This is why the US calls Apple an illegal monopoly

The US said Thursday that Apple was breaking the law by locking out competing technology that could be better for users.

The antitrust lawsuit brought by the Justice Department and 16 attorneys general accuses the government of several big tech companies, including Apple, Amazon, Google, and Meta, using their popular products to crush free market competition. This is the latest claim. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.)

If the case goes that far, the government's charges against Apple would likely face high legal hurdles in court.

Apple said it would “vigorously” contest the lawsuit. A victory for the plaintiffs would “impede our ability to create the kind of technology people have come to expect from Apple,” the company said.

If you have an iPhone, you can see for yourself the heart of the government's case.

According to the Justice Department, Apple limits choices such as apps, text messaging, the ability to buy lunch with a tap on your phone, and the option to seamlessly use Garmin and Samsung smartwatches on your iPhone.

Apple has previously said these restrictions protect user security and privacy. But the government says Apple's regulations limit people's choices and allow Apple to become even richer at people's expense.

If you use an iPhone, you're subject to several limitations cited in the government's lawsuit, including:

You can't send secure iMessages to people using Android smartphones

If you have an iPhone and send a text message to a friend with an Android smartphone, each phone company gets a copy of the message. Therefore, it is less secure from hackers.

When you text a video to a friend on Android, the video may appear compressed or garbled to the other end. You don't get any indication that the other person read your text like you would if you had an iPhone.

If you use a Windows computer, you can't easily read your iMessage chats on your PC like you can on a Mac.

Apple says its choices keep users safe, but its actions make many chat messages less secure and less functional.

According to a Justice Department lawsuit, Apple executives told CEO Tim Cook in 2016 that making it easier for iPhone and Android phone users to text each other would “rather help us. “It will also cause harm,” he forwarded the email.

You can read the government's lawsuit here.

Unable to try some potentially useful apps

Imagine downloading one app that lets you play a bunch of games, like “Candy Crush” or “World of Warcraft.”

Xbox created such an iPhone app a few years ago, but Apple never allowed it to be tried. Instead, you typically have to download and pay for each gaming app separately.

The Justice Department said Apple's decision to block these types of apps within the app prevents people from trying potentially innovative products. The government's lawsuit essentially compared Netflix to allowing people to watch just one movie instead of providing access to a large number of shows.

Apple announced in January that it would start allowing apps within other apps, but it's not yet clear how that will actually work.

You cannot tap to pay with anything other than Apple Pay.

In the United States, Apple restricts access to iPhone technology. This technology allows you to pay for your groceries, subway fare, or coffee by holding your phone near the cash register.

This is partly to keep your phone safe, but it also directs all tap-to-pay purchases through its own Apple Pay service, allowing the company to collect a fee each time. Even if you wanted to, you can't pay with PayPal, the Cash app, Venmo, or any other payment service on your behalf.

The Justice Department said in its lawsuit that Apple is “exercising its smartphone monopoly power” to prevent financial companies from “developing better payment products and services for iPhone users.”

PayPal is offering investors tap-to-pay access to its payments service on iPhone after the European Union recently passed legislation giving Apple access to tap-to-pay functionality. I told them that I planned to do so.

Apple previously lifted some restrictions on iPhones

Clicking a link in your iPhone's standard Mail app opens the page in the Chrome browser instead of Safari. In addition to the Apple Music app, you can also ask Siri to play music from Spotify.

You can now use the Gmail or Outlook apps as your iPhone's default email app instead of Apple's Mail app.

Apple didn't allow these options until a few years ago, but after U.S. government officials and rivals such as Spotify argued that Apple was unduly limiting technology choices, Restrictions have been lifted.

Also, under pressure from regulators, Apple is working to make its iPhone messaging app a bit more compatible with the standard Android text messaging app.

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