Apple rolled out new features designed to track and limit screen time. Then, it started policing the competition, according to a New York Times report published Saturday.
The tech giant has removed or limited the features of some of the most popular third-party apps to monitor screen time, including apps that gave parents tighter control over their children's phone use, the report said.
Data collected by the Times and analytics firm Sensor Tower found that Apple removed or restricted "at least 11 of the 17 most-downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps." Apple reportedly accused them of including features that ran afoul of App Store policies, even if the apps had a history of getting Apple's stamp of approval.
OurPact was the most widely installed parental-control app with three million downloads before it was booted from the App Store in February, according to the Times.
"They yanked us out of the blue with no warning," CEO Amir Moussavian told the newspaper "They are systematically killing the industry."
Several developers said they've also been forced to gut key features in order to remain in the App Store.
Tech Crunch also published a report in December about Apple's bolstered policing of third-party screen time apps.
Apple spokesperson Tammy Levine told the Times that Apple treats "all apps the same, including those that compete with our own services."
"Our incentive is to have a vibrant app ecosystem that provides consumers access to as many quality apps as possible," she said, citing privacy concerns as the reason Apple has forced developers to change certain features. Levine also told the Times that Apple's actions were not related to the roll out of its own features.
In an email Sunday evening, Levine pointed to a letter Apple published providing the company's rationale on the situation.
Facing criticism that Apple doesn't do enough to encourage people to get away from their screens, Apple last year rolled out a suite of new features designed to help customers track and limit usage.
But Apple's in-house parental features only work between other iPhones and are not compatible with Android devices. Users have also said they are far more permissive than third-party apps, the Times reported.