Biden administration wants Apple to allow unpublished iOS downloads

In short: Apple and Google have long faced criticism from regulators in Europe for how tightly they control the distribution of software on their mobile platforms. The two tech giants are now facing similar rhetoric from across the Atlantic.

New report from the White House. advises US lawmakers will pass legislation to open up Apple and Google’s mobile software ecosystems. Extensive review claims that iOS and Android currently suppress competition between developers with unnecessary obstacles, echoing the sentiments of Europeans.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said consumers should be able to more easily install software on mobile devices from outside the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. While Android technically allows unpublished apps to be downloaded, the NTIA report claims that Google still makes the process too cumbersome.

The Biden administration also denounced how some app store policies put third-party developers at a disadvantage compared to the services Apple and Google provide on their operating systems. For example, sales commissions prevent third parties from profitably selling music or e-books on mobile apps, a policy that favors third-party services like iTunes or Apple Books. Restrictions on mobile browsers and cloud gaming are another sore point for developers.

Apple has consistently insisted that the security provided by its walled garden is the main selling point for the iPhone and iOS. The NTIA report acknowledges that any legislation requiring the uploading of unpublished data must take into account privacy and security issues.

The European Union passed such legislation in November in the form of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), and reports indicate that Apple is preparing to comply with it. Last December, sources told Bloomberg that Cupertino was preparing changes to iOS to allow app installation from outside the App Store, but the timing of the unprecedented move remains unclear.

While the DMA is currently in place, it won’t apply to big gatekeepers like Apple and Google until at least mid-2023. changes may not appear for some time.

Regulators in countries such as South Korea and the Netherlands have previously forced Apple and Google to allow users to make in-app purchases through third-party payment processors. EU regulations will also force iPhones to support USB-C after 2024, meaning the iPhone 15 (or next model) will likely move from Apple’s proprietary Lightning cables.

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