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Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, whose high-profile antitrust lawsuit against Apple is now under appeal, is today calling out the iPhone maker for giving itself access to an advertising slot its competitors don’t have: the iPhone’s Settings screen. Some iOS 15 users noticed Apple is now advertising its own services at the top of their Settings, just below their Apple ID. The services being suggested are personalized to the device owner, based on which ones they already subscribe to, it appears.
For example, those without an Apple Music subscription may see an ad offering a free six-month trial. However, current Apple Music subscribers may instead see a prompt to add on a service they don’t yet have, like AppleCare coverage for their devices.
Sweeney suggests this sort of first-party advertising is an anticompetitive risk for Apple, as some of the services it’s pushing here are those that directly compete with third-party apps published on its App Store. But those third-party apps can’t gain access to the iPhone’s Settings screen, of course — they can only bid for ad slots within the App Store itself.
Writes Sweeney: “New from the guys who banned Fortnite: settings-screen ads for their own music service, which come before the actual settings, and which aren’t available to other advertisers like Spotify or Sound Cloud.”
Zucchetta tells TechCrunch he spotted the ad on an iPhone 8 he owned which was running iOS 15. But others have seen the ads on newer devices, as well. And some respondents noted they were receiving Apple’s promotions as push notifications, too.
The issue here is tricky because the promotion isn’t always a situation where Apple is disadvantaging a rival to its own…