(Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

Over the last decade, China has become an increasingly challenging market for Western tech companies like Google and Apple to do business in. That's thanks in part to its government's divergent notions about customer privacy, access to Western media sources, and beliefs about how much control it should have over its citizens' leisure activities, particularly in regards to video games.

Companies like Apple must also monitor their own product ecosystem across a dizzying variety of markets, and they must occasionally step in to address bad actors or policy violations. For example, in July, Apple mandated that all iOS updates must support the "notch" on its newer phones; one month later, it added a requirement for developers to add a privacy disclosure.

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Apple told developers in March 2017 that app updates could only be routed through the App Store, and now word comes from The Telegraph that the company has removed about 700 apps from its App Store in China for producing updates that are acquired from outside its official marketplace.

Store policy violators include Sogou (a national replacement for Google, since the latter's search engine has been banned in mainland China since 2010) and Pinduodo, a popular Chinese e-commerce startup.

It's important for app updates to be processed by the App Store, because it allows Apple to maintain a minimum level of security for iPhone and iPad users. If an update comes from somewhere else, the company may not be able to ensure that your iOS devices are safe and behaving properly.

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It's like the difference between getting a car's oil change from your local dealership, and getting it from a buddy of yours who says he knows about car stuff. He may do a fine job, but if something goes wrong, there's no paper trail and no customer service to talk to.

Given how much time we seem to spend staring at our phones these days, it's important that the device runs smoothly and isn't doing anything naughty behind our backs. If Apple isn't able to control the update process, things can get out of hand.

Of course, letting Apple have total control over the iOS app ecosystem may have its downsides, according to a recent US lawsuit alleging abuse of monopoly that recently went to the Supreme Court. But keeping app updates within the App Store is an arguably reasonable measure, since alternative sources don't have a system for being properly vetted by any third party.

Takeaways

  • Apple has removed over 700 apps from its App Store in China because they were attempting to acquire updates from outside the store, in violation of company policy.
  • Removed apps include Sogou (a national replacement for Google) and Pinduodo, a popular Chinese e-commerce startup.

Also see

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.