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Even Apple CarPlay Faces Allegations of Anticompetitive Practices in US Lawsuit

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 23, 2024
Even Apple CarPlay Faces Allegations of Anticompetitive Practices in US Lawsuit

Even Apple CarPlay Faces Allegations of Anticompetitive Practices in US Lawsuit

Apple faces scrutiny in an 88-page antitrust lawsuit brought forth by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), with a notable emphasis placed on the company’s CarPlay system. This service, allowing users to mirror their phone’s functionalities onto their car’s infotainment screen, is under investigation for potential anticompetitive behavior. The DOJ alleges that Apple’s control over the auto industry through CarPlay is excessive, leading to competition suppression and harm to both consumers and competitors.

The Allegations on Apple’s CarPlay

The core of the DOJ’s lawsuit is that Apple’s CarPlay, a system allowing for the mirroring of phone functionalities onto a vehicle’s infotainment screens, serves as a tool for the company to exert undue control over both consumers and car manufacturers.

The lawsuit argues that by integrating CarPlay deeply into the functionalities of vehicles — to the point where upcoming versions could manage vehicle-specific features like speed display and HVAC controls — Apple is not only extending its smartphone monopoly but also preventing the emergence of other technologies that could interface with smartphones in vehicles.

Contrary to the portrayal of CarPlay’s dominance, Sam Abuelsamid, a principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights specializing in vehicle software, offers a different perspective. Abuelsamid points out that the next-generation CarPlay system does not necessarily force automakers to cede control of all their screens to Apple.

Manufacturers still retain the ability to choose how and to what extent they integrate CarPlay into their vehicles. This includes the ability to keep certain functions, like air conditioning adjustments or native navigation, outside of Apple’s ecosystem, ensuring that car owners without iPhones still have a fully functional vehicle.

On Apple’s Digital Keys Feature

The lawsuit also touches on the digital keys feature, integrating with Apple’s Wallet app, as another example of Apple’s anticompetitive practices. The DOJ criticizes Apple for making its Wallet the default option for digital car keys, arguing this practice unfairly steers users towards Apple’s ecosystem and away from third-party apps. Despite these accusations, it’s noted that Apple’s digital key technology aligns with standards set by an industry consortium, including automakers and tech firms, suggesting some level of acceptance within the industry.

Interestingly, the lawsuit’s focus on CarPlay has sparked debate over the balance between innovation and market control. While some analysts see the DOJ’s allegations as a misunderstanding of CarPlay’s utility and functions, others acknowledge the potential for Apple’s practices to limit competition and innovation within the auto industry.

For instance, General Motors’ decision to exclude phone-mirroring services in its electric vehicles is highlighted as a possible reaction to Apple’s data-sharing demands, though this move has proven unpopular with consumers.

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Featured Image courtesy of AdrianHancu/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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