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New antitrust laws – does Apple have a monopoly?

Antitrust legislation being introduced in the US may spell big changes for the way Apple runs its iPhone and iPad platforms. If new regulations are passed based on the latest proposals, Apple may be forced into making several changes to iOS to avoid giving itself an “unfair advantage” over competing apps.

There are three main ways this could be achieved which are currently being discussed – all strongly opposed by Apple itself. Here’s what iOS would look like if all three changes were enforced.

Firstly, Apple would have to allow more of its stock apps to be deleted. Currently, many of the default apps – like Messages and Photos – have to stay installed even if you never use them. Changes were already made a few years back to allow apps like Music and Stocks to be deleted, but a law change could potentially force Apple’s hand even further. Apple wouldn’t be allowed to direct users to those apps with notifications either.

Speaking of stock apps, there’s also talk of banning Apple from pre-installing apps altogether. This move would echo the huge Microsoft antitrust suit of the 90s in which it was told to stop bundling software with Windows PCs to give it an unfair advantage over rivals. The same could arguably be said for Apple apps such as Safari and Podcasts, which have many competitors that perhaps don’t get enough of a look-in. Letting users see all the options upfront would make it a more level playing field, it’s said.

Finally, new DMA rules could mean Apple will be forced to allow “side-loading” on iOS. Side-loading is when you bypass the App Store entirely to install unverified apps on your device. This is currently possible for testing purposes if you’re an app developer, but is generally discouraged by Apple as it means skipping the App Store verification process which is designed in part to weed out malware. Tim  Cook says side-loading would damage both privacy and security, pointing out that Android (which allows side-loading apps) has 47x more malware than iOS.

Apple’s not the only company embroiled in these antitrust discussions. Facebook, Amazon, and Google were also found to be monopolies by last year’s big antitrust investigations in the US. It’s certainly in the public’s interest for some changes to be proposed, but going too far may damage some of the benefits of buying an Apple device too.

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