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Less Apps on Chinese Smartphones from January 1, 2023

A new regulation limits the number of pre-installed Apps phones can be sold with, and makes it more difficult to download new ones. The aim, as usual, is more surveillance.

by Zhou Kexin

January 11, 2023

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Beijing. Credits.

On January 1, 2023, a new regulation called “Notice on Further Regulating the Behavior of Presetting Mobile Smart Terminal Application Software” by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the State Cyberspace Administration of China came into force. Directives for its interpretation were also published.

In 2016, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology had promulgated the “Interim Provisions on the Administration of Presetting and Distribution of Mobile Smart Terminal Application Software.” However, the Apps market has rapidly evolved since 2016 and the Ministry concluded that a new regulation was needed.

Mobile phone manufacturers attract consumers by pre-installing a large number of Apps. This is a problem for the Chinese authorities because first, some of these Apps may be used for online activities that are difficult to control, and second, they want to know who downloads what.

For this reason, from January 1, 2023, smartphones and other mobile smart terminals sold in China should include only a limited number of pre-installed Apps: “(1) Basic components of the operating system: system settings, file management; (2) Apps that ensure the normal operation of smart terminal hardware: multimedia recording; (3) Basic communication Apps: making and receiving calls, sending and receiving text messages, address book, browser; (4) Application software download channel: Apps store.” For each category of basic function software, only one App can be unremovable.

Smartphones on sale in China. Credits.

As clarified in the directives, what the authorities are concerned with is that in a chaotic commercial situation “illegal Apps” may come with the phones. Note that in China Facebook and Instagram and their corresponding Apps, for example, are banned.

Furthermore, the new regulation asks smartphone manufacturers to make the downloading of new Apps less immediate and “take technical and management measures” to prevent the installation of illegal Apps—or at least report those who try to download them to the police.

Xi Jinping’s dream of a total control of the Internet continues to be pursued down to the smallest details.


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