Software may come and go from the App Store, but this week marks a return that could have some real significance for Apple. OurPact, an app that lets parents monitor and limit their children’s use of technology, has returned to the App Store after being removed this spring. Its creators posted a social message to followers informing them of the app’s return to iOS earlier this week.
“A major thank you to our community for the outpouring of support throughout these removals,” the OurPact announcement reads. “Every tweet, share, and mention helped spread the word and restore the future of iOS digital parenting. We look forward to developing family screen time solutions for years to come!”
OurPact was one of 11 apps providing parental control over kids’ smartphone usage to be restricted or completely removed from the App Store in April. At the time, Apple claimed the move was due to privacy concerns. It argued that the apps in question used mobile device management (MDM) technology that could “[give] a third party control and access over a device and its most sensitive information, including user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions, and browsing history.”
The apps impacted by the move claimed that Apple was just trying to reduce the competition for its Screen Time service, which was built in to iOS 12 when it launched late last year. OurPact’s blog post in response said that MDM does not allow it to see emails, calendars, contacts, SMS or iMessages, browser history, device location, or other critical information.
The issue may be one where both sides have some validity to their claims. Apple’s MDM platform has been the subject of exploits and malicious attacks in the past year. But this also isn’t the first time Apple has made moves that could be seen as limiting competition with its own internal services.
Below: Screenshots of Apple’s competing Screen Time app, from our iOS 12 review.
Apple has faced similar criticisms before about the App Store. In the specific case of OurPact and screen time management, two of the apps filed an antitrust complaint with the European Union. The company has also tangled with Spotify, an independent streaming audio company that claimed it was treated unfairly to encourage listeners toward Apple Music. The EU has fielded other arguments that Apple should not offer its own services on the ecommerce platform it manages, and leadership in the bloc has proven willing to consider a strict stance against the major US tech companies.
Even some domestic leadership has been calling the relationship into question. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that she would break up several tech giants if she is successful in her presidential bid in 2020.