Apple is banning ScreenTime-like apps because they're unsafe for children: Report

Apple's Screen Time app keeps a track of how much time iOS users spend on their devices, apps.

Update: Apple's VP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller has addressed concerns over the app bans.

In a mail sent to MacRumours, Schiller explains that the New York Times report did not "share our complete statement." He states that Apple banned the apps to protect children from harm because the apps could be used to violate their privacy and security. The apps that were banned used a feature called MDM or Mobile Device Management which gives third-parties control over your phone. This is apparently an enterprise-only feature meant and not meant for the average developer or Apple customer. Apps using MDM have full access to a user's location, mail accounts, camera and network use, browsing history, etc. Such apps could also be misused to install malicious apps.

Apple has reportedly decided to edge out apps on its App Store that function as competitors to its Screen Time feature, announced by Apple alongside iOS 12 in 2018.

As per a report by The New York Times, Apple, over the past year, removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most popular screen time tracking and parental control apps on the App Store.

Teaming up with app data firm Sensor Tower, the report interviewed developers, a number of which suggested that Apple is trying to push iOS device users into using only Apple's own apps such as Screen Time. Apple reportedly ordered developers to remove key features from their Screen Time-like apps or take them down entirely from the App Store.

A customer looks at the Apple iPhone XS after it went on sale at the Apple Store in Tokyo. Image: Reuters

A customer looks at the Apple iPhone XS after it went on sale at the Apple Store in Tokyo. Image: Reuters

Apple is said to have justified its actions by saying that the apps violated policies such as using public APIs in an unapproved manner. However, the timing of the demands are suspect though, as some of these apps (namely, OurPact and Mobicip) have already been downloaded more than a million times.

Mobicip chief Suren Ramasubbu told the New York Times that Apple required their company to change the app within 30 days or face removal from the App Store. After multiple messages seeking clarification and the submission of a revised app, Mobicip was ultimately removed from the App Store.

Responding to the allegations Apple spokeswoman Tammy Levine told the publication, “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,” she added.

This is not the first time that Apple has seemingly given its own offerings an unfair advantage over third-party apps. Spotify recently filed an antitrust complaint against Apple over the alleged preferential treatment for its own music streaming service.

For those wondering, Apple's Screen Time app keeps a track of how much time iOS device owners spend on their devices and on specific apps. However, the feature is said to be less granular compared to competitors - a reason why a sizable number of users flock to third-party Screen-Time like apps.

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