Joe Biden wants Apple to free your iPhone from App Store lockdown

App Store on iPhone
(Image credit: Future)

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration has released a reporttoday which says that Apple's iOS App Store on devices like the iPhone and iPad, along with Google's rival store on Android, "have the potential to harm consumers by inflating prices and reducing innovation". It is recommending some major changes to the way you use your iPhone. 

The results of the survey have apparently determined that the way Apple distributes apps on its iPhone means "innovators have very limited avenues for reaching consumers.". Further stating both Apple and Google "create hurdles for developers to compete for consumers by imposing technical limits, such as restricting how apps can function or requiring developers to go through slow and opaque review processes." 

The report says that while there are some benefits including better security, it says that "the costs far outweigh the benefits and that privacy and security protections can still be achieved in a more competitive environment." 

Joe Biden's iPhone agenda

As such, the NTIA and the Biden administration are recommending a series of sweeping changes:

  • Consumers should have more control over their devices - the report says you should be able to choose default apps for mail and web browsing (you can already do this on iPhone), use alternative mobile app stores, and delete pre-installed apps like Notes or Apple Music.
  • App store operators should not be able to “self-preference” their apps in an anti-competitive manner -  the report says Apple and Google shouldn't be able to favor their own apps in App Store searches or discriminate against apps similar to their own.
  • Operators should lift restrictions on alternative ways for consumers to download and install apps - the report says users should be Apple should not be able to restrict sideloading (downloading an app from somewhere other than the App Store), alternative app stores, and web apps.
  • Addressing limits on in-app purchasing options - the report says requirements that developers use something like in-app purchasing on iOS should be banned.

"We appreciate the report acknowledges the importance of user privacy, data security and user convenience," an Apple spokesperson told iMore in a statement. "Nevertheless, we respectfully disagree with a number of conclusions reached in the report, which ignore the investments we make in innovation, privacy and security - all of which contribute to why users love iPhone and create a level playing field for small developers to compete on a safe and trusted platform.”

 If the changes were brought in, it could open up a plethora of new App Stores on iOS from companies like Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Epic Games, Spotify, and others to name a few. It would also mean consumers have to input payment information in multiple avenues, and would be able to download apps directly from the web like they can on Mac. 

The iOS App Store is fundamental to the current user experience on Apple's best iPhones like the iPhone 14. Sweeping legislation to this degree could completely change the way we use our iPhones. 

More interestingly, the NTIA is also making these recommendations for Google even though Android is far less restrictive, allowing both sideloading and alternative app stores already. We've reached out to Apple on the NTIA's report today. 

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9