Apple might have to let iPhone users uninstall the Photos app because of EU rules

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EU’s Digital Markets Act is proving to be a nightmare for Apple. You may have followed the back and forth on deciding just how third-party app stores will work, but there’s more to it than that. For example, Apple is supposed to show a browser choice screen, similar to what Microsoft had to do with Windows a decade ago. And that’s not the end of it either.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball noticed comments by Margrethe Vestager, who leads the EC’s “Europe Fit for the Digital Age” initiative. They suggest that Apple must provide not only a choice of which apps to install and use – but also which apps to uninstall.

Vestager highlighted the Photos app in particular, but there are several such apps that are currently deeply integrated into iOS. Too deeply, perhaps. Photos is the gallery app, sure, but it also works as the file picker when you try to share a photo or a video.

The Photos app
The Photos app

As you may know, iOS lets you share either your whole gallery or just individual photos and videos with an app (this includes both files stored locally and ones uploaded to iCloud). Yanking that out of iOS and letting third-party apps replace the functionality might be quite a challenge.

On the other hand, the DMA demands that Apple give full access to iOS APIs and features – everything including mobile payments, installing apps and (apparently) everything that Photos has access to.

This is pretty much the exact same situation that Microsoft found itself in in the early 2000s. Internet Explorer was a core component of Windows, so users could not uninstall it. The Department of Justice took issue with that and filed a suit against the company. Microsoft settled and made Windows more open for third-party software. The browser choice screens came later (and were pushed by the EU).

Here’s what Vestager said:

The third one relates to the objective of the DMA to open closed ecosystems to enable competition at all levels. Under Article 6(3) of the DMA, gatekeepers have an obligation to enable easy uninstallation of apps and easy change of default settings. They must also display a choice screen. Apple’s compliance model does not seem to meet the objectives of this obligation. In particular, we are concerned that the current design of the web browser choice screen deprives end-users of the ability to make a fully informed decision. Example: they do not enhance user engagement with all available options. Apple also failed to make several apps un-installable (one of them would be Photos) and prevents end-users from changing their default status (for example Cloud), as required by the DMA.

With the current version of iOS you can’t uninstall the following apps: App Store, Camera, Messages, Phone, Photos, Safari, Settings. Apple is already opening things up to third-party app stores and should adopt RCS later this year, plus it will allow third-party web browsers. Still, that doesn’t mean that these apps will be easy to completely decouple from iOS (for example, other browsers might need to take up WebView duties).

Source | Via

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