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How your iPhone could get better if Apple loses its big legal battle

Jordan Hart   

How your iPhone could get better if Apple loses its big legal battle
  • Apple is facing a landmark antitrust lawsuit from the DOJ and 16 state attorneys general.
  • The iPhone experience would likely change in a big way if Apple were to lose.

Apple's famously tight control over the iPhone could soon be forcibly loosened.

The US Department of Justice hit the tech giant with an 88-page antitrust lawsuit that could drastically change the iPhone's user experience if Apple loses the legal battle.

For those who don't want their iPhone to change at all, you'll probably have many months, or even years, before the dispute is resolved.

But if Apple loses, it would likely be forced to alter how its hugely popular smartphone works.

The iPhone maker has argued that changes to how the iPhone operates would hurt the safety and user experience of the device, but there are many people who believe there are benefits to its so-called walled garden tumbling down.

Look no further than what happened recently in the EU, where regulators forced Apple to ditch its proprietary Lightning cable for the more standard USB-C charging port — allowing people to use the same cord to charge their MacBook and iPhone 15.

But it's what happens inside the iPhone — how third-party apps and services are downloaded, paid for, and communicate with other devices — that could face the biggest changes if Apple loses the case or makes major concessions in a settlement.

Here's how your iPhone could get better as a result.

Lower prices overall

The DOJ argues in its lawsuit that Apple has illegally maintained a monopoly of the smartphone market through anticompetitive measures that lead to higher prices for iPhone owners.

"Consumers, if you ask them whether they want to pay less for their iPhone, the answer will be yes," Jonathan Kanter, US assistant attorney general for the DOJ's antitrust division and the man leading the lawsuit against Apple, told CNBC in an interview on Friday.

"Competition leads to lower prices for consumers, lower prices for developers, more opportunities for entrepreneurs, and ultimately more innovation that benefits society," Kanter added.

More tap-to-pay options

The changes Apple made to the iPhone as a result of the European Union's lawsuit against it gives the best glimpse at what potential changes could look like.

In order to comply with the EU's Digital Markets Act, the tech giant was forced to give up its "gatekeeper" status in the EU and make its operating system more accessible to third parties.

Instead of your digital debit card only being accessible by your Apple Wallet, you could tap to pay from your own bank app or another third-party digital wallet.

Opening up how your iPhone's NFC chip works would also mean that you could add digital car keys to an automaker's third-party app, instead of having to use it through Apple's Wallet app.

Bring on the other app stores — and Fortnite

You're not forced to use Apple's digital storefront when you want to download an app on your Mac or PC — so why should be forced to only use the App Store on the iPhone?

"I believe there's a strong possibility we'd see entirely new iOS apps appear that can't exist today due to Apple's rules, especially from independent developers," Riley Testut, an independent iOS developer who makes the alternative app store AltStore, told Business Insider.

As it stands, iPhone owners in the US can only download apps from the iOS App Store — developers have to follow Apple's rules to get their app on the exclusive marketplace.

If Apple were to make the same changes it did for iPhone owners in the EU, iPhone users in the US could use other marketplaces to discover and download apps — such as Fortnite maker Epic Games' rival app store, which it plans to launch in the EU, along with the return of Fortnite on iOS.

The DOJ's lawsuit alleges that Apple makes it difficult and more expensive for consumers and app developers to operate outside the App Store.

In a world where Apple lost its fight with the DOJ, it's possible developers could make money from in-app purchases without Apple taking a cut, or as large of a cut, and avoid the company's fees when it comes to processing payments.

"This is signaling that Apple is going to have to bring its prices for other apps down," Jamie Court, president of the non-profit Consumer Watchdog, told the LA Times when discussing the lawsuit. "It's going to have to open its payment systems to other providers and it's going to have to make sure that people who use other devices have basically a comparable access to convenience and service."

Green bubble texts could be a thing of the past

iPhone users have complained over the years about green message bubbles, grainy videos, and unencrypted messages when texting their friends who own Androids.

Apple has already said it plans to improve texting between Android and iPhones by adopting RCS, but losing the antitrust case could mean Apple finally brings iMessage to Android, which it considered in the past.

Or, Apple could take a less drastic step and simply change things so that everyone gets a blue text bubble and images and videos sent between iPhone and Android are no longer grainy.

More smartwatch options

If the Apple Watch isn't your cup of tea, a court loss for the company could make using an alternative watch with the iPhone more seamless.

Prosecutors said the Apple Watch depends too much on the iPhone while other smartwatches aren't nearly as compatible with the iOS system.

So if you've had your eye on an Android smartwatch but prefer the iPhone, regulators could end up forcing Apple to make the devices play more nicely with each other.

Streaming subscriptions could get cheaper

Using your iPhone could also get cheaper.

Subscribing to your favorite streaming service could get a bit less expensive if Apple were to lose its fight with the DOJ.

Earlier this month, the European Commission fined Apple nearly $2 billion after its investigation found that its restrictions prevented developers from offering "alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app," a press release read.

iOS users might have been overcharged for music streaming subscriptions due to the fees placed on app developers by Apple, regulators said.

App developers might be able to get even more creative

With fewer restrictions and less control on Apple's part, app developers could switch it up even more — and maybe cut down on the number of times Android users bragged that they've enjoyed a "new" iPhone feature for years.

Testut, the alternate app store developer, said app-makers will have less of a hindrance to innovate on the iPhone in the event of an Apple loss.

"I'm hopeful we'll see more freedom to experiment with new ideas — almost certainly leading to innovation that benefits everyone," he told BI.

Not everyone agrees that the iPhone would benefit from being forced to open up in the US.

Apple says that, if successful, the DOJ's lawsuit would make things less seamless and secure — an argument that some say would essentially result in a worse iPhone.

"This lawsuit threatens who we are and the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets," Apple told BI in a statement. "If successful, it would hinder our ability to create the kind of technology people expect from Apple—where hardware, software, and services intersect."

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