Apple may have to let iPhone users uninstall the Photos app due to EU rules

The EU’s Digital Markets Act is proving to be a nightmare for Apple. Maybe you have the back and forth about deciding how third-party app stores will work, but there’s more to it than that. For example, Apple should show a browser selection screen, similar to what Microsoft had to do with Windows ten years ago. And that’s not the end either.

John Gruber van Bold fireball noted comments from Margrethe Vestager, who leads the EC’s “Europe Fit for the Digital Age” initiative. They suggest that Apple should offer a choice not only of which apps to install and use, but also which apps to remove.

Vestager especially highlighted the Photos app, but there are several such apps currently deeply integrated into iOS. Too deep perhaps. Photos is definitely the gallery app, but it also works as a file chooser when you’re trying to share a photo or video.

The Photos app
The Photos app

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

On the other hand, the DMA requires Apple to give full access to iOS APIs and features – everything including mobile payments, app installation, and (apparently) everything Photos can access.

This is almost exactly the same situation Microsoft found itself in in the early 2000s. Internet Explorer was a core part of Windows, so users couldn’t remove it. The Justice Department objected and filed suit against the company. Microsoft decided and made Windows more open to third party software. The browser selection screens came later (and were pushed by the EU).

This is what Vestager said:

The third relates to the DMA’s objective of opening closed ecosystems to enable competition at all levels. below Article 6(3) of the DMAgatekeepers have an obligation to enable easy uninstalling of apps and easy changing of default settings. They should also display a selection screen. Apple’s compliance model does not appear to meet the objectives of this obligation. We are particularly concerned that the current design of the web browser selection screen deprives end users of the ability to make a fully informed decision. Example: They don’t increase user engagement with all available options. Apple has also failed to make several apps uninstallable (one of which would be Photos) and prevents end users from changing their default state (e.g. Cloud) as required by the DMA.

The current version of iOS does not allow you to uninstall the following apps: App Store, Camera, Messages, Phone, Photos, Safari, Settings. Apple already opens things up to third-party app stores and should do so adopt RCS later this year, plus it allows third-party web browsers. However, that doesn’t mean these apps can easily be completely disconnected from iOS (for example, other browsers may need to take over WebView duties).

Source | Through

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