back to article US government calls foul on Apple and Google over walled gardens for apps

The US Commerce Department is putting an official stamp on what many have saying for years: the iOS and Android app store model "is harmful to consumers and developers."  That's the conclusion of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report into competition in the mobile app ecosystem, which it …

  1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Already mitigated

    Apple and Google will continue what they've already been doing - restrict the hardware specifications and intercept everything in the operating system. Want to back up the files on your phone? Pay Apple or pay Google or have no backups. No, ADB can't perform backups anymore. It's for "security." Want to add configuration files to support your cellular carrier? Nope, nope, nope. Maybe just swap the camera app to get better photos? That's usually a "no" too. The OS only provides pre-processed images.

    I don't want to hear complaints about plummeting sales when Google and Apple have forced an ecosystem of endless identical, boring, crippled, and yet insanely expensive phones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Already mitigated

      Weirdly, I have about 3 separate backup approaches to my iPhone which all worked from quite a while back. The whole iCloud thing which I'm not using (no point in paying for a few GB extra while I have about 1TB on SSD myself in an online server), the Finder in MacOS has backup and sync abilities, and there is even a third party bit of Swiss software from DigitalDNA called iMazing (OK, its name is not impressive), which does a lot more with backups than just, well backing up, such as scanning for spyware, a more interesting way to work with profiles and the ability to export the call list which is so complete it also shows calls via Telegram, Signal et al. I also heard from a friend of mine who wants my old iPhone that it is apparently possible to work with it from Linux (he wants to ditch Android because Google isn't exactly focused on protecting privacy).

      I cannot imagine that Android with its far more open structure does not have similar options, and even if it doesn't it's relatively easy to jailbreak and install software that does - which, by the way, does not need to be loaded from Google.

      As for identical phones, let's just say I don't care much about that. I have a phone to act as, well phone (surprise! They still do that!), and to act as a platform to run the apps I need which are again phone (secure voice/video via Telegram and SIgnal and some WebRTC gadgets), messaging, GPS and email. I don't use the web browser at all as I have other things with bigger screens. I buy a new phone every two years or so simply to keep up with current tech and reliability, and my "old" yet still fully functional phones tend to be passed on to others so they don't become landfill. I'm OK with them being identical, the whole Microsoft idea of changing UI and UX so that they could sell basically the same software again as "new" has never appealed to me (weirdly, that has not abated now they have people on subscription).

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Already mitigated

      Want to back up the files on your phone? Pay Apple or pay Google or have no backups. No, ADB can't perform backups anymore. It's for "security."

      Are you sure about that? I back up my Android phones using a micro USB enabled memory stick such as this No need to go anywhere near Google in any cloudy backup situation.

      other manufacturers, USB-C and retailers are available.

      1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: Already mitigated

        Back up your phone, factory reset, restore, and tell me that it's back to normal. Your application data is gone unless you put it on Google Cloud.

        Through Android 10 you could back up your phone, factory reset, restore, and it would be no more disruptive than a normal restart. Android 11 removed that functionality. Not even ADB or OEM setup tools can do it without rooting.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The NTIE forgot something

    ". . Apple and Google stifled competition by forcing apps to be distributed through their stores despite secure, safe alternatives being possible, gave preference to their own apps over third-party alternatives and forced developers to deal with a 'slow and opaque' review process"

    Not to mention targetting apps that were not only useful but also better than the "official" app (or provided a user-approved service concerning the OS), banning it and then providing an "official" app that did the same thing.

    But no matter, the ball is rolling. The wall around the garden is weakening and nothing can stop that.

    I wouldn't be surprised, however, if either one of the phone giants is caught poisoning the alternative "secure" stores with malware-infested apps in order to point and say "See ? They're not as secure as we are. Please give us back our monopoly - it's for the good of the suckers consumers".

  3. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge

    Wont change a thing...

    Speaking as a consumer not a developer.

    This will not change a thing for the vast majority of Apple users, we want an app for our phone we look in The App Store.

    You want a subscription for your app? better have an ApplePay option........

    Most of us picked Apple for the 'all in one place' simplicity of it.

    Looked at from a Business point of view for company devices; probably a good thing, we can have our own 'company approved' app store except how many companies are going to bother?

    Looked at from the viewpoint of a small developer; how many app stores do I need to support/use? expected response: F*** that! I'll stick to App Store........

    The small very vocal minority who are calling for this will be pleased, the rest of us not so much because of "I have to sign up for ANOTHER app store? why?"

    Now, if you make Xbox games run 'out of the box' on Playstation and vice versa then you may have a point......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wont change a thing...

      I agree. I'll soon have to control about 250+ phones and prevent them from installing the usual crap, from WhatsApp which is a poison that should NEVER be allowed on a business phone (as you're pretty much guaranteed to be in breach of GDPR if you do) to games and asocial media which can result in legal exposure and uncontrolled data leaks.

      Do you really think we'll allow anyone to pick up apps from anywhere but the Apple App Store? Not happening.

      1. ChoHag Silver badge

        Re: Wont change a thing...

        You want enterprise level control over a device you allow users to install things on? 250 users?

        Good luck with that.

  4. tiggity Silver badge


    As an android user I can sideload anyway so not much of an issue.

    What I would like is for phones to not be set up with lots of not possible to uninstall junk apps* that I don't need & take up space (e.g. not an FaceBook user so a pre-installed FB app is a waste of space, in all meanings of the phrase)

    * Yes, I know there's a few things I can do (without rooting a phone) to mediate the issues if I connect in via adb - however such action should not be needed - there should be an easy way to remove them from just using the inbuilt phone tools so that they can be removed by the average user who might not have the required knowledge / confidence to enable dev options and then connect & run command line operations (especially as it is possible to screw up your phone by accident doing this)

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: meh

      What I would like is for phones to not be set up with lots of not possible to uninstall junk apps* that I don't need & take up space (e.g. not an FaceBook user so a pre-installed FB app is a waste of space, in all meanings of the phrase)

      This 1000 times over, alas I can only upvote you once.

  5. v13

    Vastly different

    Putting the play store and Apple's app store at the same bucket is misleading AF. I can install other stores on Android without even sideloading then, while Apple doesn't even allow third party browser engines, not to mention app stores. On Android OTOH you don't even need an app store. You can install APKs directly from the web even though that's terribly insecure. But it's still an option.

    Unfortunately it's difficult to reason such changes since Xbox and PlayStation do the same with their game stores. Epic figured that out of the hard way.

    I really hope though that they start treating these as platforms and not as complete products so that they have to start playing well with others.

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