A day before the presentation of the new iPhone, the New York Times has published an article accusing Apple of “stacking” the results of the App Store with its own apps and services. According to the publication, this would have hurt developers competing against Apple in this market, adding arguments for those who support a partition of technology companies that participate with apps also on their own platforms. Let’s take a look at the arguments of the Times.
The App Store and its searches
Technology companies are immersed in very intense scrutiny by the authorities. Both Russia and Europe and the US have focused their efforts to monitor anti-competitive practices of several large companies. In the case of the US, they are being investigated to Amazon, Google and Facebook. Even though Apple It seemed to dodge this list, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren who initiated the process subsequently included the California company through its App Store.
In the NYT article, the main argument is that Apple it is taking advantage of your domain to put your apps first in the results Search The digital uses for this purpose an investigation that includes an analysis of 13 keywords since 2013 and more than 1,800 specific apps. They have also relied on the signing of analytics Sensor Tower, a company that is an old one known to Applesfera readers, because we frequently reference their analysis. The words analyzed were generic terms such as TV, podcast, music, or money (in English, of course).
The analysis shows how at some point in 2016 a change is activated in the App Store that begins to place apps for Apple in the top search positions. And not only for the app that best fit the term, but often accompanied by several apps from the manufacturer. From there the accusation that Apple “stack” your apps with the supposed intention of encouraging users to download their apps and consume their services, to the detriment of those of other developers.
Thus, direct competitors such as Spotify or Netflix, in addition to smaller ones, would have been harmed. Appletherefore it would be benefiting from its dominant position.
Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue say they play fair on the App Store
For this article, the Times was able to interview Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Services of Apple, and Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Global Marketing and in charge of the App Store. Both denied that the algorithm that governs the rankings of their software store is designed to direct the download of apps from Apple. Phil Schiller said:
There is nothing in the way we manage the search in the App Store that is designed for or with the intention of pushing the download of the apps of Apple. We present the results based on what we believe the user wants.
About the appearance of several apps from Apple In the search results, both executives said that sometimes the search engine of the App Store grouped results by its developer. An improvement in the algorithm last July caused these groupings to stop appearing.
In another case, the NYT asked both executives how it was possible that the redesigned Wallet app on March 25 was in the top of searches with the terms money, debit and credit the next day. Eddy Cue said that the marketing team responsible for its launch would probably have used those terms in the description of the app, putting it in first place (something common in Google results, a technique known as SEO). According to Phil Schiller:
We can only say that we have not done anything to push this, I mean, nothing but launch a great wallet app, a Apple Card and use marketing.
Although what executives claim, there is more to this story.
The mistakes of the New York Times
There are several things that make it doubt that the main argument of the NYT is as they say it is: that Apple Take advantage of your domain in the App Store so that your apps benefit via better search results. The publication has not taken into account several factors very important:
- The App Store Search It is not the best way to find apps. When someone wants to search for an app like Netflix or Spotify, they don’t write “TV” or “music.” Write the name of the app because they are already quite popular in themselves.
- For apps that are not as recognized or as renowned, the App Store has a specific tab called “Today” where Apple highlights worthwhile apps.
- Apps from Apple, such as Podcasts, Music, Mail or Calendar, they have generic names. By simple SEO, they will score better when the terms podcasts, music, mail or calendar are searched.
The generic nature of the terms used by the publication in your research should already make us feel a certain reluctance. But is that The New York Times makes two bulk mistakes quite important. The first has to do with the graphic we saw in the first section of this article (reproduced here again). According to his analysis, at some point in 2016 the rankings of these terms began to be covered by apps from Apple. What happened back then to cause this change?
The answer is simple: the launch of the iOS 10 beta in June 2016. Under this operating system, users began to be able to delete the serial apps that are installed on the iPhone and iPad. To reinstall them, the user must do it via App Store looking for terms like podcasts, music, mail or calendar. Apple He says he shows the results according to the apps that users click on, so that the possibility of deleting serial apps and reinstalling them via the App Store would naturally push their own apps into the rankings.
The second mistake made by the New York Times is found in one of the animations that illustrate the article. As can be seen in the upper screenshot, the Times ensures that “shortly after the launch of Apple Music in June 2016, took first place and Spotify fell to fourth place. “Well, Apple Music was released on June 30, 2015, not in June 2016. What happened in June 2016 was that iOS 10 introduced the possibility of deleting apps from Apple, explaining their position in the ranking. That is, one of the main points of the argument (just land Apple Music in the Store, reached first place artificially) is false.
In my opinion, we are facing an attempt to take advantage of the narrative that is being built against these technology companies, adding more fuel to the fire of an intervention against an alleged monopoly of the App Store. But the case laid on the table by the NYT falls when we analyze it carefully.