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Apple reportedly takes aim at Screen Time competitors on App Store

Apple has reportedly taken aim against apps on its App Store that function as competitors to its Screen Time feature, which the company released alongside iOS 12.

Over the previous year, Apple is said to have removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most popular screen time tracking and parental control apps on the App Store, the New York Times reported, through an analysis with app data firm Sensor Tower.

The report interviewed developers, some 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.

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, as some of these apps have already been downloaded more than a million times, like OurPact at more than 3 million and Mobicip at about 2.5 million.

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.

“We treat all apps the same, including those that compete with our own services,” Apple spokeswoman Tammy Levine said to the New York Times. “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. Apple Music versus Spotify is no longer just all about who signs up the most subscribers, as Spotify has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple over the alleged preferential treatment for its own music streaming service.

Screen Time keeps track of how much time iOS device owners spend on their gadgets and on specific apps, though its features are said to be less granular compared to competitors. For example, Screen Time does not allow parents to block access to some apps at certain times of the day, such as while their children are in school.

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