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Joe Biden wants Apple to free your iPhone from App Store lockdown

iMore logo iMore 2/1/2023 Stephen Warwick
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The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration has released a reporttoday which says that Apple's iOS App Store on devices like the iPhone and iPad, along with Google's rival store on Android, "have the potential to harm consumers by inflating prices and reducing innovation". It is recommending some major changes to the way you use your iPhone. 

The results of the survey have apparently determined that the way Apple distributes apps on its iPhone means "innovators have very limited avenues for reaching consumers.". Further stating both Apple and Google "create hurdles for developers to compete for consumers by imposing technical limits, such as restricting how apps can function or requiring developers to go through slow and opaque review processes." 

The report says that while there are some benefits including better security, it says that "the costs far outweigh the benefits and that privacy and security protections can still be achieved in a more competitive environment." 

Joe Biden's iPhone agenda

As such, the NTIA and the Biden administration are recommending a series of sweeping changes:

  • Consumers should have more control over their devices - the report says you should be able to choose default apps for mail and web browsing (you can already do this on iPhone), use alternative mobile app stores, and delete pre-installed apps like Notes or Apple Music.
  • App store operators should not be able to “self-preference” their apps in an anti-competitive manner -  the report says Apple and Google shouldn't be able to favor their own apps in App Store searches or discriminate against apps similar to their own.
  • Operators should lift restrictions on alternative ways for consumers to download and install apps - the report says users should be Apple should not be able to restrict sideloading (downloading an app from somewhere other than the App Store), alternative app stores, and web apps.
  • Addressing limits on in-app purchasing options - the report says requirements that developers use something like in-app purchasing on iOS should be banned.

The recommendations are likely to send Apple absolutely ballistic, given their close guarding of its iOS business model, App Store distribution, and its legal fight with Epic Games over this very issue, which was won in court in 2020. If the changes were brought in, it could open up a plethora of new App Stores on iOS from companies like Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Epic Games, Spotify, and others to name a few. It would also mean consumers have to input payment information in multiple avenues, and would be able to download apps directly from the web like they can on Mac. 

The iOS App Store is fundamental to the current user experience on Apple's best iPhones like the iPhone 14. Sweeping legislation to this degree could completely change the way we use our iPhones. 

More interestingly, the NTIA is also making these recommendations for Google even though Android is far less restrictive, allowing both sideloading and alternative app stores already. We've reached out to Apple on the NTIA's report today. 

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