A few months ago, I became a Kindle owner.
It was cool! The best part was being able to buy and read books instantly.
But then I lost my Kindle.
So I downloaded the Kindle app on my iPhone. And that was cool, too. Because then I had the benefits of being a Kindle owner again without having to buy another Kindle. And I also didn’t have to lug around two devices or worry about whether my Kindle was charged or where it was, etc.
But then it came time to buy a new Kindle book. So I fired up my Kindle app on the iPhone and tried to buy, “The Everything Store.” My Kindle app produced a beautiful image of the cover and an intro excerpt of a few dozen pages. I read them happily, in bed, and, surprisingly, did not go instantly to sleep (it’s a good story!). But then the free excerpt ended.
I was hooked by that point. So I decided to buy the book.
And for 5 to 10 minutes I fiddled with my Kindle app, trying to figure out how to buy the book. And I became increasingly frustrated: Amazon, a company that is normally so excellent at making it as easy as possible to find and buy stuff, had been unable to build an iPhone app simple enough for me to figure out? I kept trying. But the only additional thing I could do was add the book to my “Wish List.”
Well, that wasn’t helpful. Eventually, I concluded that my Kindle App just did not allow me to buy stuff. This was mystifying, but I assumed it had something to do with Apple’s draconian “pay us a huge cut or else” app commerce policies — and that assumption made me super-annoyed with Apple. I’ve been an Amazon customer a lot longer than I’ve been an Apple iPhone customer, and here Apple was basically making it impossible for me to buy stuff from a store I’m already a customer of.
So I fired up the Amazon app on my iPhone — an app through which I had already bought a lot of stuff on my iPhone, including sneakers and a ping-pong table.
And I couldn’t buy “The Everything Store” there, either!
Exasperated, I asked Twitter what was going on. Many folks immediately confirmed that, yes, it was Apple’s greedy “30% or else” policy that was preventing me from being able to buy the book in my apps — because Apple is in the ebook business and Apple doesn’t want me to buy ebooks from anyone other than Apple unless Apple gets a huge cut. And many of these iPhone owners expressed the same annoyance and frustration about this policy that I felt.
Happily, a couple of folks on Twitter also explained how I could get around this absurd situation: By firing up the iPhone’s web browser and using that to buy my Kindle book. I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet, but I’m certainly glad that’s possible.
But what a klugy solution!
And how annoying that a company that prides itself on making the best and easiest-to-use products in the market forces its customers to go through the hassle of figuring out how to hack their iPhones to be able to buy stuff from companies they are already customers of!
(And, no, I’m not mad at Amazon for not paying Apple its egregious 30% tax. That level of commission is outrageous. Unlike Apple, Amazon doesn’t make money hand over fist. Instead, it shares the profit it could be making with me, its customer, through lower prices, and I am continuously grateful for that.)
I understand that Apple wants to get even richer ($160 billion of cash and a ~30% profit margin isn’t enough, apparently). And I’m an Apple shareholder, so I guess I’m glad the company thinks it’s looking out for me.*
But does Apple understand that its greedy “30% cut” policy is making my iPhone worse?
Is that really what Apple aspires to — to force its customers to use only services that Apple makes even when the customers don’t want to use those services?
I certainly hope that’s not what Apple aspires to.
I love my iPhone. I have been waiting two years for Apple to finally make an iPhone with a big screen, and I’m very excited that this year it likely will finally do that. And I will buy the iPhone with the big screen. But this anti-customer Apple policy that is making my iPhone less useful and worse is really annoying to me.
Another two years from now, when Android is that much more improved, and smartphone hardware has become that much more commoditized, and Google’s web services (which are better than Apple’s) are that much better integrated into Android-based smartphones, and Amazon, Netflix, WhatsApp, and the handful of other apps that I use a lot work much better on Android than they do on the iPhone, I’m going to think seriously about switching.
I hate that Apple is making my iPhone less useful to make itself richer. And I hate that a company I otherwise deeply admire on so many levels, would pursue a money-driven policy that is so clearly anti-customer.
SEE ALSO: Here Comes The Big iPhone!
* This is a different story, but I actually don’t think Apple’s profit obsession is good for shareholders like me. By keeping its prices so high, I think Apple is being shortsighted and trading off long-term value for short-term profit. I actually wish Apple would behave more like Amazon, and focus on the long-term.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.