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India is reportedly planning to implement new security rules that would require smartphone makers, including Apple, to allow the removal of pre-installed apps and mandate the screening of operating system updates.
According to a recent report by Reuters, the proposed regulations aim to address concerns about spying and the abuse of user data, with specific references to potential risks posed by China.
Sources familiar with the plan claim that the new rules would require smartphone makers to include an uninstall option for pre-installed apps, and new models would be checked for compliance by an authorized lab under the Bureau of Indian Standards agency.
While Apple already allows many of its own apps to be deleted, core apps such as Messages, Photos, and Phone cannot be removed, only hidden from the Home screen and App Library.
The Indian government has been increasing scrutiny of Chinese technology in recent years, following a border clash with China in 2022 that resulted in India banning more than 300 Chinese apps, including popular social media platform TikTok.
The government’s new security rules are said to be designed to prevent foreign nations, including China, from exploiting pre-installed apps as a weak security point.
“It’s a matter of national security“, an unnamed official reportedly stated. “Pre-installed apps can be a weak security point, and we want to ensure that no foreign nations, including China, are exploiting it“.
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The proposed regulations would give smartphone makers a year to comply with the rules when they come into effect, according to government documents seen by Reuters.
However, there are concerns that the testing process could delay launch timeframes for new smartphones and lead to business losses. Currently, it takes around 21 weeks for a smartphone and its parts to be tested by India’s IT ministry for safety compliance.
Representatives from Xiaomi, Samsung, Apple, and Vivo reportedly attended a closed-door meeting to discuss the proposed regulations. While Apple has yet to respond to requests for comment, it remains to be seen how other smartphone makers will react to the potential new rules.