App Stores: USA wants to crack down on Apple and Google

A report by the US Department of Commerce is harsh on Apple and Google. It is suggested to allow sideloading and alternative app stores.

After the European Union, Apple and Google are also beginning to see stricter regulation of the app stores in their home market, the USA. The US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a report on Wednesday calling for a package of measures closely resembling the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA)Among other things, the manufacturers of iOS and Android should be obliged to allow sideloading of apps and alternative app stores. The authority that wrote the paper is considered one of the most important advisors to US President Joe Biden.

The current model of mobile app stores is “harmful to consumers and developers,” the US Department of Commerce press office said in no uncertain terms. Apple and Google, who acted as gatekeepers for apps, are mentioned by name. The policies of the two companies lead to excessive prices and limited innovation. US President Biden has set himself the goal of “bringing more competition back into the technology sector”. The national importance of the mobile app markets is justified by the fact that 2.56 million jobs are associated with the app economy in the US alone. Mobile devices are the leading technology platform today. That is why competition and innovation are of particular importance here.

Concrete, the report proposes that users should be able to select apps themselves as the default, such as the e-mail program or the browser. Pre-installed apps should be removable and hideable, and alternative app stores allowed. The operators of the app stores should also be prohibited from putting their own apps in the foreground in an anti-competitive manner – for example in search results. Also in the crosshairs are specifications that in-app purchases are only possible via the payment system of the app store provider.

The authority does credit Apple and Google for taking care of data protection and security in their app stores. Apple for example, has repeatedly emphasized this in annual reports. However, according to the authors of the report, the price that is currently being paid for this does not outweigh the benefit. In addition, both are also possible in a competition. App developers have been criticized for struggling with technical restrictions imposed by operators and for having their apps go through “slow and opaque verification processes”. It is therefore proposed to pass new laws and to take antitrust action against the gatekeepers.

The restrictions also include technical limitations for web apps, which are particularly criticized in the case of Apple. Among other things, it is about the possibility of sending push notifications to the devices – which Apple has at least promised – full-screen modes for web apps and the possibility of accessing Bluetooth and NFC. It is also desirable that web apps can be run as background processes. With regard to apps, Apple in particular is accused of allowing its own apps that compete with other market participants to use the operating system’s private APIs, while this is forbidden for other apps.

Various reports and specialist literature have been incorporated into the report, as well as a large number of discussions with stakeholders from industry, academia and civil society. According to the surveys, Apple offers two million apps in its App Store. There are 2.7 million apps in Google’s Play Store. The Android operating system is used on 24,000 different types of devices from 1,300 manufacturers.


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