The EU thinks you should be able to uninstall core apps like Photos on your iPhone — competition chief reveals "Apple's compliance model does not seem to meet the objectives of this obligation"

iPhone camera
(Image credit: Future)

EU Competition chief Margrethe Vestager says that Apple’s compliance with the Digital Markets Act should include the option to make apps like Photos uninstallable on iPhone, an objective the company currently isn’t meeting. 

It comes following the announcement that the European Commission is investigating Apple’s compliance with the DMA. On Monday, the bloc announced it was looking into Apple (as well as Google and Meta) because it suspects the measures put in place by all three “fall short of effective compliance of their obligations under the DMA.” Specifically, the Commission has concerns about Apple’s “anti-steering” measures still present, and fees attached to its alternative app stores policy. Vestager's remarks also reveal that the EC is focussing on the uninstallation of certain apps and the default status of others, giving us a clearer picture of the EU’s vision for iOS and the user experience on Apple’s best iPhones it wants to enforce. 

Vestager noted Monday that the third DMA investigation into Apple pertains to Article 6 (3) of the DMA, stating “gatekeepers have an obligation to enable easy uninstallation of apps and easy change of default settings,” and “must also display a choice screen.” While Apple has started to offer users a default browser selection screen on iPhone in the EU, the Commission believes that this measure doesn’t go far enough and that Apple also needs to go even further regarding its other default apps. 

Who even needs a Photos app anyway?

“Apple also failed to make several apps un-installable (one of them would be Photos),” Vestager stated, adding that Apple also “prevents end-users from changing their default status,” citing “Cloud” apps as another example. Vestager didn’t elaborate on what kind of solution it expects Apple to provide in this regard, but the prospect of uninstalling the Photos app sounds like a recipe for disaster at first glance. 

Nearly all iPhone users would consider the Apple Photos app to be a core iPhone experience, much like the Phone or Messages app (both of which the EU has also highlighted previously). It seems to me that being able to uninstall the Photos app would offer almost no benefit to users. Once removed, either by choice — or more likely accidentally — users would be left with no way to browse or share their photos on iPhone. There is also the prospect that this could pose a risk that users could lose their photos if not handled properly. The App Store has a myriad of alternative photo apps from rivals including Google, Amazon, and more, which are free to download at a user’s leisure. As is often the case, the best iPhone apps for users tend not to come from Apple, and are readily available from the App Store, usually for free. Speaking to iMore, a spokesperson for the EU Commission confirmed that as it stands, the EC says "Apple has not demonstrated so far that all of the remaining six apps that cannot be deleted are indeed essential to the functioning of the operating system." If Apple wants these apps to remain a part of the core iPhone experience, it seems like it needs to do more to convince the EU of this fact. 

While a default screen for photo apps similar to the browser screen might give users more choice, simply offering the option to uninstall Photos seems arbitrary, and could have unintended consequences. Even if Apple did offer a choice screen, there’s no guarantee that would satisfy the EC either. Vestager’s remarks also note that “the current design of the web browser choice screen deprives end-users of the ability to make a fully informed decision. Example: they do not enhance user engagement with all available options.” Vestager may be hinting at Apple’s choice to only show a randomized list of the 11 most-downloaded browsers in any given EU territory alongside Safari. At a DMA workshop last week, one complainant asked Apple “Will Apple institute mandatory forced scrolling” so as to ensure users check all the browser alternatives? As commenter Kay Jebelli, a computer engineer and competition lawyer, notes in response to Vestager’s comments, “It seems that mandatory forced scrolling is indeed a requirement of DMA compliance.” Elaborating further, he claims “The fact that Safari is displayed randomly points to the inconvenient truth that the EC will have to face, some people will want to pick Safari (and will likely even scroll for it) regardless of how much friction the EC forces into the system,” which begs the question “how far will the EC be willing to go to prop up competitors?” 

Whatever the case, the EU is clearly not happy with Apple’s current position on how it offers browser choices to its users, and that there is more action to come regarding other apps, regardless of whether or not it will actually benefit users. 

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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

  • naddy69
    FU to the EU.
    Reply
  • Wotchered
    I do not think deletion of native apps is a good idea, because we don't know what other functions they perform. However I would like to be able to disable the given activities of some apps. So that they cannot be easily turned on again by "upgrades". Maybe a two or three part process.
    Reply