The centralization benefits are not geared towards consumers, and they never were.
What I mean by that is that Apple isn't the only company that could vet apps. Anyone could put together a list of "trusted" apps into a software repository/store and you could pick whichever one you trusted and use only it. This is already how Linux works.
In the long run, this is probably even better for people who want to only run vetted apps. Apple's app store policies have to cover everyone who runs iOS, which means that even with the best intentions, they can't be as permissive or as strict as some people want. If Apple wasn't in that boat, you could have an app store that had much harsher rules about data collection, performance, and permissions.
My experience has been that specialized platforms usually produce better results for their target audiences than generalized alternatives. As the sole gatekeeper to iOS, the best Apple is ever going to be able to provide is a generalized storefront.