Technology

What's Up With Apple: North Dakota Rejects App Store Bill, iOS 14.5 Gets Closer, and More

The North Dakota state senate on Tuesday rejected a bill that would have barred companies like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google from forcing app developers to sell products only through company app stores and in-app payment systems. The legislation, drafted by a lobbyist for Epic Games, was defeated by a vote of 11 to 36.

Last August, Epic Games filed a lawsuit against Apple, charging that the App Store was anti-competitive following Apple’s removal of Epic’s Fortnite game, which had added its own in-app payment system, a practice Apple does not allow for apps it distributes through the App Store. In an effort to forestall further developer complaints, in November Apple changed its commissions payment policy for developers whose products produced less than $1.3 million in revenue.

Apple’s privacy software manager, Erik Neuenschwander, testified against the North Dakota legislation, calling the restrictions a threat “to destroy the iPhone as [we] know it” because they would “undermine the privacy, security, safety, and performance that’s built into iPhone by design.”

The battle may be over in North Dakota (for now), but The New York Times reports that similar legislation has been introduced in Georgia and Arizona, while a bill is set to be introduced in Massachusetts, and lobbyists are trying to corral legislators in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In June, the European Commission initiated three antitrust actions against Apple related to the company’s requirement that developers use only Apple’s in-app payment system. Music streamer Spotify had lodged a similar complaint with European regulators in March of 2019.

On Tuesday, Apple released the second preliminary version (beta) of its iOS 14.5 operating system for iPhone and iPad. Among the changes included in the coming release is the tracking transparency feature that allows people to turn off tracking by apps like Facebook. The second beta includes new emojis and other changes to Apple Music, Shortcuts and the MagSafe wallet. MacRumors has a comprehensive list of the changes coming in iOS 14.5.

In another legal spat, a class-action lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, charging Apple with “profiting from illegal gambling games” made by Znyga and others, sold through the App Store. The so-called free-to-play games offer people in-app purchases (controlled by Apple) of chips to use in games like blackjack, poker and roulette.

Although winners are not paid in cash, they can accumulate more free playing time if they win or buy more playing time by using real money. In some cases, this leads players to spend money they don’t have. The lawsuit alleges that paying money in order to risk winning more playing time violates gambling laws in 25 states that already have laws in place “designed to curtail excessive gambling losses.”