Apple is under a lot of scrutiny and pressure these days in the way it handles its App Store business. Epic Games may have fired the opening shots but that has also created a domino effect where the iPhone maker’s dominance in its own app ecosystem is being examined more intensely than ever before. A set of bipartisan bills are being pushed in the US Congress that would change the way Apple preloads apps on iPhones and iPads, not only allowing users to completely remove preloaded first-party apps but also banning Apple from preinstalling them in the first place.
Preloaded apps have always been a point of contention in the mobile world. On Android, these have been derisively called bloatware because they take up storage space without offering any value that users actually want. While the situation isn’t as bad on the iOS side of the fence, it takes on a different character where Apple is accused of monopolizing the app market by putting its own apps on devices by default.
In anticompetitive terms, this means that new iPhone owners are less likely to try out alternatives to Apple’s apps, presuming they even know those alternatives exist. As the creator of both iPhones and iOS, Apple has the advantage of being able to decide which apps get preinstalled on each and every device. Five antitrust bills are now trying to say it shouldn’t be able to.
One part of the set of bills would ban Apple from preinstalling apps that have competing alternatives on the App Store. Another part would stop Apple from blocking users who want to completely uninstall any preloaded app installed on devices. That said, Apple has already allowed deleting preloaded apps since iOS 12.
In the European Union, Apple is fighting a different battle over iOS apps. A proposed Digital Markets Act or DMA would force the company to allow sideloading or installing apps outside of the App Store. While this would open up the iOS ecosystem similar to Android, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended that it would not be in the best interest of iPhone users, citing the security implications such a law would bring to the platform.