Apple Really Doesn’t Like Being Told What to Do

Estimated read time 5 min read
  • Apple does not take public criticism too kindly.
  • It terminated Epic Games’ App Store developer account partly due to comments made by its CEO.
  • The decision to do so has been heavily criticized and caught the eye of EU lawmakers.

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Tim Sweeney is not an Apple hater.

At least, that’s what the Epic Games CEO has claimed despite his regular public barbs about the Cupertino giant.

But it’s probably fair to say Apple is not a fan of Sweeney.

On Wednesday, the iPhone-maker banned the Epic Games developer account from its App Store and said Sweeney’s tweets about Apple were partly behind its reasoning for doing so.

Sweeney has been among Apple’s most vocal critics and has gotten louder in recent months. For context, Apple was obliged to make a series of changes to its App Store in order to comply with Europe’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA) before a March 6 deadline.

The law stipulated that the App Store, which charges a 30% commission, was an unfair “gatekeeper” as it acted as the only digital store where apps can be bought from for iPhones.

As a result, Apple must now allow other app stores on its iPhones — much to its dismay. But it still has retained control over which app stores are allowed onto iOS and will still take a 17% cut on transactions made through those stores.

Sweeney labeled this new reality “hot garbage,” in a post on X in January. He also called Apple’s efforts to comply with the DMA a “horror show.”

Despite Sweeney’s intense criticism of Apple’s efforts to comply with the DMA, Epic had nonetheless applied for a developer account to create its own store on Apple’s operating system. The company even managed to get it approved last month.

These complaints and more were cited in a letter from Apple’s App Store chief Phil Schiller to Epic Games, which was posted on the developer’s website this week.

Schiller said Sweeney’s “colorful criticism” matched with Epic Games’ “past practice of intentionally violating contractual provisions with which it disagrees,” suggested that it did not intend to follow its App Store rules.

In a follow-up legal letter, Apple said that it could not allow Epic Games to be part of its ecosystem due to its “past and current conduct.”

In a blog post published on Wednesday, Epic confirmed that Apple had terminated its developer account, meaning it “cannot develop the Epic Games Store for iOS.”

“In terminating Epic’s developer account, Apple is taking out one of the largest potential competitors to the Apple App Store,” Epic noted in its blog.

“They are undermining our ability to be a viable competitor and they are showing other developers what happens when you try to compete with Apple or are critical of their unfair practices.”


Apple’s decision to evict Epic, partly due to its public criticism of the company, has made some areas of the tech industry very uneasy.

Paul Graham, a cofounder of famed startup accelerator Y Combinator, was among those to call out Apple’s actions.

“We won’t want to think about Apple being evil. It would be so inconvenient,” he said in a post on X.

“We don’t want to switch to Android. But I see ever more signs that power has corrupted them.”

Gergely Orosz, who writes the Pragmatic Engineer newsletter, said that Apple can and will remove developers who dare criticize it.

Apple’s decision has also captured the attention of European lawmakers, who have demanded the iPhone-maker provide it with “further explanations” behind its decision, the FT reported.

Here’s how Epic sees the response: “Apple is retaliating against Epic for speaking out against Apple’s unfair and illegal practices, just as they’ve done to other developers time and time again.”

Apple has tried to justify the move by suggesting that Epic Games Sweden, the affiliate that applied for the developer account, had entered its Developer Program Licensing Agreement in a way that did not involve any executive review by Apple.

It claims to have the right to terminate Epic’s account based on a judgment in September 2021 that ruled in favor of Apple following its huge legal battle with Epic.

In a statement, Apple described Epic’s move as an “egregious breach of its contractual obligations to Apple” that “led courts to determine that Apple has the right to terminate” any entity or affiliate associated with Epic.