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Apple's iOS 12 update included a built-in screen time app to track how long users spend on their devices. Since the release, third-party digital wellness apps have noticed increased scrutiny from the company.

Developers of screen time trackers are being reviewed at a higher frequency. Some are even being rejected and pulled from the App Store, TechCrunch reported.

It's likely that Apple simply wants to avoid confusion in its users if they're seeking out the iOS 12 screen time app. The tightening restrictions raise questions about third-party companies dedicated to digital wellness working with Apple--since Apple is increasingly focusing on that category with its own products.

SEE: Is iOS Screen Time feature draining your battery to keep you off your phone?

Developers took notice as far back as October. Digital detox app Mute publicly announced its removal from the App Store in a blog post.

"Unfortunately, after four years my startup journey came to an abrupt end a few days ago," Nick Kuh, creator of Mute, wrote. "Apple removed my app Mute from the App Store on Saturday. It appears that Apple is now shutting down many (all?) screen time-tracking apps now that they've added screen time tracking into iOS 12."

Kuh said that Mute was a "Fitbit for digital detoxers" and let users set goals to use their devices less.

About a week after Kuh's post, Apple returned Mute to the App Store. The company called Kuh and questioned him about Mute's data privacy policies. The app was restored half an hour later.

Apple has a history of targeting third-party apps that mirror functions iOS handles itself, as 9to5 Google has noted. Regardless, there's no reason why multiple apps serving similar functions can't coexist in the App Store.

Giving users multiple options provides the ability to find the app that best fits their needs and lifestyle. The iOS 12 screen time feature is also, new with bugs to still work out. In October, users noticed their iPhone batteries draining faster while the screen timer was enabled.

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  1. Since the release of Apple's screen time tracker, third-party digital wellness apps have noticed increased scrutiny from the company. Some apps have been rejected or removed from the store.
  2. It makes sense that Apple wants users to use their app exclusively and avoid confusion between apps and its built-in features, but giving users multiple options is a more user-friendly posture.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.