Tile will testify against Apple in U.S. Congressional antitrust hearing today

Tile will testify against Apple: Screenshots of a new "Items" tab that Apple is developing for its Find My app in iOS 13 (source: MacRumors)
Screenshots of a new “Items” tab that Apple is developing for its Find My app in iOS 13 (source: MacRumors)

Tile will testify against Apple, as one of four companies testifying at the latest hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee in Colorado on Friday, urging Congress to look at how much larger companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook operate.

Nandita Bose for Reuters:

In April 2019, Tile.com, which helps users find lost or misplaced items, suddenly found itself competing with Apple Inc, after years of enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship… [In 2019] Tile’s executives read news reports of Apple launching a hardware product along with a service that resembled what Tile sold. By June, Apple had stopped selling Tile’s products in stores and has since hired away one of its engineers.

“After thoughtful consideration and months of bringing our concerns to Apple through regular… channels, Tile has made the decision to continue raising concerns over Apple’s anti-competitive practices,” Tile general counsel Kirsten Daru told Reuters in an interview.

The startup will be one of four companies testifying at the latest hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee in Colorado on Friday, urging Congress to look at how these companies use their considerable clout in the online market to hurt rivals.

MacDailyNews Take: Tile will testify against Apple? What’s Tile going to testify about, that they read on some rumors blog that they might actually be getting some competition finally? Are antitrust complaints about vaporware a thing now? Puleeze.

Yes, Apple Tags are coming (someday soon, we hope). No, competition is not illegal. Companies are allowed to try to make better mousetraps. For running to Congress like a whiny little you-know-what, we hope Tile gets so sherlocked that they can’t see straight. Get lost, Tile.


  1. Despite this case being made without any sound proof of the existence of the Apple Tags, it speaks to a larger problem of huge companies (Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft) replicating solutions by startups and smaller businesses. This generates a problem in that these giants naturally have means to outspend and outmaneuver the smaller guy. The argument generally made is that it works for the consumer to have a cheaper solution but in fact it doesn’t. If you kill all competition because you own the whole system you’re not only destroying jobs, you are also destroying innovation. We have to understand how absurd it is for 4 or 5 companies create and control monopoly-ecosystems while growing ever larger. Bigger even than some countries… Will they ever be controlled?

    1. This isn’t about “replacing” Tile. It’s about doing something else entirely in order to accomplish it better. Tile is fine but quite limited.

      “The main limitation is that Tile can only communicate via bluetooth with a device that has the Tile app installed on it. Tile can not connect via wifi to the internet, so it doesn’t have the ability to be directly online. So if you leave your Tile somewhere away from your phone, it can not communicate. You have to basically remember where you left it, then go to that place and get close enough to the Tile to connect via bluetooth. This is very different from “find my phone”, where you can communicate with your phone over the internet. Limited practical use.“

      If Apple were to do it better, they will probably do it with WIFI, not Bluetooth. Regardless, if Tile is better than Apple’s solution, people will buy it. That’s competition, not antitrust. The same is true in the other direction.

      1. Thank you for replying. Of course I agree that in the scenario you described it will work better than Tile’s system. What I was referring to is, in my opinion, a more general and widespread problem of getting “ideas” from small companies and applying them at large scale without letting these smaller players in market grow at least.

        Now in the specific case you mentioned: what if Tile had the ability of using every iPhones bluetooth to make finding the Tile or Tag that much better (not much different from how apple’s find my phone now works). The problem is that only Apple itself has the resource and won’t allow anyone to do the same. If Apple (or Facebook, or google, or microsoft) keep neverendingly remaking functions and gadgets others had proposed then they will just keep growing. But that is the crux of companies attached to the stock market, you either keep growing or suddenly you’re worth nothing.

        I believe this is where the antitrust issue possibly lies.

    2. But what if the existing solution is good, but could be alot better? Should the larger company not do anything, because competition might hurt the smaller company with an inferior product? Is it only okay to compete if the company you compete with is bigger?

      Apple typically leaves alot of room for competition. When they opened the App Store, they intro’d one app, Poker, and it was a great app, and customers and reviewers wanted Apple to make lots more apps, but Apple left the playing field open for others. When Apple intro’d a new connector, they make one cable and let others make cables too.

      The solution seems to me that if you’re going to make something, make it so great that the large company won’t compete with you or they’ll offer to buy you out. Look at Tesla. Entering the auto market is hard, since it requires huge amounts of capital. There are entrenched competitors all over the world. And yet, they built factories, control production of their key components, built out their charging infrastructure all under the noses of their competition and now they’re too big to be bought by those same competitors, who are all scrambling to come up with a better solution.

    3. One of the things (in fact, the main thing) that’s left out of arguments like this, is choice. Consumer choice… to have a better/cheaper/more effective product than that of Tile, or whoever. Your argument would deny consumers a choice. If it ever ships, no one is going to be forced to buy Apple’s product… not even Apple users.

      One of the facts of living in a truly free and competitive world is that if you start a business, you are going to have competition and have to deal with competitors with more money, better resources, better talent/expertise, and/or better rep with consumers. Makes no difference what business you’re in or what you do for a living. Artists, authors, scientists, bankers, auto makers, plumbers, etc., etc. Only those protected by government (such as “public” utilities) have no real competition.

      1. I wasn’t meaning to make any proposition nor criticizing Apple in this specific case, merely pointing out what I find broken in the system as a whole. But the main point is that this competition is not the same anymore. First these companies are growing to a scale never before seen and as such the diference to the smaller ones becomes even more enormous.

        There is such a pressure for the big companies to keep growing due to the stock market functioning that even when they don’t push these guys out of business they simply buy them out to have the features, in the mid to long term this will also magnify the problem in the future.

        You can get a picture of where it will all go by looking at the increase in the percentage of billionaires accompanied by an even greater er increase in the bottom middle class.

        Anyhow I find interesting all of the points that have come up with this exchange. It is definitely a subject that will keep raising discussions in the future.



  2. There are laws against abuse of monopolies. And they have been applied. AT&T is a good example where the break up of the company created opportunities.
    On the flip side, look at the iPhone. I doubt that any startup could have done that and it took the collective skill set at Apple to come up with a new paradigm for mobile phones.
    The balance is needed and I don’t think Apple abuse their position. In many cases they have been critical in establishing ecosystems for others to flourish. Apple are very skillful at identifying new areas of development and often take the products that other have often made and create something that has better form or function. To be honest that is why I think Apple is the best company in the world.

    1. Not true there where several large Fat companies Nokia, Sony, Motorola, Palm, Blackberry, and the Fattest Microsoft who made smartphone’s, all of these companies shot themselves in the head by sitting around in a stupor for three years after the debut of the iPhone.

  3. AppleTag feels like something perfectly suited for Apple’s ecosystem, something where the customer would get real benefit from it being vertically integrated into all of Apple’s products. Unlike Tile, Apple can innovate at all levels from the silicon, wireless, OS and software interface. Unfortunately for Tile this give’s Apple a natural advantage over their product.

    Apple should be free to pursue any product or service even if it competes with other companies who make a living off Apple’s platforms and ecosystem. The key is Apple should not be allowed to “directly” push them out of the market, Apple should just compete on the merits of their product in the open market like everyone else.

    Obviously Apple is already starting from a position where they have an advantage over Tile because they created the products and ecosystem but Apple earned themselves that privilege by investing huge sums to build those products and ecosystem. So far Tile have just piggy backed off Apple to make money. If they want to compete with AppleTag’s they are free to create their own phones and tablets. Apple should be under no obligation to open up their products for Tile and Tile shouldn’t be allowed to stop Apple extending their own products and ecosystem.

    To put it another way Apple should be allowed to create accessories like AirPods and the iPhone Battery Case which are tightly integrated but Apple should not be allowed to actively prevent other accessory makers from making similar earphones and battery cases for Apple products.

    Speaking just as a customer, I would buy an AppleTag solution over any third-party product because of the deeper integration, power efficiency and security you would naturally get. I can understand why Tile are trying to defend their market position but they are not really in an unusual position, the iPhone has Sherlocked many products.

    (Even if Apple was naughty and tried to push them out I still think Tile is vulnerable to an OEM just building their own competing solutions. Tile ultimately either need to expand their product portfolio or evolve.)

    1. “Unlike Tile, Apple can innovate [compete] at all levels from the silicon, wireless, OS and software interface.” -FizzyPanda

      Brackets mine.
      Tile, nor anyone else can compete with Apple within the ecosystem on a level playing field, and that is the problem.

      Apple has private APIs, Apple has App veto power, Apple can change the OS and be the first (by months or years) to know.

      If Apple only sold or commissioned only Apple owned products, this would not be a problem, but third parties contribute and compete with Apple on an uneven playing field.

  4. Unfortunately, most of the arguments here have no basis in the law or how the law is applied.

    At real issue here relates to a company using its monopoly power to extend its business into new areas to the detiment of extant players.

    It’s 100% OK to be a monopoly. Apple has a monopoly with regard to anything that runs macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS. It’s perfectly legal for Apple to do so.
    Apple historically has not been in the location tile business. In fact, Apple resold such items from other manufacturers, e.g., Tile.
    Apple dropped reselling those items.
    Apple is rumored (from many sources) to be preparing to get into the location tile space with products of its own.
    IF (extremely huge IF as everything is just ruomor at the moment) Apple ships those location tiles and ties them to the elements over which it has a legal monopoly, the question becomes, “Is Apple using its monopoly power to extend its business into new areas to the detriment of other extant vendors/companies?”
    If #5 happens and the courts’ rule that the answer to the question in #5 is yes, then Apple will have been decreed as illegally abusing its monopoly power.
    The remedies can be extremely varied:
    a. A stern finger wagging by the courts and a promise by Apple to not do that again. (Look at the first Microsoft Consent Decree.)
    b. A slap on the wrist and requiring Apple to modify how it ties its tile to Apple devices. (Look at the second Microsoft Consent Decree.)
    c. A requirement for Apple to spin out that sector and treat it as a stand alone entity. (I can’t think of a specific case to list here, but I do recall this has been done.)
    d. Break up Apple. (Look at the AT&T breakup.) (Unlikely in the extreme!)

    It has absolutely nothing to do with price. Apple could give the tiles away for free. Apple could charge $10,000 each for them. The price is irrelevant. The argument that a consumer could still buy tiles from Tile through other outlets and still have them work with Apple’s products is irrelevant.

  5. Sonos, Tile, Basecamp, and PopSockets testified. All of them have horror stories of being jerked around by the big tech giants. Exactly what MDN whined about in Microsoft’s behavior when Ballmer ran the show. Except now it’s Amazon, Apple, Google, and FaceFuck.

    Google directs approximately 40% of web traffic to Basecamp.
    Amazon routinely refuses to remove counterfeit products from its store, PopSockets noted.
    FaceFuck’s ad business is “all based on a fundamental violation of privacy”, according to David H. Hansson.
    Apple routinely steals software design and concepts from small players who distribute via Apple’s App Stores. When Apple launches a competitive product, it immediately has a 30% price advantage. Moreover, software updates can break competitors’ products both intentionally and unintentionally. Tile’s counsel Kristin Daru stated, “Apple is acting as a gatekeeper to applications and technologies in a way that favors its own interests. You might be the best soccer team, but you’re playing against a team that owns the stadium, the ball, and the league, and can change the rules when it wants.”

    Of course nothing will change. The USA is owned by corporate interests. Small startups are merely acquisition targets for the rich few. Too bad Apple acts like it now too.

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