EU suggests phones and laptops should come without pre-installed apps in new proposed legislation

Samsung Galaxy S10
Samsung Galaxy S10 (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The EU is proposing a new Digital Services Act.
  • Draft legislation of the bill has been released.
  • It suggests businesses like Apple and Google should not be allowed to pre-install their own applications on smartphones and laptops.

A new draft of the EU's Digital Services Act states that businesses should not be enabled to pre-install their own apps on hardware such as laptops and smartphones.

As reported by the Financial Times:

The draft recommends that Big Tech might be prohibited from favoritism of their own services on their websites or platforms, to the hindrance of competitors, which business ought to not be enabled to pre-install their own applications on hardware gadgets, such as laptop computers or phones, or force other business to solely pre-install their software application.

According to Bloomberg, the new legislation, due to be unveiled in December, will also force platforms to share customer data with business rivals, and prevent them from preferencing their own services in searches:

Due to be unveiled in December by the European Commission, the bloc's executive body, the legislation will seek to modernize rules governing the internet to give platforms greater responsibility for what users post on their sites as well as propose regulation aimed at curbing the power of large platforms.

The EU says it wants to "constrain unfair behavior", and in a separate document criticized gatekeeping, suggesting platforms should not be able to provide special treatment in online searches or mediation for their own services. It also says users should not be restricted from uninstalling any of the apps on a device.

The move would, of course, be a massive blow to vendors like Apple, other smartphone makers, and indeed tablet and laptop vendors who ship pre-installed software on all of their devices as a matter of course.

Proposed laws also suggest Facebook and Google would have to submit to annual audits of their advertising metrics. Reports note these proposals are in the early stages and could look very different by the time they are finalized. They would also need the backing of member states and the European Parliament, so are likely years away from becoming reality.

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

  • I would surely hope that Apple would have an EU version and then a rest of the world version.
  • And the EU version would come up with an absolutely blank screen. No phone app, no messages, no web browser, no camera, photos. Maybe not even a settings app. Just a blank screen with maybe the EU flag as the background.
  • 1) I'm in the EU, and I do welcome the directive. (It's up to the member states /how/ to include it in their law.) I have seen enough bloatware on devices, fortunately hardly by Apple.
    Not pre-installing doesn't mean leaving the apps unavailable to those entitled. (I seem to remember iWork for iOS not coming pre-installed, but being offered for download during set-up. I actually paid for it before it became free.)
    2) This directive looks like yet another spin-off of the "level playing field" principle that is cherished by the EU.
  • I get it, really, but picture someone who is completely technologically inept who for some reason ends up using subpar apps instead of higher quality official apps. How will that make them feel about their phone? How will that make them feel about the brand? Will they miss out on features of the Apple ecosystem that they would have discovered had the app been there? What if the camera app they pick doesn't take pictures that are as good as Apple's photo app? They wouldn't know it's the app's fault. They would think it's the phone's fault. Apple has a brand to protect and users who know better will already go fish for alternative apps whereas users who don't know better DO need a baseline of good apps. I really don't think that anything valuable is being accomplished here for the consumer.
  • I'd rather have them stop the bundling of non-uninstallable third party applications from the manufacturer.