Tech giant Apple has removed (or restricted) 11 of the 17 most popular screen-time and parental control apps from its AppStore.
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A collaborative investigation was done by The New York Times, and Sensor Tower which broke the news.
Apps that stop us…
Over the past couple of years, it has become evident that the infinite number of applications available on our smartphones, while being very useful in many parts of our daily lives, also make the majority of people less focused.
Realizing that, a load of companies from tiny startups to leading corporations have been providing tools that help us control the ‘screen-addiction’ in one way or another.
Some of them, like Freedom, enables the user to schedule their own activities, by letting them set times when certain applications are not available.
Using them helps to regain productivity which would be lost in the labyrinth of social media and digital amusement otherwise.
The other, maybe even more important group, is the variety of parental control services through which parents can protect their children from contents they believe is harmful to certain age-groups.
Giants that stop us using those apps
It was just a question of time until the leading firms joined this market to release their own programs.
Apple included a new screen time-tracker in iOS 12, but what's been happening behind the curtain of these apps development is a somewhat dirty business.
‘They yanked us out of the blue with no warning’, this is the story of the top parental control app, OurPact, told by chief executive Amir Moussavian.
OurPact has more than three million downloads, the company has been on the AppStore for years. Or better to say, had been, since Apple removed it.
The company made eighty percent of its profit through sales on AppStore.
What’s in the background?
Developers claim that the reason why Apple (and all the major tech titans for that matter) are pulling their apps from its AppStore (or from Google Play Store, Amazon, etc.) is simply that Apple’s tools could not compete against them.
Apple’s own tools are lacking some crucial features included in the third party alternatives.
Thus, removing the most successful apps, or forcing them to apply changes in their software, benefits only Apple’s revenues.
On the other hand, Apple claims that the reason for the removals and the restrictions is the safety of the customers/users. The company states that those applications provide too much information about the users and their habits.
The company’s spokeswoman Tammy Levine said: ‘We treat all apps the same including those that compete with our own services, our incentive is to have a vibrant app ecosystem that provides consumers access to as many quality apps as possible.’
Fred Stutzman, chief executive of Freedom, a screen-time app recently removed from the AppStore is skeptical when commenting about the removal: ‘Their incentives aren’t really aligned for helping people solve the problem […] Can you really trust that Apple wants people to spend less time on their phones?’
Can the future will be an actually vibrant app ecosystem?
More and more people are acknowledging that the hegemonic position of those tech giants in the field of the marketplace does manipulate the fair competition.
Earlier this year, Senator Elisabeth Warren summed up the problematics of this complex situation while speaking at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference, in Austin, Texas, saying: ‘You can be an umpire, or you can own teams, but you can’t be an umpire and own one of the teams that’s in the game.’