This article assesses the regulation of smartphone ‘app stores’. At the outset, the significance of smartphones and apps to the debate on Internet regulation is considered, and places in the context of the adoption of smartphones and apps. The importance (commercially and as a study in governance and control) of the iOS App Store (Apple) is highlighted, as is the need to explore forms of regulation that are not linked with a violation of competition law. Section ‘Developer-focused issues’ deals with the relationship between Apple and app developers; three themes of Apple’s Guidelines are identified (content, development and payments), and the ways in which control can be challenged (through jailbreaking, ‘web apps’ and regulatory intervention) are scrutinized. Section ‘Citizen- and consumer-focused issues’ considers three ways in which apps are already regulated by law. The focus is on the protection of consumers (particularly through the UK system for ‘premium rate services’), but a discussion of user privacy and the regulation of video games and video-on-demand services in Europe is also included. Finally, in the section ‘Conclusion’, the tension between comparatively ‘open’ and ‘closed’ app stores is highlighted; the problems of applying general provisions to emerging formats are emphasized. It is concluded that the emerging status of non-carrier app stores as neither retailer nor platform means that it is not yet possible to identify the form of regulation that is in operation, but that some steps are available to legislators that could shift the balance between closed and open models.
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