Purged App Makers Want Apple to Prove It's Serious About the App Store Being Open to Competitors

Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

Last month, Apple removed or put restrictions on several apps meant to limit screen time in the App Store. Now, the New York Times reports that 17 affected by that purge have proposed Apple create an API so their apps can return to the store without violating the company’s strict privacy guidelines.

The proposed API would allow third-party app makers to use Apple’s own technology to monitor how much time you spend on your phone. “In the most minimal form, the API only gives access to App and Device usage data, but no App data is exposed,” the proposal reads. According to the Times, the proposal was a collaboration between the purged apps’ developers after Apple said in a statement that it removed the apps because they risked users’ privacy and security.

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Apple did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment on this story. 

Apple claimed these third-party apps were guilty of using a “highly invasive technology called Mobile Device Management, or MDM. MDM gives a third-party control and access for a device and its most sensitive information, including user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions, and browsing history.” The Times report noted that in total, Apple has removed or restricted more than 24 screen time and parental control apps.

The developers are now saying the ball is in Apple’s court. Since Apple’s developed its own Screen Time feature, it could potentially share its technology so developers can avoid using a workaround that runs up against Apple’s privacy stipulations. The only snag is Apple has to be willing. While the developers did write up a proposal, ultimately an API would have to come from Apple.

This puts some added pressure on Apple with regard to its walled garden approach to the App Store. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled consumers could sue Apple for its ‘monopolistic’ App Store policies. In response, Apple published a page earlier this week in defense of the way it runs the App Store. In it, Apple maintained its strict curation was key to providing a secure, private, high-quality experience for its customers. It also said it reviews 100,000 apps per week, of which 40 percent are rejected for minor bugs and privacy concerns.

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While many appreciate that the App Store is less prone to malware-ridden apps, some users are also frustrated there’s no option to sideload programs or download from third-parties. That frustration extends to some of Apple’s competitors as well. Take Spotify. The popular music streaming service recently filed an antitrust suit with the European Commission, saying Apple uses its stringent guidelines to give Apple Music an unfair advantage. And to be fair, Apple seems more than happy to bend its own guidelines to push its own services.

Whether Apple agrees to release an API is up for debate. But for now, increased scrutiny on the App Store isn’t the best look for Apple ahead of its WWDC annual developer conference on Monday. Typically, this is the time where Apple outlines its software updates for the next year, as well as tries to entice thousands of developers into creating apps for its ecosystem. In any case, you can bet app makers will be keeping a close eye how this all pans out.

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[New York Times]

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About the author

Victoria Song

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.