Strings discovered in iTunes metadata suggest that Apple may be laying the groundwork to allow users to remove or hide stock iOS apps, such as Compass and Tips, from their iPhones in an upcoming version of its mobile software.
According to a report published by AppAdvice, and based on metadata found within iTunes, the times could be changing. While Apple has kept their stock apps on iOS permanent, and forcing iOS users to put them in a folder to hide them from view, in a future version of Apple’s mobile operating system, that could be changing.
Within the metadata found in iTunes, Apple has added two new values: “isFirstParty” and “isFirstPartyHideableApp.” These new keys are found within ever app within the App Store, according to the report, and first started showing up a couple of weeks ago, at least. With the new metadata, the report states that it indicates Apple is moving towards a future where users will be able to remove stock iOS apps when they see fit.
It’s possible that the ability to remove stock apps will be limited to iOS 9.3’s new classroom features that have brought out multi-user support to iPads used in education. It’s also possible that the new strings will be limited to hiding Apple TV apps.
iOS 9.3 includes the ability to hide virtually every stock app by creating an appropriate iOS configuration profile using the Apple Configurator utility for the Mac and uploading it to an iOS device, but that capability is limited to education and business customers.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has made a point to say why some stock apps can’t be removed by the user, pointing out that some are tied to other features within the operating system, and removing them could cause issues in other areas. However, as he said in an interview back in September of last year, not all apps are like that, adding that it’s something Apple has been looking at:
“There are some apps that are linked to something else on the iPhone. If they were to be removed they might cause issues elsewhere on the phone. There are other apps that aren’t like that. So over time, I think with the ones that aren’t like that, we’ll figure out a way [for you to remove them]. … It’s not that we want to suck up your real estate; we’re not motivated to do that. We want you to be happy. So I recognize that some people want to do this, and it’s something we’re looking at.”
It’s also worth noting that in Apple Configurator 2.2, which was released earlier this year, Apple added the ability to remove stock Apple apps for businesses and within the education market, so the groundwork has been laid.