Feds Argue Apple CarPlay Is Anticompetitive In Antitrust Lawsuit

Photo: MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images / Contributor (Getty Images)
Photo: MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images / Contributor (Getty Images)

When Apple first introduced CarPlay, it was a revelation. Instead of dealing with the hassle of inputting a destination using the manufacturer’s clunky infotainment software, you could simply type it into your phone and have the directions appear on the center screen. It was easy to use and understand, and most importantly, it just worked. It quickly became an in-demand feature, with people even adding CarPlay to older cars that were sold without it. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the Verge reports the Justice Department included CarPlay in an antitrust lawsuit against Apple.

The Justice Department, as well as 16 state and district attorneys general, argued in the lawsuit that Apple has an illegal monopoly on smartphones in the U.S. through policies such as making it hard to use apps that don’t lock users into its ecosystem and intentionally making messaging non-iPhone users a worse experience. And they also claim the tech giant’s CarPlay policies are part of the same anticompetitive behavior.

“By applying the same playbook of restrictions to CarPlay, Apple further locks-in the power of the iPhone by preventing the development of other disintermediating technologies that interoperate with the phone but reside off device,” the lawsuit claims. It also asserts that the next generation of CarPlay will take “over all of the screens, sensors, and gauges in a car, forcing users to experience driving as an iPhone-centric experience if they want to use any of the features provided by CarPlay.”


Guidehouse Insights automotive analyst Sam Abuelsamid, however, disagreed with the government’s position. “Even with the next-gen system, OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] don’t actually have to let Apple take over all the screens,” he told the Verge. “They can limit the interface to whichever screens they want.”

Despite Apple’s large share of the phone market, Abuelsamid also pointed out that automakers still can’t assume everyone in the U.S. has an iPhone, and they still have to include at least a basic infotainment system that ensures you can still, say, change the temperature if you don’t have a phone to pair. Owners who have Android phones are also free to use Android Auto to mirror their phones, and Google allows you to still use CarPlay even if your car’s infotainment system runs on Android’s automotive operating system.

Since it’s not like everyone who owns a car that includes Apple CarPlay is forced to use it to drive their car or mirror their phone, we’re not exactly confident the DOJ is going to win this one. Still, it’s we won’t complain about the feds putting pressure on Apple to play nice and perhaps slow down its plans for total world domination.

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