The mobile app industry really only has two platforms to use; Apple's App Store for its iPhones and iPads, and the Google Play Store for all the various Android-based smartphones and tablets. However, the Biden Administration claims that "the current mobile app store model is harmful to consumers and developers."
In a report published today by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the government agency says that mobile app consumers usually can't download apps outside of Apple and Google's digital stores. In addition, developers who have to use those stores to sell their apps are being handcuffed by too many rules dictated by Apple and Google.
The agency recommended that consumers be allowed to download and use alternative mobile app stores on their devices, along with the ability to hide or delete any pre-installed apps and the right to choose their own default apps.
The report also recommended that developers not be restricted to using Apple and Google's own in-app payment systems. This was the main issue with Epic Games when it tried to launch its own in-app payment system for its game Fortnite a few years ago, only to be kicked off the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. In 2021, a court ruled that Apple must allow external payment methods for its mobile devices. So far, that has yet to happen, as Apple is appealing that ruling.
Apple and Google must also allow mobile devices to accept features like sideloading, alternative app stores, and web apps, according to the report. Android devices can support sideloading to a degree, and it does allow some third-party stores, such as the Samsung Galaxy Store, on that company's smartphones. However, Apple's strict hardware and software policies have not allowed iPhone or iPad owners to sideload apps or use different app stores. Finally, the report says Apple and Google should not be allowed to give their own mobile apps any preference in search results or "discriminate against other apps that are similar to their own."
The agency admits that to make these kinds of changes, "new legislation and additional antitrust enforcement actions are likely necessary to boost competition in the app ecosystem." So far, neither Apple nor Google have responded to this new report.
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