Back in 2008, Jay Freeman first released Cydia as an app store designed for the iPhone, offering apps a few months before Apple had its own App Store. Since then, Cydia has served as an app repository for jailbroken iPhones and iPads, making it easy to install unauthorized software on compatible devices.
Now Cydia is joining a growing cadre of developers accusing Apple of anticompetitive behavior, reports The Washington Post. Cydia on Thursday sued Apple, accusing the company of using anticompetitive tactics to “nearly destroy Cydia” ahead of the App Store launch, which Cydia’s lawyers say has a monopoly over software distribution on iOS devices.
According to Cydia, if Apple did not have an “illegal monopoly” over iOS app distribution, users would be able to choose “how and where to locate and obtain iOS apps,” and developers would also have alternate distribution methods.
Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz told The Washington Post that Apple will review the lawsuit and that Apple is not a monopoly because it faces competition from Android. Apple also must maintain control over the way software is installed on the iPhone to prevent customers from accidentally downloading viruses and malware, which iPhones would be more susceptible to with a third-party App Store.
The App Store is the only authorized way to install apps on an iPhone or iPad, with more than 1.8 million apps available worldwide. Over 28 million developers around the world use the App Store to distribute apps, and Apple earns somewhere around $15 billion in revenue from the App Store each year. Apple has a dedicated App Store review team that reviews every app submitted to the store, along with guidelines that developers have to follow.
Before the App Store, though, there was Cydia. Jay Freeman told The Washington Post that he developed Cydia as a way to make it easy for customers to jailbreak their iPhones and install new software to support features created by developers who wanted to make apps and new functions for the original iPhone.
According to his estimations, more than half of early iPhone customers were jailbreaking their iPhones to use Cydia, and in 2010, 4.5 million people were searching for apps weekly. By then, Apple had come out with its own App Store and started making it harder to jailbreak new iPhones, and over the years, also added features that were previously only available through Cydia, such as the Control Center.
Freeman claims that the risks of jailbreaking are “overblown” and are similar to downloading software from a PC. “Morally speaking, it’s your phone and you should be able to do whatever you want with it,” he said. The lawsuit claims that Apple used “coercive” terms to prevent customers from using Cydia, and as security ramped up, Cydia’s business waned.
Cydia lawyer Stephen Swedlow says that the “legal climate” has been changing, which makes it the ideal time to file against Apple. Cydia is the “perfect claimant” for an antitrust case given that it has an app store that’s an alternative to Apple’s own offering. If the suit is successful, Cydia plans to once again compete with Apple, but without the need for jailbreaking.