In brief: As part of their efforts to curb time staring at devices, many people use screen-tracking apps to give alerts and statistics on phone usage. But since implementing their own tools, Apple has started taking action to limit or ban third-party apps under the guise of privacy protection.
Whether or not you agree that smartphone addiction is a real condition, there is no denying that some people spend many hours a day staring at their phones. In an effort to reduce their own usage, some have turned to screen-time tracking apps that notify users when they have more hours than they would like to.
With iOS 12, their own screen-tracking functionality included. But since then, they have also been taking action against third-party app makers, effectively forcing the competition out of business. The New York Times reported yesterday that in the last year, "Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental control apps" from the App Store.
Tammy Levine said, "We treat all the same ones, including those compete with our own services." But that seems somewhat suspicious.
Given Apple's curatorial role as owner of the App Store, they have verified and approved dozens, if not hundreds of versions of each offending app before deciding this year's apps breached their terms.
One such app was Freedom, and screen-tracking app with almost million downloads. Freedom's exec, Fred Stutzman, said Apple's incentives aren't really helping people solve their problem. Can you really trust that Apple wants to spend less time on their phones? "
The Times reports that at least two of the affected app makers, Kidslox and Qustodio, have filed a complaint with the European Union's competition office. Don’t be too surprised if others follow suit.