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- Apple is being challenged by a group of 17 tiny app developers.
- The developers, who make parental screen-time control apps, are unhappy after many were removed from the App Store soon after Apple launched its own "Screen Time" tool.
- Apple said the decision was not about competition, but was because the apps were deploying monitoring software known as mobile device management.
- The developers are now calling on Apple to publish a public API to let them build screen-time apps that comply with the iPhone maker’s privacy rules.
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Seventeen tiny app makers have teamed up to take on the might of Apple.
The developers, who make parental screen-time control apps, are unhappy after many were removed from the App Store soon after Apple launched its own "Screen Time" tool.
The New York Times first reported on the crackdown in April. Apple responded to the story, saying that it had removed the apps, not because they posed a competitive threat, but because they were using a kind of software it deemed overly-intrusive for consumer apps, called mobile device management, or MDM.
MDM is used to let third-parties monitor and access devices remotely, and can even be used to wipe them. It’s sometimes used by businesses to keep control of proprietary data on employees’ devices.
"Contrary to what The New York Times reported… this isn’t a matter of competition. It’s a matter of security," Apple said in a blog published the day after the Times’ report.
Now the app makers have launched a website arguing that the solution is for Apple to openly publish an API for screen-time apps that gives developers "access to the same functionalities that Apple’s native ‘Screen Time’ uses." The developers have also written a technical specification for the API.
"Apple’s response to the story was that the timing was a coincidence; the reason the apps were removed or blocked was due to their use of MDM," they said.
"There’s an obvious solution and it’s one that developers have been calling for from the start. Apple should release a public API granting developers access to the same functionalities that Apple’s native "Screen Time" uses."
The biggest app lobbying for change is Qustodio, which has a million downloads on Google Play Store, and likely had many more on Apple before it was removed.
Apple was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider, although a spokeswoman for the app developers said they had not yet had correspondence from Apple following the launch of their campaign.
Apple has faced a crop of antitrust allegations recently. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court waved through a lawsuit accusing Apple of abusing its dominance in the App Store, and music-streaming service Spotify filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the EU in March. In response, Apple launched a website specifically for defending its App Store business practices just this week.
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