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