Delete the Photos app from the iPhone: Europe suggests it could require another historic change

Does such a change even make sense?

Delete the Photos app from the iPhone: Europe suggests it could require another historic change
David Bernal Raspall

David Bernal Raspall

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The story of DMA compliance in Europe seems to have no end. A recent example of this can be found in statements by Margrethe Vestager, the head of competition in the EU, which propose another major change to the iPhone. Apparently simple, the implications of being able to remove the Photos app from the iPhone are truly significant.


A request that would profoundly change the functioning of iOS

As John Gruber reports on his website, Vestager suggested that Apple could be forced to allow iPhone owners to delete the Photos app, a measure that, if implemented, would represent a historic change in the functioning of iOS. A measure that would have the secondary result that, during the setup of our iPhone, we would have to choose, once again, which app we want to use for managing our photo library.

“The Photos app is not just another app in iOS; it is the system-level interface for the photo library, integrated throughout the operating system, with permission requests from all other apps to grant different levels of access to our photos,” said Gruber.

“According to Vestager, in order to comply with the DMA, Apple needs to allow third-party applications to serve as a library of images and as access to the system-level photo library. This is a monumental demand, and raises the question of how such a requirement could be reconciled with system-level photo access permissions.”

The truth is that choosing another app other than Photos to manage our photo library has very deep implications for our privacy. Right now, all the apps on our iPhone request access to the Photos app. This way, we can choose whether to grant this access or if we only want to select some photos, for example. In this sense, a third-party app would not necessarily have to give us this option.

Does this request make sense —for now in the air—?

The truth is that Vestager’s comments can be taken to further extremes, because by the same token, the Camera app could also have to be eliminated. And what about the Phone app? And the Settings app? Where is the limit?

This is where considerations come into play that are not necessarily covered in the text of the law. Both the Department of Justice lawsuit in the United States and the demands of the DMA in Europe raise arguments that, while legally sound, may not be practical or realistic in their translation to the real world.

Photos compete with health data as one of the most sensitive pieces of information on our devices. In this sense, the design of iOS with the Photos app acting as the manager of permissions to access this information is very positive for us as users. Would it be good to give users a choice? It depends, we can say. Do users really know what they are choosing?

Surely the readers of this article would have clear the differences and the impact on our privacy of choosing one app or another as a photo library, but the same may not be applicable to the wide range of iPhone users. It remains to be seen, of course, where the EU draws the line on which apps must be removable, but from now on the Photos app seems like a good place. Otherwise, as we said before, what will happen with Messages, Phone, Settings?

We are probably getting ahead of ourselves, because Vestager’s comments are, for now, conditional. Other factors come into play here, such as the fact that the presence of the Photos app does not prevent the use of other photography apps. In any case, we will have to wait for the EU to conclude whether both Apple and the other big tech companies have done enough to comply with the requirements of the DMA.


Then, depending on the outcome, we will have to wait for the intervention of the courts that can shape and create jurisprudence around the text of the DMA. In any case, it is clear that the request to be able to delete the Photos app from the iPhone, if it materializes, would have a great impact on the privacy of millions of people. A decision that should not, by any means, be taken lightly.

David Bernal Raspall

David Bernal Raspall

Architect | Founder of | Apple Technologies Trainer | Writer at Softonic and iDoo_tech, formerly at Applesfera

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