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Science

Apple sidesteps EU probe with changes to iPhone policy

The European Commission has dropped a probe into Apple after the company agreed to change its policy toward iPhone app developers. Consumers will now also have warranty repair services in all EU countries.

An Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone warranties will now apply throughout the EU

Over the weekend, Apple managed to defuse a potential legal tangle with the European Union's antitrust regulators by adjusting its iPhone policies.

The company agreed to make warranty repair services equally available throughout European Union countries, regardless of where a phone was purchased. It also agreed to loosen restrictions on programming tools used to develop apps, the small programs designed to run on smartphones.

In doing so, the company avoided fines which could have been as high as 10 percent of its yearly turnover.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement on Saturday that "Apple's response to our preliminary investigations shows that the Commission can use the competition rules to achieve swift results on the market with clear benefits for consumers."

Market changing rapidly

But Ian Fogg, a London-based analyst for Forrester Research, said the market is changing at a fast pace, making it difficult for regulators to keep up. Apple's app store was launched just over two years ago and has grown exponentially.

Joaquin Almunia

Joaquin Almunia is the EU Competition Commissioner

Apple has at times struggled to bring consistency into the way it manages the apps in its store, Fogg said. He described Apple's app store as a "curated ecosystem" similar to the Amazon Kindle store or Google's market for Android phone apps.

"I think it makes good business sense for any company that's curating its ecosystem to be consistent and clear about what is and isn't allowed, because that level playing field enables firms to decide where to invest their efforts," he told Deutsche Welle.

"Apple's challenge is the same challenge many firms have in that the products and the markets which are being created are so new that everyone is working out the rules as we go along."

The European Commission said the changes to Apple's policy towards iPhone apps will remove limits to independent developers who sometimes were in competition with Apple itself.

Mobile warranty for mobile phones

According to Fogg, warranty repair policies vary in the consumer electronics market, but such policies carry added meaning for mobile products such as smartphones.

"For a mobile phone product, having the ability to have the product repaired wherever that person is is very important," he said. "It's much more important for a mobile phone than it would be for a high-definition television, which is likely to be used in the same country that it's bought in for all of its life."

Author: Gerhard Schneibel
Editor: Cyrus Farivar

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