Apple has no respite as four more states join a lawsuit over its alleged smartphone monopoly

What happened? Apple faces mounting legal challenges as four more U.S. states support a federal government antitrust lawsuit alleging monopolistic practices in the smartphone market. Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada and Washington officially joined the Justice Department’s civil case against Apple this week, according to a statement from the agency.

The original complaint, filed in March, was filed by 15 states and the District of Columbia. The lawsuit accused the iPhone maker of leveraging its dominance to extract higher profits from consumers, developers, content creators and companies across the ecosystem. Specifically, he claimed that iPhones cost as much as $1,599 and that Apple’s profit margins exceed those of its competitors. The goal is to break Apple’s stranglehold and “bring back competition,” which he believes will lower prices and spur innovation.

The department also cited five examples in which Apple imposed restrictive agreements and blocked critical access in ways that illegally stifle competition and innovation. These sample areas included super apps, cloud streaming gaming, messaging apps, smartwatches, and digital wallets. Prosecutors say these monopolistic tactics allow Apple to charge exorbitant prices for iPhones while defrauding partners with hidden fees.

The lawsuit even included an email from late founder Steve Jobs, stating that its goal was to “force” developers to use Apple’s payment systems in order to lock them and users out of the company’s ecosystem.

For its part, Apple has strongly rejected the monopoly claims, saying it “faces fierce competition from established rivals.” The company also claimed that the Justice Department was relying on a new “theory of antitrust liability that no court has recognized.”

This antitrust fight marks a dramatic escalation in the tech industry’s conflicts with regulators and competitors over alleged anticompetitive behavior. While Apple has already faced investigations and injunctions in places such as Europe over issues such as App Store policies, this US lawsuit strikes at the heart of its business model.

Apple isn’t the only company struggling with antitrust issues; US authorities have turned up the heat on Big Tech after leaving it largely to its own devices for more than a decade. Google and Amazon are also under increased scrutiny.

The last time Washington acted with such ferocity was in the early 1990s during the infamous United States v. Microsoft Corp. case, which was decided in the early 2000s.

Meanwhile, Apple has found itself in the crosshairs, in part because of long-standing concerns about its “walled garden” approach of tightly controlling its devices and platforms.