App Store

Apple to let European users install apps that aren’t on the App Store

Cupertino plays ball with EU but changes the goal posts on developers
Life

26 January 2024

Apple has announced that iPhone users in the European Union will soon be able to install apps not only from Apple’s own App Store, but from other platforms.

Apple’s new policy, announced in California on Thursday, marks the first time since the launch of the App Store that Apple has allowed users to download apps that haven’t be approved for its App Store.

The option to install apps from other sources, which Apple has reluctantly announced in response to the new EU’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA), opens up the possibility of downloading a far wider variety of apps, as is possible on Android.

Apple says it will also allow other payment methods that rival Apple Pay and alternative technologies for Web browsers, which were previously not permitted by Apple. In order to utilise these new options, the latest operating system version iOS 17.4 must be installed on the device.

Control

According to the EU’s new rules, large and dominant providers – so-called “gatekeepers” – are not allowed ban app stores from other providers.

Until now, apps on iPhones could only be downloaded from the company’s own download platform. On Google’s Android platform, however, smartphone owners have long been able to download and install apps that were geoblocked, banned or just not available on Google’s Play Store.

However, Apple is set to retain partial control over the installation of apps in the future, even if this takes place outside of its own App Store.

Unlike on Android, you won’t be able to download any app in your browser and install it. Instead, iPhone owners are required to use authenticated marketplaces – essentially iPhone apps designed to install other apps. But they can only do so if Apple approves.

Presumably, Apple would still be able to pull such platforms from the App Store if they allow the installation of apps that enable content to be streamed illegally or that risk lost revenue for Apple.

Other browsers possible in future

Alongside the changes to the app stores, Apple is also introducing further changes to counter monopoly allegations from the EU. In future, European users will be able to freely determine the default browser in the iPhone.

Until now, Apple’s Safari browser has automatically opened all Web links. In future, this task can also be performed by browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Brave, Opera or DuckDuckGo.

Competitors will also no longer be forced to use Apple’s favoured WebKit technology to display websites in their apps, but will be allowed to use their own Web engines.

Apple’s monopoly on contactless payment transactions with the iPhone will also be abolished in the EU. Until now, only Apple’s own payment service Apple Pay could use the iPhone’s NFC chip to make a payment at a supermarket checkout or other payment terminal.

In future, users will be able to decide for themselves which payment application should start by default.

However when it comes to Apple’s controversial fee collections on subscriptions and in-app purchases, the tech giant has made smaller concessions. Until now, Apple has demanded a 15% revenue share from smaller developers and for long-term subscriptions.

Providers with a turnover of over $1 million a year even have had to pay 30%. These commissions will now be reduced to 10% and 17% respectively. If developers use the App Store’s payment processing service, an additional 3% will be due.

As a concession to the EU, Apple now allows developers to use an alternative payment service provider in their app or link users to a website to process payments without additional fees from Apple.

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