Restricted Access How Government Smartphone App Approval Works in China
Smartphones have become an important part of our lives because they let us take beautiful pictures, make high-quality videos, and, of course, use a huge number of apps that can meet almost any need. These small devices have changed how we work, play, and connect with the rest of the world. But what if I told you that a new law in China is about to shake things up in the app world?
Get ready, because the Chinese government has decided that all smartphone apps, whether they come with the phone or are downloaded from a third party, will need to have Government Smartphone App Approval. Let’s learn more about this weird change and what it means for people in China who use smartphones.
Chinese Smartphone Regulations
Imagine this: you’re swiping through your favourite apps on your trusted smartphone when you find out that every app must now get a stamp of Government Smartphone App Approval. Sounds like a twist in the plot of a science fiction movie, right? Well, China is starting to do this twist.
The country that assembles smartphones for global brands and is a leader in making Android smartphones is putting in place a new rule that says all apps must be Government Smartphone App Approval.
This means that the network will make all apps useless, even if they were downloaded without permission. But wait, before you start thinking of Android as a mythical island or the iPhone as an unreachable treasure, let’s break down what’s going on with Android and iOS in China.
Google and its services are well-known in the tech world, but not so much in China. Google and its services are against the law in the country. But as an open-source platform, Android finds a way to do well. Google makes the core of the operating system, and then smartphone makers add their own interfaces (UI) to make it fit their needs.
This user interface is like a stylish outfit worn over a practical outfit. Google gets paid by companies that make smartphones to do this. Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo all use Android, but they all have their own custom skins and app stores. Only Huawei is different because the US has banned it and it is busy making its own app store and operating system.
Now, let’s take a look at the Apple ecosystem. In China, there are no restrictions on iOS like there are on Android. Google’s services are blocked, but Apple is free to work. This makes me wonder if Apple apps will also need government approval. We are keeping an ear out for any new information on this front.
Apps in the Background
What about third-party apps and sideloading? This term refers to getting apps from places other than the official app store, like the Play Store. Most of the time, you can get these apps as APK (Android Package Kit) files. Even though many legitimate developers offer APKs, these files can also be used by hackers to take over your device. Even apps downloaded from trusted places like the Samsung Galaxy Store or Amazon Store won’t work without permission from the Chinese government. So, it doesn’t matter where you try to get an app without permission, it won’t work.
What Chinese People Think and What It Means
— Henry Gao (@henrysgao) August 10, 2023
As word about Smartphone app approval in China spreads, there are a lot of rumours and questions. Will SIM cards from international telecom operators get around this rule? Will VPNs (virtual private networks) still do what they’re supposed to do? Even experts, like Professor Henry S. Gao from Singapore Management University, have thought about these questions and shared their thoughts on Twitter. Gao says that China is tightening rules for everyone, from teachers to bankers, and now for developers and doctors as well. We can’t wait to hear more of his ideas.
Let’s take a quick look at India’s position while we look at China’s unique approach. In contrast to China’s strict rules, India doesn’t get in the way of app development. Apps can be made by anyone who knows how to code, even if they are under 10 years old. Both Google and Apple have strict rules about privacy and content that must be approved before an app can be used. India has also made rules about privacy and takes down apps that don’t follow them. The Chinese government has control over app usage, but not over the app development process itself.
China’s approach is very different, but other countries also have their own ways of regulating app development and use. Even though the digital world is always changing, there is one thing we can be sure of: the world of smartphones is anything but predictable.