Apple Using Dominant App Store Position to Crack Down on Third-Party Screen Time Apps

iOS 12 Screen Time Pick Ups

Ever since Apple released Screen Time as a part of iOS 12, the company has been coming down heavily on third-party apps that offer similar functionality.

As data from Sensor Tower an The New York Times show, Apple has removed or restricted functionality of at least top 11 of the 17 apps on the App Store which offered functionality similar to Screen Time.

Apple asked selected developers to remove some features from their apps or just outright pulled their app from the App Store.

Apple will send developers an email out of the blue asking them to remove certain features from their app. While their mail will encourage developers to contact Apple for more details, developer experience has been the opposite with Apple hardly ever responding to them.

In some cases, Apple forced companies to remove features that allowed parents to control their children’s devices or that blocked children’s access to certain apps and adult content. In other cases, it simply pulled the apps from its App Store.

Apple’s move has had an adverse effect on the future of many companies. Apple pulled OurPact’s app from the App Store in February whose parental control app was among the top ranking ones. The company’s app generated 80 percent of its revenue from the App Store.

Apple has been using its dominant position in the App Store to pull apps which offer similar features to the ones it releases as a part of a new iOS release. This is not good from a competition viewpoint as many iOS apps offer more granular controls and features compared to Apple’s Screen Time implementation. For example, OurPact parental app allows parents to block certain apps during a certain time of the day. This feature is missing from Screen Time.

“We treat all apps the same, including those that compete with our own services,” said Tammy Levine, an Apple spokeswoman. “Our incentive is to have a vibrant app ecosystem that provides consumers access to as many quality apps as possible.” She said the timing of Apple’s moves were not related to its debut of similar tools.

Our Take

Despite Apple’s comments, it is clear that the company uses its dominant position in the App Store for its own advantage. Apart from developers of parental control apps, Spotify has also highlighted how Apple uses its position to favor Apple Music and make the life of its competitors difficult on the App Store.

[Via NY Times]