Apple Watch accused of monopolizing heart rate detection app market

A U.S. federal judge ruled on Monday that Apple must face charges over a ban on third-party heart rate monitoring apps for the Apple Watch. It comes after a Silicon Valley company said Apple illegally monopolized the U.S. market for the Apple Watch's heart rate-monitoring app.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland, California, said AliveCor could prove that Apple violated federal antitrust laws on the grounds that Apple has "complete control" of the market for such apps. AliveCor's SmartRhythm app alerts users if their heartbeat is regular.

"AliveCor alleges that Apple made changes to the heart rate algorithm that made it practically impossible for third parties to notify users when it was time to take an EKG," White wrote. "Plaintiffs' allegations appear to establish that Apple's conduct was anti-competitive."

In addition, White dismissed AliveCor's other allegation that Apple "unlawfully monopolized" the market for smartwatches with ECG monitoring capabilities. That's because AliveCor's KardiaBand wristband, which can also record a user's ECG, "plays a complementary role in this market, it just doesn't compare to the Apple Watch," White said.

Apple and its lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. AliveCor attorney Adam Wolfson declined to comment.

In a lawsuit filed in May 2021, AliveCor accused Apple of tweaking the Apple Watch's heart rate algorithm to gain an "unfair competitive advantage" over competitors and "put the lives of countless AliveCor users at risk."

Apple countered that "it is indisputable that product improvements themselves do not violate U.S. antitrust laws."

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